The fine art of teaching

Linda Adair Day at the Himovitz

Linda Adair Day, a piece from the <i>Folly</i> series.

Linda Adair Day, a piece from the Folly series.

You know that old saying: “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.”

Often they are mutually exclusive—either people can only do and not teach what they know, or they can only teach because they understand how things should be, but they can’t actually do them. It’s refreshing when we find someone who can do both. Sometimes, in the world of art, one can witness that someone can do and teach both in a single body of work, without the creator even being present.

I was thinking about this while viewing the paintings and drawings of Linda Adair Day at the Himovitz Gallery. The new show, An Introduction to CSUS Artists, is a collaboration between the gallery and California State University, Sacramento, where Day began teaching this semester. It also features the photographs of Kent Lacin and collaborative work by Julia Couzens and Joan Moment.

Day has been an award-winning artist and instructor for more than 20 years, and her experience shows in this exhibit. The formal skills, insightful imagery and unique style make the work strong, pointing out how well she can do, and its strength and clarity makes it a tool for anyone wishing to, to learn from—proving this work can teach.

Day likes to play around, and also enjoys a good sense of humor. Her paintings are abstract in form, starting with lighthearted doodling, and I’m convinced that she is obsessed with this one particular water droplet shape—it’s everywhere in her work—but her paintings, although playful, don’t lack sophistication. The compositions are well thought out, and both positive and negative areas are equally interesting. Day shows a mature understanding of space and how form fits within.

Besides her control of the formal elements, Day’s work has the most important thing going on—something interesting—that quality that makes you like a piece of art. Day claims, “These singular forms cite the body and are at once biomorphic and mechanical anatomical fantasies of hysteria and ecstasy.” These paintings and drawings have life to them. They move; they have objects interacting in an environment, even if we can’t tell exactly what those things are. It doesn’t matter anyway; their kinetic nature mixed with the believable environment makes them transcend.

Day came north from Los Angeles, where she had taught at some of the best schools in the region. Knowing this, I can see resemblances to a few of her peers. One painting in her Folly series has similar colors and even the busy quality of Lari Pittman’s work while her space and repetition isn’t unlike the painstaking ocean-and-night-sky drawings of Vija Celmins. But these similarities are slight. There’s no doubt that Day is too caught up in her own self-forged process to look to others’ work for fundamental ideas.

Day has self-expression through the act of painting and drawing down pat, and I guarantee that if every one of her students come to this show, they would learn a few things about art, and Ms. Day wouldn’t need to utter a sound.

An Introduction to CSUS Artists, at the Himovitz Gallery, 1616 Del Paso Blvd., runs through Nov. 11, with an artist’s reception from 6-10p.m. on Second Saturday, Oct. 14.