Artists need inspiration to create; they need something to say. Even if it’s mundane, or they’re attempting to say little or nothing at all, decisions are made when creation begins. What delicate, fleeting things inform these decisions are fascinating because they can shed a distinct light on the art process. Whether it’s the appeal of nature or governmental politics, something stirs within the artist. Friends are often a great source of inspiration because they can bring so many ideas into the mix: They can enlighten you, piss you off or soothe you.
A show titled Visual Conversations opens today at the Solomon Dubnick Gallery. It celebrates the work of three longtime close friends: Jack Ogden, Irving Marcus and Richard Feese. Ogden and Marcus both retired from California State University, Sacramento, where they were top professors in the art department. Feese still teaches sculpture there part time. On top of being friends and working together, the three share a similarity in their art-making process. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say they fall into the camp of abstract expressionism, but this is too broad a category. In reality, they have more in common with each other than any of them have with Jackson Pollock or Willem de Kooning. And this is what makes a show like this so interesting. One can see, firsthand, how inspiration from friends can influence one’s art so directly.
Although Feese is a sculptor, there is a playful nature to his mixed-media pieces that is similar to Ogden’s and Marcus’ paintings. The works are thrown out there with only a hint of narrative, which prompts the viewer to pick up the conversation. Marcus’ paintings work that way, as well, often with a title that doesn’t complete the vague story presented visually. Ogden is a more direct painter and doesn’t share color or shape with Marcus, but he still is obviously part of the pack. Rarely is there a show such as this, in which mature painters who have had years to draw inspiration from each other come together in an exhibit in which each has equal weight and still complements the others.