Bedford’s ‘Altered States’ Show Uses Nature as a Muse

Bedford’s ‘Altered States’ Show Uses Nature as a Muse


Born in 1717 by Klea McKenna uses photograms to create cameraless portraits.

Nine California artists collaborate for an exhibition that incorporates materials as diverse as smog, bleach, and stones to explore how nature affects them.

This group show, curated by Heather Marx, is entitled Altered States, which may suggest to persons of a certain age the consciousness-expanding pharmacology of 1960 counterculture or the 1980 Ken Russell horror movie about the genetic-regression dangers of immersion tanks. The reality is less sensationalistic but more interesting.

The nine California artists selected for this show—Kim Abeles, Mari Andrews, Chris Duncan, Tanja Geis, Sonja Hinrichsen, Jay McCafferty, Klea McKenna, Sam Perry, and Victoria Wagner—share a commitment to craft, materials, and process that is noteworthy in our digital-deluge era of multitasking simultaneity. The press release states: “This exhibition highlights the natural cycles of our complex environment and offers visitors an opportunity to slow down and reflect on the interconnectedness of the sun, moon, air, and tides.”

Given California’s natural beauty and environmental ethos, it is not surprising that the artists, all living near the Pacific coast, should embrace natural materials and processes, and produce generally abstract or conceptual work strongly shaped by their working methods and methodologies.

Kim Abeles makes good use of Los Angeles’ abundant resource—smog—by exposing fabric, beneath stencils, to the elements on her studio rooftop, for lengthy periods. Chris Duncan similarly bleaches fabric on the sunny roof of his Walnut Creek studio. Mari Andrews of the Bay Area collects stones, leaves, and seedpods and assembles them into mysterious and lyrical symbols. Jay McCafferty of San Pedro continues his longstanding Solar Burn series, layered papers burned with a magnifying glass, with the singed shapes suggesting undecipherable script. Klea McKenna of San Francisco employs photograms to make cameraless portraits of foliage and other subjects. Sam Perry of Oakland carves wood with a chainsaw and fabricate abstract sculptures that are elegant, witty, and paradoxical: Henry Moore meets M.C. Escher. Altered States runs through March 24, 2019, Bedford Gallery, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek, 925-295-1417,

This report was originally published in our sister publication, the East Bay Monthly.