Making Good Through Transformative Experience

Local artists donate art for education's sake.

During the 1950s, the German educator Kurt Hahn, seeking to promote cultural exchange and understanding among young international students, founded the United World Colleges. Today, thirteen schools on five continents continue that still-needed work. UWCers, according to honorary president Nelson Mandela in a statement on the organization’s web site, “embrace the entire world across all divides of race, history, culture, wealth, religion, economic status, and political belief: They are unique and they are conscious of their responsibilities.” While not generally thought of as financial angels, artists are unique, too, and conscious, at least in the case of this exhibition that will benefit UWC’s scholarship fund.

Organized by painter Martin Webb, who is married to an alumna, Transformative Experience features eighteen notable local artists: sculptors Nick Dong, Dave Higgins, Evan Holm, and Lee Tollefsrud; mixed-media artists Patricia Gillespie, Susie Grant, Gale Hart, Betrell Smith, and Martin Webb; 2D artists John Yoyogi Fortes, Terry Furry, Christine Reed, Catherine Richardson, Favianna Rodriguez, Julianne Wallace Sterling, and Allison Tharp; and photographers Lacey Haslam and Jennifer Holmes.

Their 65 pieces, nicely installed, cover the gamut of styles. Some highlights: Dong’s hanging forms resembling gourds or flasks covered with mosaic-like mirror fragments; Fortes’ portrait of an anonymous lady, “Assumshun”; Furry’s meticulously rendered undershirt drawings on brown paper; Gillespie’s beautifully drawn, upholstered paintings, “Wonder Woman” and “Soda Not Tonic”; Grant’s pinned collage, “Geometric Solids”; Hart’s punningly titled recycled steel furniture, “No Table” and “EN Table”; Haslam’s Photoshopped tintype landscapes, “Man on Beach” and Western Baby”; Higgins’ humorously psychological “Bluebird in my Soul”; and Holm’s assemblages that transform unusual materials — silk flowers, grass, wheels, light bulbs, and radio tubes — into oddly beautiful, absurd artifacts.

Also of note are Holmes’ surreal portrait photo, “Crepe Paper Magnolia”; Reed’s abstract field of shimmering dots, “Grove”; Richardson’s semi-abstract “Deer Evolution” series; Rodriguez’s primitivist/psychedelic screenprint, “Eat Well, You Are Made of Food”; Smith’s richly colored mixed-media graffiti-style painting on wood, “Working With a Woman”; Sterling’s realist depiction of a pensive woman, “Life, Real and Imagined”; Tharp’s encaustic comment on 1950s women’s floral bathing caps, “Lazy Summer”; Tollefsrud’s suspended wooden sculptures, “Floating Notes” and “A Simple Plan,” revisiting Bauhaus geometric abstraction with recycled materials; and Webb’s assemblage painting, “Gold Miner,” with its silhouetted figure surrounded by rich texture and color. Transformative Experience runs through July 4 at [email protected] (423 Water St., Oakland). Call or check web site for hours. 510-684-4492 or


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