Theresa Vandenberg Donche’s Quarantine Rooms

Since the COVID19 shutdown, Theresa Vandenberg Donche has been painting abstracted rooms.  The empty rooms, she says, are about “exploring the tension between the reality of space and the illusion of the moment, between existence and imagination, convention and freedom, perspective and abstraction.”  In these pieces “perspectives are purposely skewed to create an off-balance” sensation, mysterious doorways lead to the unknown, and pent up energy is conveyed with the use of line.   Volume, color and scale convey “uncertainty of what’s to come.”

Susan Darnall, Chase the Wind

“Painting is poetry, where strokes sing and resonate within you.

Painting is a symphony, color & strokes melding together creating perfect beauty, together and alone.  Music grabs a hold & takes me into the painting process. Leading me to color & shape. It is an emerging, delicious process. Discovering unplanned surprises within leads me along. The energy of thick textural strokes mixed with transparent layers allow much depth, movement and harmony.

My motivation is to portray the inherent beauty and synchronicity that exists in the inter-relationship of color, composition and form.

I want my work to emanate a constant pulse of joy, positive energy & excitement to and for the viewer.

Each painting resulting in a delightful discovery of things unseen, drawing the viewer in, a blithesome trip to a new place.”

Susan Darnall

Susan Darnall is a contemporary painter of expressive vibrant abstract works.  She captures nature’s vitality within her multi layered acrylic/oils and encaustic wax pieces. Her inspiration comes from nature, texture, color and energy. Enlarged bright florals, splashy seascapes, sweeping clouds, shimmering skies, winged & finned creatures emerge through layers of paint. Susan’s work captures the spirit and movement around us.

Nadine Baurin, In Continuum

“I paint for the joy and thrill of being fully present in the moment. Visually intertwined in a seemingly controlled chaos, my art presents to the viewer a juxtaposition of randomness and precision, of boldness with a touch of emotional subtlety.

My inclination toward an interconnectedness with others inspires my art. While I have my own interpretation about the finished piece, it is in the emotional effect my paintings evoke in their viewers that I find a confirmation of our interconnection; and it’s through this unspoken dialogue that the artwork comes to life.”

Nadine Baurin

Nadine Baurin describes her work as minimal representational, letting her paintings come to light in an intuitive manner: “after applying paint to my canvas” she states “I wait and let the images emerge. Like the child who carves images from clouds, I step away from the literal and attempt to paint what I perceive and feel.” Nadine currently splits her time between Santa Cruz and San Diego and her artworks can be found in private collections throughout the United States and also abroad as far as Argentina, France and Australia.

Manuelita Brown, Boxed In

Boxed in, but…

Are you pushing against walls that restrict you
Or caressing walls that protect you?

Boxed in, but…

Are the walls constructed by others to imprison you
Or built by you to hide from the world?

Boxed in, but…

Are you climbing over the walls
Or finding comfort within them?

Beware, the walls may become a familiar enemy—close in—and crush your will 

       to risk, to explore, to love, to be loved, to give or receive.

Manuelita Brown

Detail of Boxed In

Few people know it, but Manuelita Brown is the sculptor of the beloved dolphins in the water fountains at UTC Mall in La Jolla.  The dolphins mark an important turning point in her artistic career.  It was after finishing them that Brown decided to leave her job as a mathematics teacher and devote herself full time to her art.  Since then she has completed a number of other public sculptures in our area, including the Encinitas Child, and both an eight-foot statue of the Triton and a life-sized statue of Sojourner Truth on the campus of UCSD.  

Brown’s work has been described as eclectic and authentically personal.  While her perspective as an African American woman is often evident, she reaches for truths of universal human experience and strives to show a common humanity in her bronze figurative sculptures. 

Maite Agahnia and Spontaneity

“Working in wax is therapeutic. Mixing, applying, texturizing, adding, taking away, and fusing, are all steps that create an elaborate dance, most often with spontaneous results. Because with encaustic I have to let go of some control, I am able to free myself of constraints in my original idea. Wax forces me to lose rigidity while connecting emotionally to the piece.”

In college I took a poetry writing seminar.  We were all into stream-of-consciousness free verse. The professor forced us to learn all the formal aspects of poetry – meter, rhyme, rhythm, all of it.  We had to write sonnets.  Shakespearian sonnets!  Near the end of the semester he finally let us write free verse; and guess what!  Our writing was so much better.   Maite Agahnia’s work makes me think of that class.  There is great technical virtuosity underlying the spontaneity.  In the composition, shape, color, texture, the layering of the wax and the scraping and gouging it away, we sense experience and a hard-won wisdom.  She has learned her sonnets and earned the right to free verse.  The results are delightful.

Lori Mitchell: Sketching the World Around Her

Native Californian Lori Mitchell loves to travel and sketch the world around her. As a child, she and her two sisters were encouraged to be creative by her mom, a fashion designer, who would set up an art studio in the garage and put on backyard art shows for all the neighborhood kids.

Mitchell graduated with honors from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena with a BFA in Illustration. She has since illustrated myriad projects, including 10 books. Her most famous book, Different Just Like Me, which she authored and illustrated, was featured on Oprah and The Today Show.  Her work is known for its warmth, humanity, and charming detail.  One of her favorite pastimes is sketching in locations around San Diego.  A long-time art educator, Mitchell has taken groups of students on sketching tours in Europe.

