By Derek Wilson
Feeling blue? You’re not alone.
“There are so many things behind the color blue. For some, it can convey sadness. There is that term we use, ‘I’ve got the blues,’” said Sausalito artists Bia Bower. “But I can honestly say that when I paint with blue, it’s more of a comforting, soothing thing instead of sad. Blue represents a feeling of hopefulness and a fresh start.”
Bower is one of a collection of artists who answered the nationwide invitation to submit works for the juried show “Blue”, which opened May 17 and continues through July 2 online at www.ohanloncenter.org/exhibits/current. Approximately 80 works all featuring the color and meaning of blue were selected to appear in the show hosted by the O’Hanlon Center for the Arts.
Former Bay Area gallery owner Jen Tough was tasked with narrowing the field of submitted works from more than 1,200 to just 80.
“It’s like a symphony in building a show,” said Tough, the founder of The Artist Alliance Community, an online membership site focusing on both professional and creative development for visual artists. “You don’t want all trumpets, you want a mix. You’re creating a whole entire piece, composing something from a variety of pieces.”
So, what is the meaning of blue?
“The takeaway from this show is something like there are so many ways to express blue,” Tough said. “Maybe you start noticing all the things around us that are blue, the sea, the sky. And there are interpretations of blue, like music or having the blues.”
Bower’s mixed media piece “Le Printemps” translates to Spring in French. Bower, who lived and studied painting in Europe for 10 years, uses yellow highlights to accent the blue, like sunshine reflecting off the bay.
“I love the effect, the way the yellow brings out a sparkling contrast,” said Bower. “In my work, one thing I end up doing is transporting the viewer with what they can see in the work or what they can feel — calm, or excited, or happy… The piece poured out of me after going on walks and seeing the flowers in bloom in Paris.”
She continued, “Art speaks to everyone individually. For me, what brings me joy is when a painting feels alive; when it’s luminous; when it draws you into something. What it symbolizes — serenity, stability, whatever — that’s important. For me, I don’t try to make the work stand out, I just make it serene and soothing… Sometimes art can be an interesting way to express memories without the written word. Those memories live on within us. What I tried to do is to take the feeling or experiences still alive in my psyche and express it through my tools.”
Bower calls on her mother’s Japanese heritage and remembers the cherry blossoms that decorate the trees all briefly every year.
“The cherry blossoms represent the beauty of renaissance and rebirth, but the minute you try to grasp that it slips through your fingers,” she said. “The challenge was to develop a piece that conveys all that.”
According to her website, Bower has been influenced by the work of her grandfather, a noted Japanese abstract expressionist.
“My experiences and the beauty around me are my sources of inspiration,” Bower said. “Glistening light, delicate colors and the feelings that those convey are characteristic themes in my work. I take immense pleasure in creating images that express how ephemeral life can be and lead the viewer to unexpected sensations.”
The many hues of blue represent so many things in each piece of art. For Bower, “blue is a color I seem to go back to often. It’s a joy for me to work with blues… Blue is soothing, like the ocean, the sky and so many elements in nature. It brings a sense of serenity and calmness. Some of my pieces are more muted blues, with the colors of sand against the ocean and the sky. I’m happy they chose that color as a topic for this show.”