Read Sam Whiting’s insightful San Francisco Chronicle article “Winter blues at Nancy Toomey Fine Art” featuring artist Lisa Bartleson in our group exhibition Winter on view through January 28, 2017, at 1275 Minnesota Street.
San Francisco Chronicle – “Winter blues at Nancy Toomey Fine Art”
by Sam Whiting – Thursday, December 22, 2016
Lisa Bartleson, Sphere 0216.37, 2016, Mixed Media and Resin on Panel, 37 x 37 x 3 Inches
Seen from the gallery door, Lisa Bartleson’s abstract painting “Sphere” is as cold as the winter sun in Minnesota.
But the closer you get, the warmer and more complex it gets. Once in front of it, you figure out that what initially looked like a circle of blue paint is actually a textured mosaic made of paper strips woven together.
Bartleson’s artwork is just one piece in “Winter,” a group show at Nancy Toomey Fine Art located, appropriately enough, at 1275 Minnesota St.. But the art on display — by Andrew Fisher, Betty Merken, Jimi Gleason and Miya Ando — does not depict even one winter scene. It is all about color.
For Bartleson, 48, the color was blue because one year ago she was living near Venice Beach, where the winter sky is cleared by Santa Ana winds blowing away the smog and leaving the sky a crisp blue.
Strips of Dura-lar waiting to be woven into a sphere by Lisa Bartleson at her Petaluma studio. Photo: Meghan Nelson
To paint this involved rolls of Dura-lar, a clear drafting film used by architects. First she cut it into hundreds of strips, each 4 feet long, and pinned them to her studio wall. Starting with a bucket of white paint, she painted one strip white; then, using an eyedropper, she added a single drop of ultramarine blue to the white and painted a second strip. Then she added two drops to the mix, and so on, until the bucket of white was transformed into a darker blue.
To turn the painted strips into a sphere, she cut each strip into 1-inch squares and assembled them in the fashion of a mosaic, with the squares getting darker as they radiated outward.
“That’s how slow gradations develop,” says Bartleson, who spent 15 years in biotech and uses math and chemistry in her approach. “The intent is to have a darker outside color embrace the painting while the light in the center draws the viewer in.”
Lisa Bartleson created “Sphere” with a mosaic of painted 1-inch squares that get darker as they radiate outward. Photo: Meghan Nelson
The entire process took a month of eight-hour days. By the time it was finished, Bartleson was finished with the Los Angeles sky — and after 15 years in Venice, she moved to the west side of Petaluma, to live on 2 acres of pastureland.
The concept was to trade all that blue of the sky and ocean for green grass in the winter. Her spheres now are in gradations of gray to reflect the morning fog that gets trapped in the valley where she lives.
“What I love about the spheres are their meticulous construction,” says Toomey. “They are exciting and they are meditative at the same time.”
Bartleson plans to have more spheres to show when Nancy Toomey features her in a solo show in 2017.
During the holidays, the Minnesota Street galleries are open by appointment. But that’s the beautiful thing about “Sphere.” You can experience “Winter” just by standing outside the gallery door and looking through the glass at “Sphere.”
Sam Whiting is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @SamWhitingSF Instagram: @sfchronicle_art
Winter – Open by appointment via email@example.com during the holiday season. Regular hours resume Jan. 3. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Through Jan. 28. Nancy Toomey Fine Art, 1275 Minnesota St., S.F. http://nancytoomeyfineart.com