When Jeff Nathanson — a veteran arts administrator and curator from Princeton, New Jersey — became executive director of the Museums of Sonoma County in downtown Santa Rosa last September, there were exhibits already in place, but he immediately started working with his staff on new ideas for shows at the museum.
“I have had longstanding interests in time and location as themes. In September, within the first couple of weeks of starting my job as executive director, I was interested in working with the museum’s staff and exhibition committees to develop a schedule of exhibitions that would allow us to explore a range of themes and media,” Nathanson said.
“Then the fires happened, only a month after I moved to Santa Rosa, and the planning we had started was put on hold. Our focus, like everyone’s, was on the fires and how to respond,” he said.
After putting together an ambitious fire-related project, Nathanson and the museum staff returned to his original idea. Last May, a new exhibit titled “Time & Place” opened at the Sonoma County Museum of Art in downtown Santa Rosa, and continues through Sept. 23, featuring work by four artists that deals with human impact on the environment and how a place changes over time. “All four artists — Kim Anno, Donna Brookman, Lewis deSoto and Andrew Moore — address the theme from their own unique perspectives,” Nathanson said.
Even though their work in the exhibit shares a common theme, the artists have varied backgrounds:
— Anno, a painter and filmmaker whose paintings have been exhibited in and collected by museums nationally and internationally, is a professor in Graduate Fine Art and Painting at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, where she is currently teaching a course called “Art Lab: California Climate.” The Santa Rosa exhibit features her pastoral landscapes.
— An artist of Cahuilla Native American ancestry based in Napa and Los Angeles, deSoto has been a professor of photography at San Francisco State University since 1988. The majority of deSoto’s work has been in the media of photography, sculpture, and installation. The “Time & Place” exhibit includes his large-format photographs of places throughout Napa taken at different times.
— Brookman, who lives in Berkeley, has been working as a painter and printmaker for more than three decades. Her most recent solo exhibition of paintings, “fullflood,” was shown at Thomas Paul Fine Art in Los Angeles.
— Moore is known for his photographic series, usually taken over many years, which record the effect of time on the natural and human-created landscapes. This work includes large format color photographs of Detroit, Cuba, Russia, the American High Plains, and New York’s Times Square theaters. Since 2004, Moore has taught a graduate seminar in the MFA Photography, Video, and Related Media program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He lectured on photography at Princeton University from 2001 to 2010.
Now, eight months after Northern California’s devastating October wildfire, Nathanson is convinced that the theme for his current exhibit is more timely than ever.
“Places change over time, sometimes over a short period of time because of catastrophic natural disasters, and sometimes slowly and steadily through population growth, demographic shifts, planning decisions or neglect,” he said.