Detail of Sunday

Writing about the pieces in the 20/20 show, Mitchell says: “I am fascinated by the dichotomy between opinion and truth. Whether we are discussing religion, politics, science, history, or if the color of that dress on the internet was black and blue or white and gold, we each have our unique perspective. That two perspectives of a single subject can diverge should not automatically instigate a hardening of positions, but rather should invite exploration of that which we consider self-evident. I learned long ago that my ideas about myself, my surroundings and the world at large didn’t always overlap with those of others. The German filmmaker Wim Wenders once said, ‘the more opinions you have, the less you see.’ With ‘Saturday’ and ‘Sunday’ I hoped to begin a conversation about opinions and truth, and about the value of different perspectives. What you see here today – what you see as dynamic or uninspiring, what you find clear or puzzling, what makes you smile or roll your eyes – will almost certainly differ from the view of the person standing next to you. Go ahead and ask – and revel in the notion it could enhance your own perspective. After all, if you always see things as they are, you’ll never be able to see things for what they could be.”

Lisa Bebi’s Family Album

“I’m interested in painting snapshots.  I particularly like snapshots of a singular, quiet event with a lone person.  Since the other person in the scenario — the one who took the photo — is only implied, the subject tends to give way to a kind of empty, half told story.  My hope is that my colors and brushstrokes help isolate or identify a specific emotion to the viewer.”

San Diego native Lisa Bebi’s slightly campy, nostalgic “snapshots” in the 20/20 show might be from our own family photo albums.  These spunky, independent women might be our own mothers and aunts.  We know them. That, at least, is the impression they give.  Frozen in time, they invite us to tell their stories.

Detail of Ruby’s Ride

Bebi holds a BA in Fine Arts from SDSU, with a concentration in painting and printmaking, and attended the SLADE School of Art in London.  She has exhibited extensively in San Diego and in several national shows and has been featured in several books and over 50 newspaper and magazine articles. 

Kathy McChesney’s Portraits

Kathy McChesney’s advice to young artists is “Open up to what scares you.”  That’s exactly what she did on returning to art in 2000 after a more-than-thirty-year hiatus.   A native of Southern California, McChesney grew up playing in Santa Monica Canyon in LA, which she describes as “a child’s paradise.”  She studied Fine Arts at UC Santa Barbara in the 1960s but stopped creating art shortly after, only to return after years of marriage, jobs and raising children. 

When she returned to art making in 2000, she began with watercolors; now, most of her work is mixed media.  She paints faces almost exclusively – “Each face has a new voice.”   And she spends hours on each painting, capturing what makes each person unique.  McChesney works daily in her studio and describes her process as intuitive: “I don’t plan my paintings but rather let them evolve as I get more connected to the subject.”  The results are gentle, evocative and soulful.


Writing about her paintings in our current exhibition, McChesney says “The 20/20 show inspired me to look back in time. As a painter of faces, my work for this show was inspired by my family’s visit to the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Museum in Washington DC. There, my daughter and granddaughter were able to have their faces digitally inserted into old portraits of these early American women. The resulting contrast was both startling and familiar. A real connection emerged, and I was moved to capture the ethereal effect using collage, mixing old and new materials to capture the sense of passing time.” 

Kathleen Kane-Murrell on the Evolution of Her Work

“It is through art history and art making that I best understand the human condition and, in particular, what it means and has meant to be female.”

Kathleen Kane-Murrell is a long-time art educator and San Diego artist. Her work has been shown in solo and group shows throughout Southern California.  In today’s blog post she writes about the evolution of her practice:

“I believe artists have critical voices necessary for an evolved society. The legacy of art making matters to my process. Through color, texture, and high touch surfaces, my work tends to focus on memory, specific places, and experiences.  Repetition of shapes and patterns consistently emerge often with a connection to nature and environment.

I am drawn to the high and low of art making—from the classically trained to the spontaneous creation of young artists. I work in a variety of media and am influenced by the everyday including the curriculum I create for my children’s art program. My mixed media work often incorporates classroom detritus. I value the freedom to experiment with materials and subject matter.

As I evolved into an abstract artist, there always seemed to be the thread of a narrative.  I usually do not feel compelled to explain to the viewer. Viewers bring their own point of view. So, if a description becomes needed, “abstractly narrative in multiple media” describes the art I make.

The work created for Fresh Paint’s 20/20: Women of Vision is from my Moss series. It speaks to the power of renewal and growth. Moss grows in unlikely places.  It Is often ignored, as I feel women have been.  Yet, like moss, we are complicated, necessary, and strong. We are formed by the challenges we face just as moss grows to the shape of the contours below the surface.  Our strength as we slide in and out of a pandemic speaks to persistence and regeneration. I remain positive.”

Julia San Roman: Dissociation

“I am trying to develop an infinite mystical order out of either expressionistic or atmospheric chaos.  In the midst of a void, I am creating a space in which to give dignity to my own dream, mankind’s dream, to find a dignity that might include all living things.”

Julia San Roman’s current work is inspired by the California Light and Space Movement of the 1960s and 70s.  She calls this work “bilingual” in that it integrates “geometric abstraction with naturalistic light episodes.”  Being bilingual is second nature to San Roman.  She was born and raised in Madrid, and migrated to San Diego in 1988; and she is both a scientist – holding a PhD in Biology – and an artist. This is her third time showing at Fresh Paint Gallery.  You can view a sampling of  her other work on our website.

San Roman’s two paintings in the 20/20 show are part of a series she calls “Dissociation.”  She writes “conceptually I was focusing on the light of hope, and formally I was separating the color from the subject matter and the subjects from themselves.  This intimate passage reflected my encounter with an old reality where my circumstances disengaged into the individual pieces without possibly interlocking in harmony, at a time of material loss, a time of great spiritual loss.  I wanted and I still want to have hope.”

Detail of Horizon II