Noe Valley Voice April 2002

Artistry: Double Vision

By Betsy Bannerman

As a way of celebrating women in the arts, Gallery Sanchez at the Noe Valley Ministry is hosting a show by two local artists, Karen Wenger, a Noe Valley resident, and Pauline Crowther Scott, who lives in nearby Bernal Heights. The two friends met through a group called San Francisco Women Artists.

The title of the show, "Double Vision," refers not only to the two artists, but also to the fact that each has two ways of working. Wenger, using charcoal, pastels, watercolors, or oils, switches between a realistic style and a René Magritte­inspired surrealism. "The surrealist work is closest to my heart," she says.

Scott has been painting acrylics, as well as making fabric wall hangings, since the 1970s. "The contrast is what keeps my clockwork going," she says. She has recently combined the two media to create "fabrications," pieces that are quilted, woven, sewn, glued, and then painted.

Scott grew up in London, where she both attended and taught art classes. After marrying an American and moving to San Francisco in 1980, she worked at Kate Kennedy Children's Center and Edison Children's Center in Noe Valley.

She currently teaches art at Mercy High School, in addition to accepting commissions out of her home studio. "Everyone on my block has one of my cat paintings," she laughs.

Wenger was raised in New York City, came west after college, and has practiced medicine in the Bay Area since 1975. About 10 years ago, her husband bought her some pastels at Colorcrane, and while taking her first-ever art class at U.C. Extension, she discovered she loved painting. "No one in my family is artistic," she says. "This just came out of nowhere."

Wenger, 58, is now semi-retired from occupational medicine, and rents a studio in Hunters Point. "I couldn't survive on what I've sold so far," she admits. "It's still pretty new."

Both artists are fascinated with light, space, and illusion. Wenger's surrealist paintings often manipulate time and evolve out of her own dreams and emotions. "What inspires my surrealist work is a strong emotion or something that's been meaningful in my life," she says.

Scott, 53, likes her work to seem spontaneous and accidental, "because that's the way life is. I might do an arrangement of folded towels or explore the way light strikes a cat." During the recent cold spell in San Francisco, she took lots of photographs of clouds and is still deciding how to use the images.

Both women are driven to pursue their art. "I paint mostly because I just have to-- it's part of me," Scott says. "I get terrific delight from the physical act of painting." She says it's often hard to make time for art, but she continues to go after "the perfect painting."

Wenger adds, "I have to do my art because it's expressive...and it makes me feel productive -- but in a joyous way, which is very different from what medicine gave me. It just puts my brain in a completely different place."

A reception for "Double Vision" will take place Saturday, April 13, from 1 to 4 p.m., in the sanctuary of the Noe Valley Ministry at 1021 Sanchez Street. The show began March 31 and will continue through May 16. For more information on the artists, call 550-1213 (Karen Wenger) or 826-1895 (Pauline Crowther Scott).

Women Artists United

Pauline Crowther Scott and Karen Wenger have both been members of San Francisco Women Artists, a group that provides a venue for artists to get together socially, to learn more about art through workshops and guest speakers, and to show and sell their art in galleries.

Founded in the 1890s as "The Sketch Club," SFWA has been renting a space in Hayes Valley since the 1980s, but recently lost its lease due to a hefty rent hike. The group sponsored a monthly juried show for select members, and once a year put on a show at a larger space like SomArts, to which all the artists could contribute.

"It's almost impossible to get into a gallery in San Francisco," says Pauline Crowther Scott, currently co-chair of the Artists Council of SFWA, "so it's sad that we lost our spot. But we're hoping to find new premises soon."

Meanwhile, San Francisco Women Artists is continuing to organize shows at various other locations. If you have a space to suggest or need information about membership, call Scott at 826-1895.