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'Backyard Beauty' exhibit opens today in Harrington Gallery

Plants, grasses, insects inspire artists

Seven artists are displaying artwork inspired by insects, plant life and other bits of "Backyard Beauty," the title of the invitational exhibit opening Wednesday at the Harrington Gallery.

A free opening reception with the artists will be held from 7-9 p.m. opening day, a chance for the public to explore the exhibit, chat with the artists, and enjoy light refreshments.

The artists, all from the Bay Area, were each inspired in some way, literally, by the backyard environment. Plants, grasses, insects and other living creatures all serve as artistic jumping-off points for these pieces.

"The artists capture beauty in the homely and the homegrown," Harrington Gallery curator and director Julie Finegan noted.

The artists are Dean Bensen, Emily Farish, Lorrie Fink, Ellen Little, Sawyer Rose, Anne Subercaseaux and Demetra Theofanous.

Partners Bensen and Theofanous of Mountain View collaborate on glass sculpture projects that portray plant life and bird nests. Theofanous is recognized for her award-winning woven glass sculptures, which are included in numerous private and public collections.

Fink, an Oakland painter, works with oils, using the expressiveness of botanical forms to explore pattern and color, and to concurrently examine human experiences. With her studio located in her garden, she favors painting close-ups of "undesirables" such as thistles and other invasive species.

Little, who has also shown at the Harrington in a Fresh Works exhibit, paints large format, unframed watercolor paintings of brilliantly colored flowers alongside fluttering moths, with her use of surrounding white space contributing to the sense of motion.

Metal artist Rose states on her website, "In my metalwork wall sculptures I use the soldering iron as a paintbrush, allowing the hot solder to set into a textured pattern. ... Then I add more dimension by strategically placing beads of solder to create depth and contrast."

Subercaseaux's oil paintings from her LaNature series depict shadows of leaves and bushes that softly fall across surfaces, leaving the plant to the imagination.

Orinda artist Farish creates wonderfully rendered graphite drawings of fading flowers, complete with representation of the delicate tape that held the stem to the wall.

"Backyard Beauties" runs through July 13. For more information, go to www.firehousearts.org or call the gallery at 931-4849. The Harrington Gallery is located inside the Firehouse Arts Center, 4444 Railroad Ave. Suggested donation is $5, except while during a performance in the theater.

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