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Water Street Studios show ‘a special draw’ to Batavia gallery

BATAVIA – Eclectic doesn’t even begin to describe the range of artistic expression in Water Street Studios’ Resident Artists Show, opening with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Jan. 13.

From Iranian-born artist Ladan Ghajar’s thought-provoking series on the refugee crisis to meditative landscapes by Mark Russell to candid photographs by David Wensel and unique pendants by metalsmith Lisa Dienst-Thomas, the show embraces the creative outpouring of 27 resident artists.

Ghajar said it’s a special draw to be able to visit the studios of so many outstanding, professional artists in addition to viewing the galleries.

“People who come here see a lot of [variety] and it brings them back … again and again,” said Ghajar, a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

She praised the warmth of her fellow Water Street artists who rallied her spirits after she returned from a trip to Iran, coping with both a broken ankle and the emotional upheaval of the refugee situation.

Flowers left at her door and hugs brought her back to herself in an artist community that feels like family, she said. She noted the environment also is inspiring artistically, and is conducive to collaborative ventures.

A poet and writer with a background in philosophy, sociology and psychology, the visual artist said her work is meant to convey a message understood through the universal language of art.

Ghajar, who works in vibrant colors, turns primary attention to black and white in artworks for the coming exhibit, delineating the fine line between fact and illusion, she said.

In a world of fragmentation and chaos, she believes it’s a universal moral imperative for people to focus on the similarities between humans as opposed to their differences.

In a neighboring studio, Water Street newcomer Russell is venturing into a fresh approach for his landscape paintings.

“Recently, I’ve also challenged myself to become more abstract in my landscapes, simplifying shapes, using unique colors,” Russell said. “The viewers become more engaged in interpreting the paintings in their own way. I find it fascinating, entertaining and fun for me [to see] how the viewer reacts.”

He said people have commented on the meditative and calming nature of his paintings.

“I approach them that way in the process,” he said. “The process is very calming and meditative.”

His painting called “Winter Landscape 2” is the art featured on the main gallery’s invitation to the exhibition.

“I work primarily in oil painting, and I also use a variety of mediums mixed with the paint mostly to achieve textures and unique effects,” he said. “I like to … build thin layers along with thicker more direct layers. Then I like to scrape, scratch and rub the surface with the wet paint to create textural effects.”

Russell, who worked in graphic design for consumer goods packaging for decades, initially painted as a serious hobby, but has been able to devote himself to his art full time for the past three years. His artworks are in private and corporate collections. He also leads workshops across the U.S. on topics such as technique and his mixing of mediums to attain certain effects.

Another teacher is jewelry metalsmith Dienst-Thomas, who creates unique designs in contemporary pendants and earrings.

“I also teach resin and some fused glass,” she said. “I love teaching. It really thrills me to see where [students] go with the same exact technique.”

For the show, she plans to exhibit silver pendants incorporating copper and enamel.

“I like to add color,” Dienst-Thomas said. “I’ve gotten into fused glass and, more recently, a lot more enameling. I love that you can add color and still have mainly metal. Metal is my [No. 1] love.”

She is an original Water Street member and serves on the board.

“I love Water Street Studios,” she said. “I can’t say enough about it. That’s my happy place.”

The opening reception also will feature live music, food and a cash bar. Upstairs at the Kane County Chronicle Gallery, photographers from the Photography Artist Exchange will exhibit their work.

Regular hours for the galleries are 1 to 9 p.m. Fridays, and noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

If you go

What: Water Street Studios’ 2017 Resident Artists Show

When: Reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Jan. 13; exhibit runs to Feb. 4

Where: 160 S. Water St., Batavia

Cost and info: Free admission;

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