5 picks for January ArtHop: Penny Otwell paints Yosemite through the eyes of a settler

Penny Otwell has been painting scenes of Yosemite since 1964. She’s dedicated to the technique of alla prima — “from life,” meaning she packs up her painting materials and tramps out to whatever location she plans to memorialize  — but you could say she knows the land so well that she could probably do it from memory.

“She knows the shape of those rocks,” says Ginny Burdick, owner of A Sense of Place Gallery. “She knows the feel of them.”

Otwell is the featured artist at A Sense of Place during January ArtHop, which takes Thursday, Jan. 2 (5-8 p.m. for most venues) at galleries and studios in the downtown, Tower District and Fresno High neighborhoods. Here’s an updated list of venues and exhibitions.

I welcomed Burdick to the January episode of “The Munro Review on CMAC” to talk about Otwell and the significance of her work. One takeaway from the interview is that Otwell is not a realistic painter. She uses broad strokes and a palette knife to create thick textures in her works. Her colors are bracing and distinctive. What we get is how Otwell feels about these places, and that’s impressive.

Here’s the episode. The Burdick interview begins at the 2:28 mark:


Other ArtHop picks

A work from ‘Moving Forward.’

M Street Arts Complex

Here are two shows to consider:

• Aileen Imperatrice continues her new solo show “Moving Forward,” which runs through January. “I can’t think of a better way to usher in the New Year,” she says.

Gallery 25 presents “Art Teacher Art,” which will be comprised of a variety of local college and high school practicing professional art teachers exhibiting in various mediums. This exhibit is a tribute to their dedication in the teaching profession. Artists include Joan K. Sharma, Vanessa Addison-Williams, Nanete Maki-Dearsan, Marc Patterson, Stephanie Ryan, Johnny Stafford and Tom Wilson.

I love this “Self-Portrait” by Maki-Dearsan:

The exhibition runs through Feb. 1.

League of Women Voters

Fresno City Hall

An exhibition of large oil portraits of the First Ladies — from Martha to Melania — will be on display as part of a year-long celebration of the 100th anniversary of national women’s suffrage in the United States. It’s sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Fresno.

An ArtHop reception will be held 5:30-7 p.m. and will feature Fresno State professor Diane Blair, an expert scholar on the First Ladies.

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Patrick W. Rhames

Spectrum Art Gallery

Patrick W. Rhames opens his show “Eloquent Stone” at Spectrum Art Gallery. Here’s a description:

While most people see these old Medieval ruins as just piles of rocks, I am irresistibly drawn to the eloquent poem of history that they whisper to me. Most often, I am completely alone with these stone edifices and, while photographing them from every conceivably interesting angle, able to hear their whisperings and envision the stories they conjure in my more than willing imagination.

The show continues through Feb. 2.

Get your hands dirty at Clay Hand Studio.

Clay Hand Studios

Do you ever get the itch to make art, not just look at it? Here’s your chance with “Play in the Clay,” a fundraiser for Clay Hand Studios. For a $20 donation you get a ball of clay, space to work and help from the artists. You can even leave your masterpiece behind so it can be fired (and picked up at February ArtHop). Sounds like a great post-New-Year’s-Day treat.

Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

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