Sullivan Goss
AN AMERICAN GALLERY
Celebrating 32 Years
of 19th, 20th and 21stCentury American Art
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PHOEBE BRUNNER

Painter of the Magical Real California Landscape

by Jeremy Tessmer

Phoebe Brunner has been a hugely successful painter in the Santa Barbara area for decades. Her evocations of landscape are imbued with a local's knowledge of the landscape and an air of Magical Realism.




Table Of Contents

I. Biography

Phoebe Brunner grew up on one of the original Spanish Land Grant ranchos – a 15,000 coastal cattle ranch near Santa Barbara. Exploring the land on horseback, she absorbed the mysteries and the intricacies of the American Western landscape.

After studying at UCSB, Otis Art Institute, the University at Guadalajara, and Cal Arts, Brunner began to exhibit in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.

Over the ensuing forty years, she has developed one of the region’s most powerful voices, exhibiting up and down the West Coast of the US.



SEA ROCKS
2014
30" x 30"
Oil on canvas

The artist herself describes her paintings as "rooted in a real place," but she also describes the creative (or visionary?) qualities she brings to her process. The resulting images speak to profound truths about the California landscape, but they also give the artist license to respond creatively to the theme and the painting process.

II. An Analysis of the Artist's Work

Clouds, waves, and chaparral undulate against one another in elevated colors laid up in lyrical brushstrokes.  The land, the sea, the very air seem alive.  Brunner’s process leaves a surface that still seems wet, as though the paint must remain pliable enough so that it can continue to move.

If the whole thing sounds rather fantastic, such a reading might not be so far fetched.  A tradition in American Art known as Magical Realism extends back to the late 1930s that describes a somewhat similar style. Typically, Magical Realism slips mystery, ambiguity, or outright fantasy into a scene that is otherwise realistic. For some, the style is an acknowledgement that art must be able to introduce certain fictions to arrive at deeper truths.

What truths might those be in the paintings of Phoebe Brunner? Her work suggests many interpretations, but perhaps none quite so much as the idea that what seems inanimate might actually be animate – that the system of natural forces that act upon the land (meteorology, geology, botany) suggest a life force larger than the sum of its parts. Such an interpretation imbues Phoebe Brunner’s landscapes with mythological import.

The project to ascribe a larger meaning to the landscape, meanwhile, allies her work with a long tradition in American painting, stretching from the Hudson River School paintings of Asher Durand and Frederic Church to the Modernist works of Georgia O’Keeffe and Charles Burchfield.



RED MOUNTAINS
2014
9" x 9" x 1.75"
Oil on tree slice

Brunner confesses that she generally finds making "small" paintings to be quite difficult. Somehow, she found a workaround in these "tree slice paintings." The swirling natural forms that make up a big part of her visual vocabulary of landscape paintings resonate naturally with the tree slices.

III. Education

  • California Institute of the Arts (Chouinard)
  • Universidad de Guadalajara
  • Otis Art Institute
  • University of California, Santa Barbara (BFA 1972)
  • IV. Exhibitions

    SOLO EXHIBITIONS

  • 2015 San Luis Obispo Museum of Art
  • 2014 Easton Gallery, Montecito, CA
  • 2012 Easton Gallery, Montecito, CA
  • 2010 Elverhoj Museum, Solvang, CA
  • 2010 Easton Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 2009 Rovzar Gallery, Seattle WA
  • 2008 Hespe Gallery, San Francisco, CA
  • 2008 Easton Gallery, Montecito, CA
  • 2007 Sue Greenwood Fine Art, Laguna Beach CA
  • 2006 Hespe Gallery, San Francisco, CA
  • 2006 Easton Gallery, Montecito, CA
  • 2005 Sue Greenwood Fine Art, Laguna Beach, CA
  • 2004 Hespe Gallery, San Francisco, CA
  • 2003 Easton Gallery, Montecito, CA
  • 2003 Koplin del Rio Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 2003 The Jonathan Club, Malibu, CA
  • 2002 Koplin Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 2001 Hespe Gallery, San Francisco, CA
  • 2001 Easton Gallery, Montecito, CA
  • 2000 Koplin Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1999 Hespe Gallery, San Francisco, CA
  • 1998 Koplin Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1997 Easton Gallery, Montecito, CA
  • 1996 Koplin Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1995 Contemporary Arts Forum, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 1993 Easton Gallery, Montecito, CA
  • 1990 Louis Newman Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1974 Comsky Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1972 College of Creative Studies, University of California , Santa Barbara, CA
  • GROUP EXHIBITIONS

