A figurative body of work

Standing outside the Coastal Arts League Gallery, from left, Barbara Pease, Susan Varjavand, Naomi Mindelzun and Sandra Smith-Dugan hold original works in their exhibit.

By Stacy Trevenon--Half Moon Bay Review

Four Bay Area women artists are the talent behind the Coastal Arts League's current exhibit.

"Figurative Works" consists of paintings, drawings and prints by artists Sandra Smith-Dugan, Barbara Pease, Naomi Mindelzun and Susan Varjavand.

The works are studies of human faces, abstract human forms and nudes of both genders. They are rendered in paintings, drawings with pencil and charcoal, and multi-media.

The exhibit will run until Nov. 5. There is a reception for the artists at the CAL Gallery at 300 Main St. in Half Moon Bay, from 4 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20.

"The body reveals what the mind knows," reads a CAL publicity statement. "The language of the human form inspires each of these women to follow her unique perspective."

A painter in oils, Smith-Dugan was born in San Jose and grew up in Monte Sereno.

An artist since childhood, she recalls, at 5, "getting into my mother's oil paint box and how thrilled and scared I became as I found myself covered in the mysterious goo."

She earned a bachelor of arts degree in painting and drawing from San Jose State University.

Her particular passion is painting and drawing the human figure, she says.

"I am both challenged and enthralled when I approach the figure as it offers more substance than almost any other subject."

A lifelong Bay Area resident, Smith-Dugan now lives in Willow Glen with her family, and won honorable mentions in shows in Santa Cruz and at the Los Gatos Art Museum.

Watercolorist Pease was born in Seattle, where she lived through high school. Then she headed for Colorado State University, where she received a bachelor's degree in metalsmithing in 1976.

She moved to the Bay Area in 1977 and has lived in Sunnyvale since 1979 with her husband, sons and stepdaughter.

Long interested in the human form, she has worked with watercolors since 1992.

"Light describes time," she says. "I seek the moment in its reflection and shadow on the figure."

Currently a Palo Alto resident, Naomi Mindelzun, who works with oil stick, charcoal and prints, grew up in the New York area, the daughter of a sculptor mother.

"Visual arts were a part of our family life," she says.

She studied at The Art Students' League, with plans to focus on art therapy. After living in Japan for three years, she and her husband returned to the Bay Area in 1973 and raised a son and daughter.

She taught elementary school for 30 years but upon retiring two years ago, focused on art. That took the form of exploring connections between organic forms and space, and how to make intangible space both palpable and kinetic.

"I love depicting all natural forms - human, organic forms, landscapes," she says. "Using the figure as a modus operandi, I try to evoke human emotions and our relationship to space and movement."

She has exhibited her work in numerous shows.

San Carlos pastel artist Susan Varjavand is a fourth-generation San Franciscan raised on the Peninsula.

A high school life-drawing class revealed her "primary talent" of art.

She majored in art at the University of California at Berkeley, and later married an Iranian architect. She ran an art gallery and taught art in Tehran for several years.

That experience "gave me a unique perspective on both American and Middle Eastern viewpoints," she said.

But with the advent of the Iranian revolution of 1979, she fled with her family. After returning to the Bay Area, she learned printmaking and began exhibiting her work.

"More than ever, I simply want to delve into the imaginable realm and, in particular, to work from my more vivid dreams," she said. "The body's energy mystifies and rewards me with moments of rapture when I draw."

She has held offices with the Women's Caucus for Art and the Coastal Arts League and received awards in shows throughout the Bay Area.

The Coastal Arts League can be reached at 726-6335.