Five-woman show highlights work, relationships of members of tight-knit group
FARMINGTON — Marilyn Campbell still remembers that sinking feeling she got when she moved here in 1975 from California with her husband and daughter, and looked around the almost-empty Foothills Drive where they had chosen to settle.
The only thing that kept that streetscape from being totally empty was the dust blowing across it, she said.
"I thought, 'What am I going to do here?'" Campbell said last weekend from the home of her friend Liz Stannard, where a celebration just a few days shy of Campbell's 90th birthday party was being held.
Fortunately, Campbell said, it didn't take her long to locate nearby San Juan College, where she began taking every art class that was offered, including printmaking, watercolor and drawing. That was where she met Stannard, and the two became fast friends, beginning a relationship that has endured to this day.
Such tales are common among the five women and artists whose work will be featured in a show opening this weekend at Crash Music at the Aztec Theater in Aztec. Along with work by Campbell and Stannard, the show will feature pieces by Cindy McNealy, Sarah Teofanov and Janet McHaley Burns.
"It's been an exciting art career in Farmington, but we've really worked at it," Campbell said, describing the challenges she and many of the other artists in the show have faced over the years. "And we can't afford to quit. ... We just keep going, and we're bound and determined because it's in our soul."
Campbell described herself as a painter who lately has been trying to have more fun and experiment more with her work.
"It's more floral," she said. "I'm doing what comes naturally instead of trying to copy what I see."
Campbell said she has produced a number of collages lately, but she works in just about every medium imaginable and certainly doesn't appear to have lost any enthusiasm for her work.
"I'm still going strong. I'm not as strong as I used to be," she said referring to a broken hip she suffered last year, "but I'm still doing it. It's just my life."
Stannard, who organized the show, said she expects it to feature more than 20 works between the five participating artists. She's planning on showing two large pieces herself, including a work that has its origins in her curious habit of taking our her iPhone and photographing the traffic in front of her when she's stopped at a red light. Stannard manipulated that shot to produce a dream-like image that emphasizes a color that is very important to her.
"It has to do with lights in the dark," she said. "That's really a pull for me. Also, the color red is very significant in my palette."
That was the first color that intrigued her as an artist, Stannard explained.
"For a long time, I just used black and white and shades of gray," she said. "Then red jumped out at me when I was at a stoplight."
Her second piece features a dark tunnel split by a ray of light. Stannard said she envisions the light pulling the viewer — who is represented by a pair of feet at the bottom of the image — through the tunnel.
Stannard said she was asked by Crash Music owner George Rowe to pick the artists for the show. Stannard said she did so based on her respect for their work and the fact that they aren't closely affiliated with any local galleries. The five women also have something else in common, she said.
"I think we all have similar feelings about art," she said. "I've liked their work for as long as I've known them. It seemed like a good group to get together."
In addition to their works on display in the exhibition, Burns and Teofanov will be displaying some of their smaller pieces on a table at the gallery during the opening reception on Friday, Aug. 28, Stannard said. Teofanov is known for her beaded mixed-media work but also considers herself a storyteller and cultural risk taker.
"All issues in my life come to the creative work table to be translated," she writes in her artist's statement. "I work through the issues and translate them. How fortunate I am."
Burns works in a variety of media, including paint, encaustic, paper and printmaking. She said she's been working on a series of paintings inspired by her walks along the river.
"I find myself observing the shadows of the tree branches playing and changing across the fallen leaves on the paths," she writes in her artist's statement. I have come to appreciate the subtle and dramatic changes along the river."
McNealy is perhaps the best-known member of the group, given her tenure as coordinator at the Henderson Fine Arts Gallery on the SJC campus — a job from which she recently retired. She describes herself as a potter who has always wanted to be a painter.
"What I mean by that is that I really love painting and really love making pots," she said, explaining that the tactile sensation of pottery appeals to her, while she loves the immersion in color that painting offers. For this show, she'll have both — some terra cotta pottery she produced a few years ago and four or five paintings, all of which are new. The latter efforts feature birds as subjects, a source of fascination for her lately.
"I like birds," she said. "They're one of my favorite subjects. But I always try to break out of things I'm doing. That keeps you interested."
McNealy is pleased to be showing her work alongside that of so many women she considers not just friends, but kindred spirits.
"I'm blessed to have these women around me," she said. "They're so talented, it's amazing. I'm the luckiest person in the world. They're so great, so talented, and they inspire me to do better."
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