Best Artist: Most vice-ridden depiction of women in East Bay art

Bethany Ayres

Supersaturated colors, simple forms, and flippant-yet-mordant content elevate 32-year-old Oakland painter Bethany Ayres above the typical gallery offerings in the East Bay. Her current showing at the Esteban Sabar gallery in Oakland offers a good sampling of her style: classically drawn, two-dimensional females with curly locks in domestic settings engaging in prohibited behavior. All of it is done on plywood stained white and sealed with acrylic, then painted on with bright, solid oils. In “Announcement,” the woman has a gun to her head as the phone rings. “Booze, Bacon, and Blueberry Pancakes” depicts yet another younger woman clutching a martini in bed; gnarly stuff if it weren’t for the chubby white cherubs attending to the distressed maidens. Where does the collision of art history and contemporary tragicomedy come from? Ayres got her MFA in painting in ’98 from what she calls a very traditional school in Pennsylvania, then did the good girlfriend thing and followed her boyfriend West. Now she paints, works at a real-estate agency, and jointly manages two galleries, the Gallery of Urban Art in Emeryville and 19th and Union in Oakland. This year she shoots for a MacArthur fellowship.

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