■ Carol Dalton’s new exhibit explores the dark side of man’s relationship with nature
By Keri Luiz
Suspended paint brushes, stacks of five-gallon buckets and paint-encrusted brushes fill the windows of Gallery 621, catching the eye of passersby. Those who stop to take a longer look see the newest installation from Carol Dalton, “Natural Reflections.”
Dalton’s exhibit offers her perception of the last year in what could be termed the dark side of nature and man’s relationship with it.
“This year was pretty powerful in how many natural disasters occurred, and manmade disasters alongside,” she said. “I’ve been kind of keeping mental notes on all this stuff that’s been going on and I’ve finally started letting it come out in all my paintings.”
Among the works, “Tsunami” invokes the disaster of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands and threatened a nuclear meltdown.
“The images that I saw of the water coming in and hitting, just pushing cars and buildings and so forth, was really powerful to me,” Dalton said. “I couldn’t really get it out of my head and I knew I was going to use that image in a painting one day. It came out a little faster than I thought.”
Another work, “Golden Energy,” was inspired locally. “My studio is out in the Arsenal and I have a view of the Carquinez Strait. I see oil tankers go by all the time. I saw one day a tanker titled ‘Golden Energy.’ So that ties into the idea of manmade disasters, of oil leaks from tankers, and the environmental (results) of that.”
But while her work may have been sparked by specific incidents or issues or events, that doesn’t mean there’s a “message” or, as she puts it, “answer” to what she’s portraying.
“I don’t think people need to look at my work and feel like it has a specific story or answer, because I think it’s better to leave it a little more open and ambiguous,” she said.
Still, this exhibit, perhaps more than Dalton’s past work, “leans a little more toward
having content rather than being totally abstract.”
Dalton, 58, has been a Benicia resident since 1980. But before becoming a part of Benicia’s art scene, she attended the Santa Barbara Art Institute in the 1970s — though she left school to take a tour through Europe just a few months shy of graduating.
“I hitchhiked around Europe for a few months,” she said. “I went to all of the museums. I think that was probably the best art history education I could have gotten at the time.”
“I’m probably the kind of artist that learned more when I was on my own than when I was in school,” Dalton said. “Because I always wanted to try it. An instructor would tell us how to do something, but I always wanted to do it myself. What I gained from art school was more of the art spirit, because we had some teachers that were really good artists. That’s what has stayed with me more than technique.”
Dalton and her husband, Lowell, own Benicia Frame, across
First Street from Gallery 621. Lowell is an accomplished at figure drawing artist. “We’ve been partners for a very long time,” Carol Dalton said. “At times the businesses that were meant to support our art habits than taken more time than they should have.”
Dalton likes to work with patterns and botanical subjects. “But I was kind of coming to the end of that series when I started on this, (which is) more of a water series. I’m sort of right in the beginning of it.” She likes to create her large paintings with various found objects and other elements in her studio: “paint that has been scraped up and saved, things I have swept up from the floor, dirt, sand, and then other objects, electrical
wire,” she said.
And one found object can contribute to more than one piece of artwork: for example, a skateboard in “Golden Energy” also makes an appearance in the standalone sculpture “At Sea.”
“Whatever is at hand, I use,” Dalton said. “If I’m right in the middle of working, I just start grabbing things that strike me that will help create texture. I work very quickly once I get going. Especially if I have something in mind that I want to achieve.”
“Natural Reflections” is on display at Gallery 621, 621 First St., through Nov. 27. An opening reception will be held Saturday from 5-8 p.m. Gallery hours are Thursday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. 707-746-6211 for information.