  • 2015-2017 Art in Embassies Program, Republic of Namibia , Africa
  • 2014 "New Landscapes", Easton Gallery, Montecito, CA
  • 2014 "Made You Look", Westmont Ridley Tree Museum of Art, Montecito, CA
  • 2014 "Small Images", Atkinson Gallery, Santa Barbara City College, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 2013 "100 GRAND, 2013", Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 2012 "New Landscapes", Easton Gallery, Montecito, CA
  • 2011 "5x5 Invitational", Westmont Art Museum, Montecito, CA
  • 2011 "Winter Group Exhibit", Gallery Bergelli, Larkspur, CA
  • 2011 "Essential Landscapes", Elverhoj Museum, Solvang, CA
  • 2010 "New Landscapes", Easton Gallery, Montecito, CA
  • 2009 "New Works in Oil", Rovzar Gallery, Seattle, WA
  • 2008 "Recent Landscapes", Hespe Gallery, San Francisco, CA
  • 2008 "Edge:Santa Barbara County Artists Respond", Santa Barbara, CA
  • 2008 "A View from Here: A Group Exhibition of Contemporary Landscapes and Cityscapes", Judson Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 2008 "Eyes Open", Galerie Eye, Carpinteria, CA
  • 2007 "Yonder", Sue Greenwood Fine Art, Laguna Beach, CA
  • 2007 Berkus Family Collection, University Art Gallery, CalPoly State University, San Luis Obispo, CA
  • 2006 "Crossing California", Hespe Gallery, San Francisco, CA
  • 2005 "Recent Landscapes", Sue Greenwood Fine Art, Laguna Beach, CA
  • 2004 "The Political Landscape", The Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 2004 "Speculative Terrain", Carnegie Art Museum, Oxnard, CA
  • 2004 "Speculative Terrain", Riverside Art Museum, Riverside, CA
  • 2004 "Speculative Terrain", Laband Art Gallery, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA
  • 2004 "New Landscapes", Hespe Gallery, San Francisco, CA
  • 2003 The Jonathan Club, Malibu, CA
  • 2002-2001 "Representing LA: Pictorial Currents in Southern California Art", Frey Museum of Art, Seattle, WA
  • 2002-2001 "Representing LA: Pictorial Currents in Southern California Art", South Texas Institute of Art, Corpus Christi, TX
  • 2002-2001 "Representing LA: Pictorial Currents in Southern California Art", Laguna Art Museum, Laguna, CA
  • 2002-2001 "New Views", Koplin del Rio Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 2002-2001 "Landscapes", Hespe Gallery, San Francisco, CA
  • 2002-2001 "New Views", Koplin del Rio Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 2002-2001 "Dreamscapes", Wignall Museum, Cucamonga, CA
  • 2000 "20th Century Showcase of Santa Barbara County Artists", Elverhoj Museum, Solvang, CA
  • 2000 "Native Light", Koplin Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1999 "Horizons", Hespe Gallery, San Francisco, CA
  • 1997 "Curator’s Choice", Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Ridley-Tree Education Center, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 1996 "New Landscapes", Koplin Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1995 "Landscape:The Continuum", Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery
  • 1995 Contemporary Arts Forum, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 1995 Contemporary Arts Forum, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 1994 "Twenty Leading California Landscape Artists", Columbia Club, Indianapolis, IN
  • 1992 "Strong Spirit – A Century of Santa Barbara County Landscape Painters", Santa Maria Museum Art Center, Santa Maria, CA
  • 1991 "Santa Barbara Artists 1", Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 1990 "The Art of Love", Riverside Art Museum, Riverside, CA
  • 1990 Louis Newman Gallery
  • 1988 "Meet the Artist", Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 1987 "Eternal Interest: Visions of the Figure", Zolla Lieberman Gallery, Chicago, IL
  • 1987 "Fantastic Vision", Simard Halm Gallery, Los Angeles,CA
  • 1987 "Julia Morgan Memorial Exhibit", Riverside Art Museum, Riverside, CA
  • 1986 "Five Painters", University of California, College of Creative Studies, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 1986 "Hollywood Inside and Out", Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1986 Wallworks, LA Artcore, Los Angeles,CA
  • 1974 Comsky Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1972 College of Creative Studies, University of California , Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA


  • NEAR LOS ALAMOS
    2014
    18" x 24"
    Oil on canvas

    The visionary quality of Brunner's work is hard to pin down. The roiling grasses in the furrows of the foreground give the whole picture a tremendous sense of motion, rhythm, and vitality. Locally, viewers might recognize grasses of Oak Group founder, Ray strong. On the national scene, however, these same furrows are reminiscent of the soil erosion series of the 1930s by Texas artist Alexander Hogue. Hogue is always written about as either an American Visionary, or else as a Magical Realist.

    V. Collections

  • Glenbow Museum of Art, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  • Santa Barbara Museum of Art
  • Wellington Management Company, Boston, MA and Singapore
  • Iquantic Corporation, San Francisco, CA
  • Patagonia Corporation, Ventura, CA
  • United Technologies, Hartford, CT
  • Security Pacific National Bank
  • Allstate Insurance, Safeco Insurance Company, Orange, CA
  • Four Seasons Hotel, Scottsdale, AZ
  • Automobile Club of Southern California
  • Universal Studios, Orlando, FL
  • First American Venture Capitol, Inc., Indianapolis, IN
  • Fireman’s Fund, Novato, CA
  • San Marcos Town Center, San Marcos, CA
  • Irving Trust Company, Los Angeles, CA
  • Rossbacher and Assoc., Los Angeles, CA
  • Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Los Angeles, CA
  • The Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce
  • The Barry Berkus Family Art Collection
  • The Santa Barbara Foundation
  • The Cancer Center of Santa Barbara
  • VI. Awards

  • 2002 Individual Visual Artist Grant, John E. Profant Foundation for the Arts
  • 1992 Gold award, Art of California Magazine
  • 1987 “Meet the Artist”, Santa Barbara Museum of Art Fellowship
  • Finalist, General Services Administration’s Art in Architecture Program, San Francisco Federal Building
  • VII. Works for Sale by this Artist


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    Camino Cielo
    Cold Springs Trail
    Facing East
    Fog Rolling In- Hendrys Beach
    Morgan Pass
    Red Mountains
    Sea Rocks
    Sundance
    Wild Wave
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