The Alchemy of Place

April 3 – June 5, 2022
Opening Sunday, April 3 from 3 – 5 PM
Gallery Commonweal
Bolinas, CA


Naomie Kremer “Seeding Plan” Oil on linen 62″ x 138” (triptych) 2017


Mari Andrews    Jacqueline Barnett    Pegan Brooke    Robin Dintiman
Mark Garrett    Mirta Guzman    Naomie Kremer    Mel Prest    Zachary Royer Scholz    Ilene Sunshine
Curated by Joan Grubin


From April 3 through June 5, 2022, Gallery Commonweal presented a group exhibition The
Alchemy of Place, in which ten artists presented a range of work concerned with a sensuous
and poetic apprehension of place. Taking as its subject the particulars of Commonweal’s
ecosystem – its site perched on a wild stretch of rugged coast, its weather, flora, and
infrastructure – the work of each artist, much of it created for this show, embodied qualities
intrinsic to this community and its setting.

The landscape surrounding Commonweal radiates an overpowering presence. Its impossible
beauty is a challenge both to grasp and to distill. These ten artists, most of whom are from the
Bay Area, approached a sense of this particular place humbly, obliquely, and with specificity of

The Alchemy of Place brought to mind the parable of the blind men and the elephant, where
differing visions of an elephant emerge from unique perspectives. In this layered exhibition,
each artist addressed some salient fragment of a greater whole. The diversity of art forms
manifested the multitude of ways of perceiving and visually expressing a shared subject, while
simultaneously engaging in a visual conversation with each other, and activating the capacious
space within the Commonweal gallery.

Joan Grubin, Curator

Mari Andrews makes formal wall sculptures fashioned from the natural world of plants and
minerals, transforming non-art materials into elegant objects that emanate a sense of the
ancient and the sacred. Her untitled wall installation was animated in a lively constellation,
each discrete work a unique personality in conversation with its neighbors.

Jacqueline Barnett absorbs landscape emotionally and intuitively, and re-presents it in a
visceral, abstract language. Her paintings embody the harsh indifference of wind, rock, coast,
and sea with uncompromising toughness, without sentimentality.

Pegan Brooke’s language of mark-making evokes the mesmerizing patterns of light on water,
and the shifting weather of sun and fog. Alternating matte with iridescent paint-strokes, the
flickering pixels induce a trance-like state – a spell redolent of the enchantment of this near-
mythic location.

Robin Dintiman’s work speaks of the dance between death, life, and resilience – her ghostly,
translucent images of gnarly coastal trees, printed in a photogravure technique on diaphanous
silk, speak of survival in the face of suffering. Her gritty, misshapen Earth Birth spheres
announce the unvarnished fact of physical decay, stark reminders of the mortality of all things.

Mark Garrett’s diminutive watercolors tackled the grandiosity of this place by pivoting in the
opposite direction. As the only landscape painter in the exhibition, he turned his eye away from
the more obvious and seductive subjects of ocean, sunsets, and mountains towards what are
almost non-subjects: a strange wooden shape set among trees in “Slab Bench“, which is
actually a bench made from a single log positioned on the cliff overlooking the ocean; or in
Commonweal, June 2017”, the windless mesa bleached to near-invisibility by mist, and
sprouting an unlikely field of electrical poles. His modest images speak of humility in the face of
grandeur, of mystery and quietude in the midst of extravagant, wild beauty.

Mirta Guzman, a Mexican resident of Bolinas for many years, brought images of another
culture into the exhibition mix. This “Place” is not static, but continually inflected and enriched
by the flow of people who have been drawn here over the centuries. Her exuberant paintings,
exhibited in public for the first time, radiate affection and human connection to “place,” both
imagined and remembered.

Naomie Kremer’s work celebrates pure cosmic energy – a “big bang” explosion of juicy mark-
making emblematic of the molecular matter seething beneath the surface skin of the world.
The grand scale and the fiery flickering of the paint or charcoal are in sync with the magnitude
of this place.

Mel Prest extensively researched the site and extracted quintessential colors from the
Commonweal landscape. Her wall installation presented a sense of place through a complex
chromatic chord made up of 38 small square paint chip-like color panels scattered like tinkling
musical notes across a section of wall. Here were sounded the rusty red of a Commonweal
building, the many blues and grays of ocean and sky, the variegated greens of high chapparal
growth and dark twisted pines, the patchy tan of concrete walls, the silvery gleam of mist. The
colors shifted as the viewer moved across the installation, more hints and questions than facts,
never quite settling.

Zachary Royer Scholz’s material practice generates artworks and functional objects from
discarded materials, in response to their existing structures and latent histories. Inspired by the
potential he saw in a series of abandoned, roofless concrete sheds behind Commonweal’s main
building, he spent many days on site, creating a poetic intervention into the vacant roofless
“rooms” of this outdoor ruin, repurposing the former storage spaces into a locus of
contemplation. The resulting installation – Space for Time – consisted of five interrelated site-
specific works, two of which were on view inside the gallery. All five were made from the
remnants of the crumbling structure, and the detritus dumped into it over the decades. Scholz’s
open-air installation will remain on view at Commonweal during regular weekday office hours.

Ilene Sunshine’s sculpture “From 57 Angles” was constructed from fallen branches of various
species of California trees, some scorched by the wildfires, some collected in the woods along
the cliff by Commonweal. Its floating linear form made an airborne calligraphic drawing in
space, and resonated with the history of Commonweal’s main building, which served as the first
radio station to send telegraphic messages across the Pacific.

Please email me at if you’d like a catalog of “The Alchemy of Place”.

Gallery Commonweal is located in the main office building of Commonweal.
451 Mesa Road Bolinas, CA 94924
P: 415-868-0970