Art and Resilience

These last months I have been reflecting on resilience, particularly heading into winter holidays and listening to the news. I find myself searching for inspiration, connection with depth and humor, and maintaining hope while brushing against the real problems on the planet. These questions have me recalling the definition and key factors of resilience.

Carolyn King, TREE RING Carved Maple Wood
Carolyn King, CATCHING THE CURRENTS (close-up)



Resilience is our way of bouncing back after difficult, oppressive and/or traumatic experiences. It’s part of how we live through very hard moments or times, and what can fuel happiness, connection and well-being. It’s what keeps hope alive, gives us strength, and lets us thrive.

Pamela Hahn, Winter (Big Log Big River)

In life we see people who encounter unbelievable events and are able to re-establish the ground beneath their feet. We also see those who do not. There are practices that can help us build resilience in ourselves and others. This includes our organizations and our communities. While it is ideal if resilience factors are built into our habits, we can also cultivate resilience throughout our lives.


Rachel Binah, Ancient Ice Wall, Mixed media hand sewn construction


Mina Cohen, Costa Rica, mixed media

Based on studies of resilience factors some of these include: spirituality, a strong relationship with animals and/or nature, creativity and art including music, movement and visual arts. Other more relationship-based resilience practices include: being able to help others, making greater meaning of difficult experiences, and being positively connected to at least one other person during difficult events.

Arlene Reiss, Golden Sky III
Joan Burleigh, Light Behind the Tree


Carolyn Schneider, Untitled
Carolyn Schneider, Untitled
Over the last months at Partners Gallery I have been struck with how many images in the gallery are about or inspired by nature – so there are two factors at one time: nature and creativity. At a young age I distinctly remember the somatic sensations I experienced while riding my bike or drawing in my room. Of course to work plein air must be a resilience plus event! When I am in my studio I experience sensations of safety, unbridled energy, timelessness and (occasionally) some undefinable force beyond myself.  Producing art is a rigorous process, it is also uplifting and offers possibility beyond the constraints of daily work.
Kristin Otwell, Aging Elegance, Watercolor
Virginia Sharkey, Arcadia, Acrylic on canvas
Karen Fenley, Untitled mixed media
Whatever winter holidays – or simply winter days – you observe, I hope art is part of your vista.
Elizabeth Ross
Virginia Stearns, MANZANITA HOUSE III manzanita & redwood

ARLENE REISS Paintings: Two Years, Two Coasts


Land of Sand

Elizabeth Ross: Your new show title Two Year, Two Coasts makes reference to the Mexico Coast and the Mendocino Coast. Could you tell me about working in Mexico and Mendocino?

Arlene Reiss: For many years I have spent a couple of winter months in Puerto Vallarta and Yelapa (a close by village).










To travel I roll large sheets of paper into a PVC pipe in order to transport the paintings. The bulk of my time in Yelapa is spent painting – every day. I work outside there. In Puerta Vallarta I work on smaller pieces and, whether in Mendocino or Mexico, I work standing as I feel more expansive that way.

On The Beach

ER: How do you develop an image?

Arlene Reiss: I start out by covering the painting surface with color variations in tone or with collage. Something will emerge and will pull me one way or another. There is a dynamic with the medium, with color, or with natural elements that takes me to the next stage. In Mexico I work outside and am affected by wind, water and nature. Here I am affected by the woods as well as the ocean. In my studio, before I begin to work I often look at art books or magazines to help me get into my making art space.  Color is also a stimulus: setting up to work my first question to myself is “What Color”.

Going Deep


ER: Your paintings create a feeling of stepping into a world of color and movement. What would you like to summon from your audience in terms of experience?

AR: I find it mysterious and magical that by making marks on paper you can create a world. I really want the door open for people’s interpretations of the work while still providing a form for people to grab on to. It isn’t conscious that I create a “going into” experience but it has been said to me a number of times. Since I work intuitively, I don’t have a preconceived image when I work.


