The show “So Close/So Far” features two Laguna Beach artists whose mediums and aesthetics could not be farther apart. Or so one might think.
But glass artist Sian Poeschl and photographer Suzi Chauvel reveal much in common when it comes to creative inspiration. In this show, the artists’ shared the same frame of reference in looking at nature, but their mediums yielded completely different outcomes, explained Chauvel.
Acquaintances since the early 1990s, their artistic paths have crossed before. And this show, which opens March 1 on First Thursday’s Art Walk at Seven Degrees, 891 Laguna Canyon Rd, is also not the first time they determined to pair their work together.
They collaborated on “Two Journeys, One Mission” in 2009, exhibited at Mission San Juan Capistrano. Their works suggested that making art equates to an intellectual and spiritual pilgrimage. “We work in different mediums but when it comes to the exploration process and the desire to bring our work to the next higher level, our heads are in the same place,” said Chauvel.
“During conversations about our art, we keep discovering that we share the same frame of reference, mostly in terms of our connection to the world around us, to nature,” she said. Their aesthetic compatibility is also evident in another collaboration, a video about Laguna’s public art collection on the city’s website.
While best known for functional and decorative kiln-fired glass pieces, Poeschl’s new works take a pictorial direction. Her fused glass panels depict landscapes inspired in part by Japanese watercolor painter Chiura Obata. Other works reveal allusions to Japanese woodblock prints. In another radical departure, she incorporates wood and bronze into the larger than usual panels.
The process of creating a landscape panel involves a fusion of cut, opaque colored glass onto clear sheet glass along with select etched pieces for added impact, she said. Spaces between shapes and designated negative space are filled with a black powder that melts in firing, a process that takes nearly a day.
Chauvel previously trained her lens on wider views, creating visual compositions by layering images or subtly shifting them to unexpected places. She uses paint to highlight her images and allows other portions to remain in shades of gray to achieve varied visual effects. In a series of digital processes she transfers the images onto metal panels.
This year, she shifts her approach. Forsaking wide-angle lenses, fast shutter speeds and high f-stops to achieve uniform focus, Chauvel now uses micro and macro lenses to shoot close-ups of all that lies under foot. Casting her eye downward, she discovered Laguna’s small beauties, like paths that criss-cross Laguna Canyon and blooms in tiny rock fissures. She carries a notebook to jot what enters her mind while focusing on a subject. “This new series will incorporate words; it’s like letting the earth speak to me, hence dialogues with the earth,” she said. “It has been amazing working in my own backyard and leaving all plans behind and just observing and listening.”
It seems Chauvel and Poeschl have traded places figuratively while standing on common ground. The glass artist creates large panels and takes on larger risks, while the photographer, accustomed to seeing things in an expansive way, now peers at a small world like Alice through the looking glass.
What matters is that both keep looking forward.
Photo by Mitch Ridder