Outdoor painters connect to nature at annual exhbit

Local plein air artists display their work in SLOPE’s annual exhibit celebrating the outdoors

Special to The TribuneAugust 8, 2011 

  • IF YOU GO

    What: ‘Connections with Nature,’ SLOPE art exhibit

    When: Reception 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday; exhibit through Sept. 29

    Where: San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden, 3451 Dairy Creek Road

    Hours: Daily from dawn to dusk Contact: 541-1400, ext. 301

The Botanical Garden’s slant next weekend is art focused on the outdoors, when SLOPE opens its annual exhibit. San Luis Outdoor Painters for the Environment members will show 70 original paintings, with a portion of sales proceeds benefiting the garden.

SLOPE, whose purpose includes drawing attention to endangered natural communities, has added some new faces recently.

Dennis Curry joined a year ago. “It’s a fun group,” he said. “It definitely gets me out of my comfort zone.” Although most members paint outdoors, en plein air, Curry is just getting his feet wet. “I’m pretty much of a studio artist,” said the Paso Robles resident.

“I’ve been trying to do more plein air work and get out and explore the area,” Curry said. That was his goal when he moved to Cambria 30 years ago, but he got caught up in his printmaking business and yearly trips to Africa for 10 years.

Another newcomer, Marcia Burtt, joined a few months ago. The plein air painter is a longtime member of Santa Barbara’s Oak Group, whose goals are the same as SLOPE’s. Although Burtt’s gallery is in Santa Barbara, she and her husband live on a ranch on the outskirts of Arroyo Grande, near Huasna. To protect their property, they hope to get a conservancy agreement with the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo. “We’re working on that right now,” said Burtt. The Land Conservancy is among local and national groups with which SLOPE coordinates.

Longtime member Anne Laddon has been with SLOPE for about 15 years. The Paso Robles resident was an established artist when she moved to the Central Coast in 1984 and took up painting on site in the mid-1990s.

Laddon gets enormous pleasure from painting outdoors, which requires rapid brush strokes to capture the changing light. “I chuckle all the way through plein-air painting,” she said. The prolific artist has completed more than 1,100 paintings in her 30-plus-year career. “It’s ridiculous,” she said of her passion. “I’m an addict.” Since she founded Studios on the Park in Paso four years ago, however, Laddon is working inside more often.

In keeping with the outdoor theme, the art show and sale will be held on the grounds of the Botanical Garden.

On opening day, a Mediterranean Fete will feature music, dance performances, food, wine and animals. Advance tickets are $20 general, $15 members, $25 at the gate, and ages 12 and under free. The remaining seven weeks are free. El Chorro Regional Park charges $3 parking on weekends.

SLOPE boasts some of the finest plein air professional artists in the area: Nancy Becker, Ken Christensen, Marguerite Costigan, Bruce Everett, Denise Schryver, Dotty Hawthorne, Larry Kappen, Shirley Pittman, Eileen Pritchard, Roseanne Seitz, and Laurel Sherrie. They’ve spent the past year preparing for this exhibit.

Subjects of the paintings range from locations in the garden itself to iconic settings countywide, and some land susceptible to development and subdivision, according to Mike Bush, the botanical garden’s executive director. The garden’s mission is similar to that of SLOPE’s: “To honor and preserve our connection to nature.”

Laddon, Curry and Burtt plan on having at least five works of art each for the upcoming exhibit.

Factor in the same amount from the other 11 SLOPE members and it might require repeated visits to the garden to absorb this much art.

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