May Members Show shapes up as a fine return to gallery viewing

This is the second of a series in which I review and comment on the monthly Members Shows of the San Diego Watercolor Society (SDWS). These shows provide a regular venue in which members have the opportunity to submit their work to a competitive juried exhibit that judges the submissions for inclusion into the show. The jurors also select pieces for honors for first, second and third place, best of theme, best of miniatures, honorable mention for miniatures, and five each of juror commendations and honorable mentions for regular sized paintings. Since the coronavirus pandemic, these shows have been virtual and available for viewing on the SDWS website rather than in-person and in the SDWS gallery. This month, however, the gallery at Liberty Station will be open during limited hours (Friday – Sunday, 11 am  to 3pm) and the works can be seen in person.

These shows are important for several reasons. They give member artists the opportunity to have their work critically evaluated, with selected pieces presented to the viewing public. They also have the chance to offer their work for sale. Additionally, the public has the chance to view the incredible variety of high quality art that characterizes the work of our members. Juried exhibitions assure that the paintings on view are the best of the best. This article is an effort to introduce you to the current May show, and to encourage you to view it on line and/or in the gallery in its entirety. We also encourage you to take a look at the Juror Comments for each show, which highlight the works selected for honors, including an image of the painting itself and the comments of the juror. Juror Comments can be found at

The May Members Show has the theme “Shape Zone”. Selections for the show were made by Sharon Williams, and awards were made from the selected works by local artist Rise Parberry. Rise selected 16 works for the honors listed above, and these works are noted in the virtual and gallery exhibits and in the Juror Comments. The remaining paintings were selected from a total of over 250 submissions, and are uniformly excellent.

Many of the paintings on display are wonderfully expressive of the “Shape Zone” theme, regardless of what the subject matter or style of the painting happened to be. Paintings referred to here will be ones that were not selected for awards, as the honored works are discussed in detail in the Juror Comments. I refer here to other wonderful paintings that are expressive of the “Shape Zone” theme.

Several of the paintings this month featured people as the main subject, although the shapes that added to the painting’s impact may have been from other aspects of the composition. Tide Pool Girl, a lovely rendering of a child at the seashore, by Stephanie van der Wetering is an example of such a strategy, as the shapes of the stones that form the tide pools contrast nicely with the delicate rendering of the child. JoDell Abrams’s Mucho Mucha shows a portrait of a girl done with essentially a single quiet shape for the head and neck, the swirling hair forming another shape packed with movement.

The shapes found in paintings of flowers and plants were also dramatic and pleasing. Bloom, by Beverly Tuzin, uses the shapes of individual flower petals to attract the eye, carrying some of the shapes off the page to lend an aspect of size and of vitality to the flower. Coco Nut by Diane Moore is rendered entirely in black and white, with the round shapes of the coconuts standing out as unshaded circles among the detailed presentation of the stems, trunk, and leaves.

In paintings that are presented as abstracts, themes of subject matter can often be seen.  In Botanical Discovery by Carol Mansfield, the suggestions of flowers are almost secondary to the brilliant abstract shapes that provide a riot of color throughout the painting. Kathleen  Scoggin’s Wind Swept carries dappled geometric shapes off into the margins of the paper on orange and blue diagonal  sweeps of motion. The carefully painted and primary-colored shapes of Symphony by Mary McWilliams speak of interchanges and composition that indeed is reminiscent of music.

Landscapes may sometimes be difficult to present with strongly composed shapes, but a number of artists tackled the shapes theme nonetheless. The hard-edged purple slabs of mountain in Boulder Flatirons by Peg Klinger contrast nicely with the softer hillocks in the foreground. Elaine Harvey uses a variety of hues of blue to create shapes of both water and mountains in Early Entry, leaving enough sky to be seen as a shape of its own. Carla Scheidlinger’s Land Sea and Sky also gets a lot of shape in the swirling ribbons of sky and the dramatic sweep of the shoreline. The Purple River by Bianca Romani is almost an abstract, with a mosaic-like feeling to the strong shapes that define the sun, the mountains, and the river. The shapes of boats, buoys, waves, and fish in the crowded image of Nautical Traffic Jam by Gordon Bashant create a feeling of motion and dynamic activity.

Images of cityscapes and buildings offer great opportunities to feature shapes. Cake It On, Mark Smith’s vertical image of houses and a dock on a precipitous hillside facing the water, is almost vertiginous.  The earthy colors of Sylvia Smith’s  Evening on the Embarcadero define buildings with strong shapes that transition into boats and water in a marina. Less tranquil is Upheaval by Alice Kayuha, a vision of tilting shapes of buildings that allows for interpretation as an abstract.

Animals are always one of the most endearing subjects for artists. A particularly effective use of shapes is seen in Shapealoosa Sunset by Gloria Chadwick, where the horse itself is decorated with geometric shapes that are echoed in the background. More shapes appear in the horse-themed  Pickup, by Kathy Harder; in this case, it is the negative space defined by the horses and rider that form the captivating shapes.  Finally, Lines of Communication 291, PETCO.COM (Tiger) by Carol Thomason features the shape of a cat’s head with a foreground and background venturing into the abstract with the use of vivid and irregular shapes.

These are but a few of the many captivating and uniformly excellent works of art found in the May Member’s Show “Shape Zone”. You can see them here on line ( arranged in alphabetical order by title. Better yet, come to the gallery at 2825 Dewey Rd, Suite 105 in Liberty Station Friday – Sunday, 11 am – 3pm through June 27, 2021 and see them all in person! If something catches your eye and you find yourself coming back to it over and over again, consider a purchase, as all paintings are offered for sale, with prices scaled for all budgets. And stay tuned for upcoming shows!

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