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Artist Interview: The paintings of Masha Keating, the sculptures of Molly Smith
Galerie 102′s new exhibit
Event: Feb. 2 – Conversation with the Artists
By Demitri Corbin

A week after The Porch Gallery opening, I went to the second opening for the new galerie102 on January 18. Nature vs. Nurture features the work of painter, Masha Keating and sculptor, Molly Smith. And like the Porch Gallery opening, the galerie102 reception proved to be the main event of the weekend. I love seeing galleries full – especially with young people – I mean elementary school children with their parents. Exposure to the arts makes for future arts patrons. I am not writing as a critic. I’m an art appreciator, so I can only talk about what I like.

First, I want to say I love galerie102. The small, intimate space reminds me of a gallery you might walk into in mid-town Manhattan. The lighting is first rate. Curator Jolene Lloyd, as with her first exhibit, We Are One/We Are Many, has paired the two artists’ works with a keen eye. I arrived early enough to view the show before the place filled up and waited for an opportune time to take painter Masha Keating aside for a brief interview. In time, we stepped away from the adoring crowd and into the gallery courtyard where we sat and chatted.

DC: First, tell me about the piece on the wall by the reception desk, number six. Aside from the large piece that’s the one that really caught my eye.

MK: With that piece I wanted to play with surrealism. The flower takes on characteristics of a person, and is speaking through a dreamy state of gravity. I don’t like to say what I intended it to be. I want people to stop and think, not make it too obvious or representative. They have to think and allow the human characteristics to come through. This one is a generation advanced from the first. There are larger versions of that. I don’t plan out what my paints will be in the end. I work with the emotion and play with meditation. I’m inspired as the painting changes…the strokes inspire other strokes, sending visual information. I don’t stick to the original.

DC: Now, you live in Santa Barbara.

MK: Yes.

DC: And your accent? What is that?

MK: Russian. I’m from Moscow.

DC: And painting? You’ve always painted? Did you go to school?

MK: I’ve always painted. I’ve always been identified as good at art. In Russia, my family, everyone was always encouraging. My grandfather was an artist. Coming to the US I always knew it was what I wanted to do, so in Los Angeles I studied at Otis Fine Art College. I have a BFA. After I graduated, I went into graphic design for a while. Being from an immigrant family, I had a hit a period of reality. Now I’m the mother of 3 boys. Being a mother, everything stopped, including graphic design. After a while I was ready to back to work and I went back to fine art. It’s been 4 years now.

DC: Have you done any other shows recently?

MK: Yes, I just had a show in Chicago.

DC: And how did Jolene find you?

MK: Through ARC, I sent in my resume.

DC: What is ARC?

MK: It’s a women’s collaborative program – women’s art.

DC: And how do you like Ojai?

MK: I like it here. I like driving here. And I like what she’s doing here with the art scene in Ojai. She’s enthusiastic, she loves art. And it’s always a treat finding someone like that.

DC: I think that’s it. Thank you, Masha.

MK: I’m sorry, I was so nervous.

DC: Really? You didn’t seem so. I should let you get back to your guests now.

MK: Thank you. It was wonderful talking with you.

Later on I had a chat with Jolene Lloyd to get to know more about sculptor Molly Smith.

JL: She’s in Massachusetts nursing a new born, she couldn’t make it.

DC: And she’s from your artist’s roster?

JL: She’s represented by Kate Werble Gallery in New York.

DC: She’s not on your roster – how did you find her?

JL: By visiting great artists and she’s wonderful! She’s an environmental artist and she works with found and repurposed objects. Like the sculpture there (pointing) she made that from her old T-shirt.

And the one there is made from an old funnel. Her sculptures are a study in balance. They become (?). The balance gives life. Her work is deceptively simple…I love her work, her ability to take simple objects and reimagine them into conceptual art…her execution and her composition – what she does is magical.

DC: Thanks, Jolene.

JL: Thank you, Demitri.

We returned to the reception where Masha Keating stopped me to add one last word to the interview.

MK: I wanted to say that I left Russia before the fall of Communism and I have not returned to see the new Russia.

DC: Thanks.

As I write I am thinking of all the words I heard during and after the opening describing the work on exhibit that evening. Here are a few: vulvic, nurturing, Georgia O’Keefe, Judy Chicago-meets- ’70s acid art, amazing, superb, exciting, fascinating…

See for yourself. Nature vs. Nurture, the paintings of Masha Keating and sculptures of Molly Smith are on view at galerie102 through February 23. galerie102 is located at 102 East Matilija St., Ojai California. For more information visit: galerie102.com.