I’ve never been shy about supporting my sister Maggie’s amazing art gallery, Kayne Griffin Corcoran, but I think her current show is something really special. She’s showing four giant, eight-foot canvases by one of my very favorite new artists, Deanna Thompson. My whole family fell in love with her paintings at her first show in 2010, and I couldn’t be more excited to share her work with you now.
Deanna, who lives and works in a little town called Yucca Valley, is a modern pioneer. She moved to a tiny cabin outside Palm Springs—sacrificing electricity and even running water—to concentrate on her art. There she found inspiration in the empty, run-down shacks that litter the Mojave Desert.
Deanna drives to the very outskirts of civilization to photograph these deserted cabins. She uses the photos to create detailed, vividly colored paintings of the California desert, always with the little broken-down shack in the center. I’m obsessed with the painstaking color work in the small Thompson painting my mother gave me - Yellow/Gold Study. It explores variations of that hue—a bright lemony sky, a golden expanse of sand, a little blonde-wood cabin. Now, however, I’m starting to appreciate the painting’s subtle nuances, like the mountain range on the horizon, shaded just darker than the sky.
For her new show at Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Deanna decided to work on a much larger scale, and the results are amazing. My favorite has to be House of Sticks, a painting with a very dark blue sky above a warm golden stretch of sand. The contrast between the sky and ground is so dramatic that at first you don’t even notice the little cabin in the middle of the canvas. When you look closely, though, you can see just the skeleton of a house, abandoned before much more than the frame was erected. Even though the subject seems lonely, there’s something familiar and exhilarating about the fresh, wide field of sky—especially for a California girl like me.
I also love her Golden Field Homestead - a daytime scene with a stunning aqua sky. The scope of these eight-foot paintings mimics the awe-inspiring sweep of the desert, and reminds me of my visits to the amazing Joshua Tree National Park.
In addition to Deanna’s paintings, Maggie is showing prints, drawings and sculpture by H.C. Westermann. He’s most famous for his beautiful and eerie Death Ship series, inspired by his time as a gunner on USS Enterprise during WWII. Kayne Griffin Corcoran is exhibiting his largest Death Ship sculpture, Death Ship of No Port with a List. Westermann crafted his ship out of highly polished redwood, and nestled it snugly inside a matching box painted with a single shark fin. He then added a little brass plate, which reads “SHIP IS MADE OF REDWOOD. BOX MADE OF EAST PINE AND DOUG. FIR. INLAYS ARE WALNUT AND EBONY. THANKS TO OUR HERITAGE THESE FINE WOODS ARE ALMOST EXTINCT.” His parallel between environmental destruction and war is really thought provoking and powerful, and makes me appreciate Deanna’s beautiful depiction of the natural world all the more.
Please stop in Maggie’s gallery if you have a chance—I was blown away by the show, and I know you will be too! Kayne Griffin Corcoran’s Deanna Thompson and H.C. Westermann exhibitions will be up through July 14th. You can visit the gallery Tuesday through Saturday at 2902 Nebraska Avenue in Santa Monica, or check out their website for more information. XXJKE