Genius Loci 

Former artists-in-residence compare experiences in Berkeley.

The old idea of a presiding spirit of place, or genius loci, seems pleasantly anachronistic in our brave, new, wired world, just as the idea of regional art styles (or of untutored geniuses, for that matter) now seems quaint in our global art market: Can there still be undiscovered, untapped resources? Such thoughts are dispiriting, and getting away from the chatter and slowing down is occasionally prescribed, even for monkey-brained Homo verbosus. The New Pacific Studio is located at Mt. Bruce, on the southern part of New Zealand's north island, amid farming and sheep-raising lands adjoining the scenic Tararua Mountains. Although it sounds about as far as you can get from here, New Pacific Studio was founded by far-ranging denizens of Berkeley and Davis, and its residencies and retreats make for fine antipodean creative hermitages — but not uncivilized ones, as New Pacific Studio features comfortable accommodations and well-equipped studios (and even Internet access for lonely dark nights of the soul).

Process & Place: The Transformative Potential of Artist Residencies, curated by Berkeley Art Center's Suzanne Tan and artist Elizabeth Sher, presents the work of six local former residents: Amy Berk, Edith Hillinger, Brooke Holve, Anne Lamborn, Mary Curtis Ratcliff, and Elizabeth Sher. The residencies encouraged the exploration of long-standing interests and concerns, but Asian-Pacific landscape and culture permeate the work in subtle ways. Berk's embroidery piece, "Buddha Smiles (Angkor Wat)," drawing on her travels in Asia, depicts a flotilla of lips resembling origami boats, and smiling only in the most restrained divine fashion — no Cheshire-Cat grins here — hovering in a void or ocean or air. Hillinger's "Floating Scroll" watercolors stack floral motifs, realistic and imagined, into totem-like presences; her "Doubletake Poppy Petal 28 Diptych" juxtaposes photographic and watercolor studies of a beautifully decaying flower. Holve's multimedia installation, "Long Look;" Lamborn's weavings, "Sunrise at Mt. Bruce" and "Evening Sky Over Tararus;" and Sher's polyptych painting, "Bars and Tone," and video, "Frenzy," employ assemblage and abstraction in order to respond to the New Zealand landscape. Ratcliff's mixed-media works, "Mountains and Sea, Keri Keri" and "Waterweb," combine nature photography with drawing, capturing a specific place and time, yet also transcending them. Catalog with essay by New Pacific Studio director Kay Flavell available. Process & Place runs through March 28 at Berkeley Art Center (1275 Walnut St., Berkeley). 510-644-6893 or BerkeleyArtCenter.org

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