Two exciting artists are exhibiting at Caza Sikes Gallery in Oakley and their work is well married in a number of ways.  Jan Wiesner continues her series of female fables and environmental heroines.

Tom Towhey displays a variety of colorful fantasy paintings that merge his environments with his love of gardening. Typically of Towhey, surprising characters can be spied in every corner.

“The Birds of Paradox” is a large impressive canvas of a birch-like tree trunk, felled in the forest. Pillow-like florals float, faces to the sky as fantastically plumed birds preen on every branch. Little purple-tailed non-creatures and playful amoeba spawns can be found lurking under every leaf and in every cranny. Ruptures of the paper-thin bark of the tree reveal a pulsating vermillion viscera, the chroma of which competes successfully with the palette of vibrant purples, blues and florescent greens throughout.

Canvas paintings mounted on wood medallions bounce along one wall and indulge in teapot-type characters that cavort with fantasy forms and flowers in a forest environment. Towhey’s imaginative painting titles, “Honest John Possum”, “Matilda” and “Billy in the Bayou” add to the playfulness.

The alliterative “Gertrude’s Garage Grunge” is a painting of a deep purple organism with swirling appendages, ensconced in a woodland field of fantasy floral forms and glowing growths. Multiple yellow and orange striped circus tents vie for space under a snippet of brilliant blue sky.

Jan Wiesner’s work combines environmental elements with fables and fantasies of feminality.

Singular figures of young girls are featured on pedestals in the center of the gallery. One is titled: “She Believed In Magic And Was Willing To Wait For It”.  The young woman sits on the ground hugging her knees. Her simple clothing, a tee and peddle-pushers, do not distract from

her wistful gaze up to the sky. There are only two examples of female characters in pants, as most of her young women and girls float in simple short sleeved, unwaisted shifts.  A confident young girl takes a walk in the company of a snarling dragon.  Her shift raises gently in an imaginary breeze as she extends her toe en pointe in the act of walking, right over the hideous talons of the circling beast.

Another dragon appears in the work titled: “Books Were The Only Magic She Needed”. Formatted as a wall medallion, a girl sits in her room, absorbed in her reading amid open books and fluttering birds at her feet. She reads, fixated on the text, oblivious to the menacing dragon encircling her head, whose tail rests on the very book in her hand.  The piece celebrates the pleasure and privilege of reading and book knowledge, an adventure of the mind denied to women in the not too distant past.

This exhibit features several tableau pieces that allegorize woman as heroine of the environment.

“Poseidon’s Daughter Offered Safe Haven From the Ever Warming Seas” casts the figure of a beautiful young woman inviting marine creatures to join her at the bottom of the ocean, where she can protect them in her father’s domain.  Specimens of fish swarm to her bosom and a giant sperm whale circles to make the dive.

“As The World Twisted In Upon Itself Somehow The Children Kept Playing” is a parable of innocence and impending doom.  Children playing tag among an interconnected family of trees discover an inverted sky world beneath their roots. Above the shared canopy of leaves, fish flounder in a strangely inverted realm. From beneath the sheltering copse of trees, two large eyes glower, sullenly observing the innocents at play. By transposing the places where air flows and water currents well, Wiesner conveys a message of environmental divergence and inevitable generational impact.

In another however, the message is one of hope.  “As They Danced With Joy The Trees Joined In” depicts a circle of several young girls joyfully dancing in a forest glade. Here the surrounding copses of trees raise their limbs and sway in rhythmic motion.

Tom Towhey’s nonsensical fantasies are enjoyable as a momentary diversion on a busy day.

I enjoyed the thoughtful insight of Jan Wiesner’s parables and fables, realized with a fresh approach to sculptural imagery. These works invoke the magic of the imagination and the urgency of environmental issues.

Exhibition at Caza Sikes Gallery through March 23, 2020.

–Marlene Steele

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *