Thursday, August 26, 2010

Valerie Davis at Purple Agave, Brian Jonasse at The Landscape Mosaic Studio

Valerie Davis is a resident of Joshua Tree, and has been living here for the past twelve years.  Davis is originally from Yuma, AZ, but she moved here from Scottsdale.  This multi-faceted artist creates "glue" paintings, using acrylic paint and hot glue, wood sculptures, mobiles and even wire-wrapped jewelry.  Her interest in translucent color is a unifying theme in all the work she creates.  The wood sculptures are mixed media pieces, combining wood with glue, glass, selenite, and acrylic.  She tells me that the sculptures are not pre-conceived, rather, she responds intuitively to the shapes in the wood.  The intriguing shapes could be either plant like, animal shaped or even mineral like, once they are completed.  Each unique wood piece has a strong connection to shapes found in the natural world.  In addition to the more sculptural pieces Valerie creates using wood, she has also explored painting on cross-sections of wood.  In these works, Davis bases the composition of the painting on the annual growth rings of the tree.  The wood grain itself is inspiration for animals and figures Davis brings out in the paintings.  The design is burned into the wood, and then Davis uses acrylic paint to add the color.

A painting on a cross section of wood.

The jewelry that Davis makes is something she does "just for fun."  She colors fragments of selenite, which is a near transparent and colorless mineral in its natural form.  Selenite is an alternate name for the mineral gypsum.  Once Davis has colored the stone, she wire wraps it and makes earrings and pendants.  Davis also uses selenite in combination with glass and wood to create mobiles.
One of Davis' mobiles, created with selenite and wood.
Davis' glue paintings also make use of transparency and color.  She builds up layers of glue, often layering the glue over a base layer of iridescent pigments.  The final layer is translucent acrylic paint.  Unlike the wood sculpture, Davis usually does begin with a design or drawing before beginning a painting.  She starts with the geometry, usually a circle, and builds a design with abstracted figurative elements.  Her themes are centered around man's interdependent relationship with the earth.  She starts with the framework of a mandala, and is inspired by southwestern rock art as well as pre-Columbian art that she has seen in her travels.   She uses nature, natural themes and elements to connect with the spiritual in her work.  Even though her paintings are figurative, they are also enjoyable from a strictly abstract sense.  In fact, when looking at one of her paintings, I did not at first notice the figures, and saw it as being purely non-representational.  It was only after spending more time looking that I saw the figures.  The textures created by the glue layers becomes an important visual element in the finished paintings.   

Valerie Davis in front of one of her glue paintings.
Another of Davis' glue paintings.

Valerie Davis has been an artist all her life.  She has an uncle on her father's side who is a wood turner, and creates beautiful wood turned bowls and vessels.  Before she had the studio she works in today, she worked in a tiny walk out closet, with just enough room for a desk and a single light bulb hanging overhead.  As she says, "I came out of the closet -literally- with my art."  I think you will agree that she has definitely emerged when you visit her on the art tours this year.  Valerie Davis will be showing with Cheryl Jordan, Jennifer Ruggiero, and Wally Pacholka at the Purple Agave in Morongo Valley this year.  You can see them the second weekend of the tours, October 30th and 31st.  If you don't want to wait that long, Davis does have a collection of her paintings and mobiles on display at Crossroads Cafe in Joshua Tree.  Hurry - the show comes down the end of August. 

Brian Jonasse
Brian Jonasse next to one of his landscape mosaics.
Our next artist is new to the art tours this year, and relatively new to art.  Brian Jonasse is a retired school principle and educator.  Originally from Rochester, New York, Jonasse has wanted to live in the west since he was 11 years old.  He had gone on a trip to the Adirondacks, and fell in love with the mountains.  The mountains of the western United States had a strong pull on him since that first mountain experience.   Finally, after graduating from high school and a four year stint in the Air Force, he was able to make his way out west.  Jonasse went to college at the University of California in Santa Barbara.  He loves Southern California, because here mountains, ocean and desert are all within a short day's drive.  Jonasse has been living in Yucca Valley since 1972.  He worked as a school principal for seventeen years at nine different schools.  After 17 years as a principal, he decided to go back to teaching and working on staff development and teacher training.  He even wrote online courses for Chapman University in Orange, CA.  
This mosaic was created using glass beads and stone.
Now that Jonasse has retired, he has devoted his time to developing his art and reading physics.  For Jonasse, there is a strong connection between physics and art.  Jonasse creates landscape mosaics using tiny glass beads on bluestone.  He is greatly influenced by the impressionist painter Georges Seurat, who created paintings using small "points" or strokes of color, carefully placed to produce color harmony when seen from a distance.  This way of painting became known as "pointillism."  Jonasse sees a parallel between the ideas of quantum physics and the sub-atomic world and the way of working with tiny points of color used to create a cohesive image.  The landscape mosaics created by Brian are southwestern inspired designs created from tiny beads bonded to bluestone slabs.  Jonasse has also created works in a similar vein with glass tiles on bluestone.  He has even combined stone with the glass beads in some of these mosaics.   These colorful works can withstand the heat and freezing outdoor temperatures we experience here in the high desert.  They can be displayed on patios, embedded in masonry work, in planters or indoors on a stand.   For more ideas on ways one can display Jonasse's art, please visit his website at
A mosaic created with glass tiles on blue stone.
The intricate and painstaking work of placing each bead on the surface of the stone.
Jonasse is inspired by the desert and the outdoors.  An avid hiker and backpacker, he loves to explore the mountains of the west with his son.  Jonasse has been working on his art and an indoor/outdoor showroom to display his art for the past four years.  He has even designed and built a beautiful waterfall outside the home he shares with his wife.  I urge you to make time during the second weekend of the Open Studio Art Tours to visit this artist and his unique works of art.

written by Karine Swenson

No comments: