The MUSE

OPENING FRIDAY Through March 31; Public reception Friday 6 to 9 p.m., artist reception Feb. 16, 6 to 8 p.m.; Santa Cruz Institute of Contemporary Art at the Tannery Arts Center, Santa Cruz; Free; www.scica.org

By WALLACE BAINE

You will notice in Stan Welsh’s art work at the group show “Alter Eco” a small solitary figure in each piece, its back turned to the

Stan  Welsh is one of several accomplished artists participating in the new show at the Satan Cruz Institute of Contemporary Art. Photo by Dan Coyro

Stan Welsh is one of several accomplished artists participating in the new show at the Santa Cruz Institute of Contemporary Art. Photo by Dan Coyro

viewer. The figure is covered in what might be a blanket or a sheet or maybe a burqa. All you know about it is that it’s a human figure, and, of course, that’s just an assumption.

“I wanted to suggest this idea of mourning,” said Welsh, a well-regarded Santa Cruz ceramic artist who has taught art at San Jose State University for 30 years. Welsh said he was inspired by a curious custom dating back to 18th-century Europe when people would be hired out as professional mourners to follow funeral processions and wail and cry in grief.

What the figure is looking at in Welsh’s multi-media pieces is the ocean. In “Mustang,” for instance, the figure gazes out on one side of the canvas a seascape in the middle of which is the well-known logo of the Ford Mustang. On other side is slick blackness to suggest the sheen of oil.

“Alter Eco” is the new exhibition at the Santa Cruz Institute of Contemporary Art (SCICA) at the Tannery Arts Center. It features a handful of prominent local and regional artists – Ryan Jones, Steve Laufer, Melissa Cacioppo, Crystal Kamoroff, Jody Alexander, Fanne Fernow, Michael Myers and Welsh – meditating on the natural world through the metaphorical lens of the landscape.

Welsh’s work is from his series “On Land-On Water,” which was on display at the Triton Museum of Art in San Jose in 2010. Welsh said that he has developed a reputation as a political artist over the course of his career but “On Land” was designed to be something else.
“I decided I wanted to make work that was not so overtly political,” he said, “but still carried a suggestion that all is not well.”

Still, when he was working on the pieces for the series, the infamous Deepwater Horizon oil spill took place in the Gulf of Mexico. From that came the “Mustang” piece. “I couldn’t not make a reference to that,” he said.

But “Alter Eco” – which opens with a public reception Friday as part of First Friday Santa Cruz – is not necessarily a political exhibit. Installation artist Ryan Jones, for instance, created a 30-foot drawing using the beams of the gallery as a visual guide in a piece called “Twin Arcs” that pays homage to the synergy between the moon, the sun and the sea. Santa Cruz book artist Jody Alexander references the Southwest and New York photographer Melissa Cacioppo uses an Icelandic landscape to study the impact of weather on an environment.
Even Welsh’s work, he said, goes beyond the political and into a meditation on the ocean as a living landscape. Welsh is just as well known at the various surf spots in Santa Cruz as he is on the South Bay visual-arts scene.

As a surfer, Welsh has spent a lot of time in the ocean facing away from the shore and gazing out to the ocean. A veteran surfer for 25 years, Welsh said he gets into the ocean about three or four days a week. As an artist, he has toyed with the idea of the approaching waves as a metaphor on how we anticipate the future.

“Surfing is a really important part of my life,” he said. “And it’s helped make me more aware of the ocean, and helped me define my life as an artist.”

2 thoughts on “Santa Cruz sculptor Stan Welsh brings a fresh perspective on the landscape in ‘Alter Eco’ at the SCICA

  1. im a young ceramics artist n i derive great passion in what am doin. Buh stil need some1 like mr welsh as a guidian. Pls i need a connect to him direct. Thanks

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