In 1998, a group of San Diego area art patrons and philanthropists joined with Reesey Shaw, the founding director of the California Center for the Arts Museum, to discuss how they might encourage a better understanding of visual art. They agreed that what was needed was something more than a museum—a place where visitors would be directly exposed to the artistic process in a way that was demystified and immediately engaging. In 2007, the Institute’s first permanent structure, the Artist Pavilion, opened to the public and welcomed its first resident artist. Currently, painter Astrid Preston is in residence and her work will be on view through March 22.
San Diego Union- Tribune art critic Robert L. Pincus visited the show, and reports that Preston’s work updates the plein-air tradition. “Through the decades, she has mastered different kinds of landscapes. While ‘Surrender’ is quasi-photographic, ‘First Morning’ (2003) verges on the ethereal. It includes an amalgam of rounded shrubs and trees, partially distinct in the foreground but increasingly soft and hazy as they recede into the distance, as if a bright haze were enveloping them. ‘Mountain Path’ (1989), Preston’s oldest work on view, is precisely painted but not photographic. It is a vertical panorama, in which the meandering trail carries your eye up and down the 8-foot-tall canvas. Every tree and shrub looks different than the next, as if she were subtly redesigning the scene in the process of painting it. The view is utterly believable as a mirror of nature but halfway hallucinatory at the same time. All of her work has this quality. Even the new paintings, so detailed in their presentations of hedges and plants, appear both real and unreal. Perhaps that’s because there is no sky or earth to orient the eye. What she hasn’t abandoned, in the process of updating the plein-air tradition, is a passion for natural form and organic beauty. ” Read more.
“Astrid Preston: In the Stuido,” Lux Art Institute, Encinitas, CA. Through March 22.