Golden Sky II
Moving Along



ER: Can you give more background and the role of Partners Gallery?

AR: Years ago I was to doing plein air pastel paintings. I loved being outside and using the rich colors of pastel. There came a time when my paintings seem to loose a feeling of aliveness, they lost the essence, So I took two years off of exhibiting in order to work on developing more personally expressive work. At the end of that time I had a show of abstract paintings and this was when Partners was forming: 1999. I joined and have been a Partner over these 18 years.

It is incredibly rich to work with other artists. At the gallery we are all self-determined, creating our contemporary images with our own artistic voice.  The group is supportive, sustaining. The fact that I am producing abstract work in a rural environment in a gallery with other supportive artists is noteworthy. We don’t do this wonderful demanding work alone.

Yelapa Blue
Yelapa Blue



JOAN BURLEIGH Entering A New Land


OPENING TO THE LIGHT                         Acrylic, 12X12

ER: Do you think your spiritual practice informs you work?

JB: For me the greatest pleasure in my art, that I might not have paid attention to earlier in my life, is the spirit and nature that fills the images. Of course you have to work with form and color – but it is the presence of spirit that comes through.

ER: How do you think your work has evolved over the last decade?

JB: I’ve let go inside. I let it – the art – be more what it wants, not what I want it to be. It’s a mystery and a gift.

City Scape                                                        Acrylic, 12 X 12


ER: At 80, what has shifted for you as an artist?

JB: The goals are to be as present every moment as I can be. I am not orienting “out there”. This presence is across all areas of my life.

ER: Any surprises in the studio?

JB: Gatekeeper was a surprise. It simply came to me.

The Gate Keeper                                                   Acrylic, 12 x 12    

ER: Your work is bursting with aliveness.

JB: I’m in a pretty good place in my life; I’ve never been “regular” or conventionally “normal”. I am more accepting and content.

Light Behind the Tree                           Acrylic, 18″ X 24″


ER: How would you like your art to affect an audience?

JB: I love it when people comment: “look at all this color” and “how radiant”!

ER: Tell me about one of the paintings..

JB: Opening to the Light: I love that sense – I’ve always wanted to know how I began and became who I am.

ER: Any last comments?

JB: This is my best show. In the past I have been critical. This show I am content, I felt “I did it” and it is meaningful.


Wild Iris                       Acrylic, 6″ X 6″        
Purple Glow                   Acrylic,    6″ X 6″

Carolyn King: Transitions

Picture                               Winter Bones
The Japanese have a poetic phrase, “mono no aware”, which recognizes the pathos of things, a sensitivity towards ephemera. Things that don’t last become dear to us. I don’t set out to create things that don’t last, but in the course of life I have encountered loss and change and many times that becomes reflected in my work.  

In the beginning of my career I learned to weld because I thought it would make me strong and I could make things that had a long life span.  It soon became clear that that I tended not treat steel and metal materials  as inflexible or rigid, but rather as pliable material to be manipulated into softer shapes.  I don’t have preconceived ideas about materials or subjects, rather I listen to the work/idea and what it wants to be.
 Midnight Surprise
I thought I would be a painter when I entered art school but I had a mentor who recognized that I see things in three dimensions. I count Robert Rauschenberg’s work as an early influence: he took from our culture and nothing was off limits. This framed my view and sparked an era of using “common” things – things walked on, discarded, 
I lived and worked in Portland for many years and belonged to a conceptual gallery where the shows took the form mostly of installations.  While in Portland I served on several public art selection committees for the city  and also created and installed 3 public art pieces.   My work with natural materials was a  major shift that happened shortly before I left Portland to come to Mendocino.  I became intrigued by the use of natural materials and wanted to work with in a way that had less impact on the environment.   
                                                             Leaf Catcher
In this show I began with a big wood round a neighbor gave me.  I knew it was going to take a long time to carve so I also started the two smaller forms in the show. There are difficult periods, a gestation time, where it isn’t clear how the piece wants to be, but other times it is clear from the start.
                                                   Tree Ring
With the hanging birds I thought “I need color”; they were fun and at that point everything started to come together. 
Songbird Migration
 With the piece “Catching the Currents” I loved the vines and birds – the freedom they have. It was hard to find the materials that felt right for the birds to keep them looking light and airy.  I finally settled on the bamboo leaves for feathers.  
 Picture                      Catching the Currents
I don’t really have a favorite tool.   I use what I need to in terms of tools and materials – it’s all a playground to me. Some pieces come together quickly, some take years but it quite clear to me when a piece is complete. 
Picture                                Waiting for Spring

                                Reaching for Light

Virginia Sharkey: Time Traps – Poetry into Painting, an interview with the artist



ER (interviewer): Tell me about the theme of this exhibition.

Virginia Sharkey: It’s about time, specifically, the depiction, in abstract form, of the days of the week. I’ve always felt that each day of the week had a color . What color do you think of for Monday?
ER: I think of a warm grey.

Vs: I think of Monday as red. Everyone’s different. You ask about the relationship to poetry, as it’s in the title of the exhibit. I’ve always written. I participate in poetry readings every First Thursday at the Ft Bragg Public Library and during the annual Spring Poetry Festival in Mendocino, but never have connected poems and paintings before. I wanted to explore more of what I felt about each day so, in further musings I came up with these poems. The paintings were tangential to the words, but a there is definitely a connection. Thursday was the hardest, as the painting wanted to go away from the sense of the poem but I made myself return to the text. That is, at least, very indirectly.

 Thursday (directly below)                                      Saturday


ER: What artists inspire you? Vs: Lots. Ii love the work Matisse did around World War One, Goya, Bruegel and various contemporary painters. This show is inspired by The Book of Hours, specifically Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry and other illuminated manuscripts.I am interested in time and mortality. Painting is a perfect medium to explore this as time, like its lovely housing, music, is an ephemeral concept, without matter attached.

ER: Do you get stuck? Vs: Yes! I sit there. There is always a breakthrough, however. I’ll just sit and stare. It may be preliminary to what I want. Usually there is something that happens finally, a sensation in the body.

ER: So it’s a somatic experience?

Vs: Yes, it’s somatic. What do you do?
ER: I have to not overwork or get in my intellectual mind. Sometimes I have to walk away and let it come to me. I do those usual things like turning the image upside down, but mostly I have to be patient. You work is so clean, you edit out the noise.

Vs: Thank you. What a beautiful thing to say. I am in love with certain Asian sensibilities; simple like the image of persimmons Mu Ch’i Fa-Ch’ang. did about 900 years ago. I’m in love with the elemental and essential. It’s a state of consciousness; I try to create a presence, even a kind of exalted realm for the viewer to sink into.



ER: That brings me to my next question, are there sensations of experiences you hope to elicit from your audience?

Vs: I would hope people could have a mind cleansing experience, immersed in a beautiful presence – transported. If the viewer is transported that would be wonderful.


Wednesday (top)                                                                          Tuesday

Elizabeth Ross: Monotypes on Restoration

Whether in or out of the studio, respect and preservation of the land and its inhabitants is at the foundation of my work.

My partner and were inspired to remove the vineyard on our land in 2014. I undertook this daunting effort and worked hundreds of hours cutting canes, dragging vines, pulling fencing staples and using a spinning jenny.

By 2016 five acres of grapes and hardware were removed. During those two years my art was informed by weather, plants and horizon lines.

Often when I prepare for an exhibition, a new theme emerges. Added to plant life are cursive line suggestive of language. Some of these lyrical lines are Gregg Shorthand, representative of the stenography used by my mother, a secretary.

I intend to provoke questions, even assumptions about the geographic origins of the language elements. It is my desire to emphasize our human connection, not what separates us – from each other and the earth.