Mighty Fine Art 

Berkeley's Traywick Gallery presents works by four local MFA graduates

Have you ever faked a knowing nod while your friends discussed abstract art? Wish you could make one of those newfangled paintings yourself? Tia Factor, recent graduate of UC Berkeley's MFA program, has invented a simple painting method guaranteed to produce quality abstract artworks every time. Her drip-blob formula requires nothing more than some winning Lotto numbers and a few cans of paint.

Well, okay ... Factor's tongue-in-cheek "paint-by-Lotto-number" method isn't actually as simple as it sounds. It's true that any amateur can use it, but it was years in the development process, while Factor experimented with all kinds of other numerical and cultural systems: mapping points, bird migration patterns, astronomical constellations, Islamic geometry, Tantric chakra centers, chromosomes, and Rorschach ink blots.

Berkeley's Traywick Gallery presents works by Tia Factor and three other local Master of Fine Arts program graduates in its Third Annual MFA Survey Exhibition, opening today, July 18. Besides Factor's abstract paintings, the show will include paper sculptures by Prajakti Jayavant (CCAC), an installation and digital image by Geof Oppenheimer (UC Berkeley), and porcelain sculptures by Bambi Waterman (Mills College).

Jayavant's paper sculptures are subtle and delicate -- really, you almost can't call them sculptures, since they're just barely three-dimensional. Jayavant stares at a blank piece of paper, thinks hard, and then attacks thoughtfully and carefully, ripping, penetrating, sewing, crimping, or painting the paper. A little nip and tuck, a dangling thread, some color -- she disturbs the plain surface just enough to give it individuality and character. She calls her works "excavations of complexity from simplicity." They are beautiful and mysterious, like a child's small, dirty handprint on an otherwise clean white wall.

Geof Oppenheimer didn't know he was the outdoorsy type until he moved to California. Now he has hiked and camped all over the state, obsessed with big forests, big trees, and big mountains. But making art allows him to reduce the incomprehensible into "something familiar and friendly to me: mountains I can understand in one glance." So when Oppenheimer wasn't roughing it in the wild this past year, he was working on his installation, "Taking the Mountain by Strategy." A hand-knitted covering stretches over three ramp-like aluminum frames, and cast-plastic rocks are scattered around the floor nearby.

Bambi Waterman loves natural history, but the world's plants and animals are just a starting point for her porcelain sculptures. Waterman likes to invent new creatures, loosely based on actual species, but with their own life cycles and their own processes of evolution and decomposition. Peer into the glass case and witness the birth, life, and death of her mysterious species, its surface bleached white like a bone in the desert sun.

Come get acquainted with four of the Bay Area's most promising new talents at the Traywick Gallery's 2001 MFA Survey Exhibition, continuing through August 18. There will be a reception for the artists on Saturday, July 21, from 6 to 8 p.m. 1316 Tenth Street, Berkeley. Gallery hours are 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. 510-527-1214.

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