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Vernal Pool


Coots Going Home

Come On In, the Water's Lovely


Oak gall ink on marble-dust gesso


The artist, Susan R. Ball

Laguna Environmental Center

Current Art Exhibit in Heron Hall

Breathing Space -- Paintings by Susan R. Ball

May 1 through August 28, 2015

Opening Reception Sunday May 3rd, 3-5pm -- Free, open to the public

Artist's Statement About Breathing Space

The Laguna has been a refuge from buildings and streets and general busyness for me since I discovered it long ago. I have painted there many times, but now that ticks are an issue, I plan my visits accordingly. Wet years are my favorites, and I love the "Rivers and Tides" aspects of the place after a storm. I revel in banked up swathes of seeds and debris organized in pleasingly harmonious curves: the quirky finds of corn husks tangled in the oaks at head-height, squash and onions from Scott's farm spread far across the meadows.

Today the ponds have become a crazy paving of dry mud and bright green ground-hugging plants. The otters are elsewhere, but some water remains. Geese and mallard fly in as the light fades. The kites hover most of the afternoons, and sit on the willows to watch.

It's a great place to recharge your soul. It reminds me of my childhood, when I could walk at will in any direction and pay no mind to fences and schedules. Take the dog, and go investigate. Perfect. It's also beautiful at dawn after a frost, when there is water vapor in the air. A magical place. Take a camera or a sketchbook.

This collection of paintings is a summary of many years of observation and literally thousands of photographs. Certain images stayed with me and needed expressing in paint or drawings. I wanted to show people my own experience of the Laguna. The large paintings were done specifically for this exhibition. I have included some smaller pieces from earlier years to round out the collection.

There is a large block of Eucalyptus trees, planted just east of Palm Drive. This is a dramatic backdrop for stunning sunsets. The golden haze develops when the air is full of tiny insects, floating seeds and cobweb strands. The tattered old fence with its posts bleached silver leads up to this dark and mysterious mass. Mysterious because I have never been in there, put off by the poison oak clearly visible at the edges.

Queen Anne's Lace, considered by many to be a noxious weed, has long been a favorite of mine. I keep them dried in my studio. The Laguna boasts many varieties, ranging from the meadows' knee-high plants to dense thickets in wet areas well over head-height. I find them beautiful. They express the seasons and weather, snagging floating grasses in storms and curling and unfolding their umbrellas of seeds when late summer comes. New stems are gold in the afternoon light. Small birds hang out in the dense thickets. In dry years the tall plants seem not to grow. Every year is different it seems, but they come around again, and maybe next year there will be more.

Oak Gall, or Iron Gall Ink is made from the oaks in the Laguna. The Galls or "Oak Apples" are ground up and soaked with a source of iron for three weeks or more. The resulting deep black-brown liquid is strained and reduced by boiling and gives a wonderful rich ink. This has been used since medieval times and as far back as the days of the pyramids. It bonds to parchment and vellum, and is an age-old recipe which is fun to make and beautiful to use. Any mold developing on the surface can easily be skimmed off and will not spoil the characteristics of the ink. The surface I prefer for these brush and ink drawings is Marble Dust Gesso on a rigid support. It takes time and patience to produce, but is worth the effort. The end result is silky smooth and cool to the touch, just like a polished stone. Fingerprint marks can be gently removed with a very fine sanding. Handle with care.

For more information about Susan and her art work, visit her website.

Reward yourself by visiting this beautiful exhibit in Heron Hall. Heron Hall is located at the Laguna Environmental Center, 900 Sanford Road (at the corner of Occidental Rd. and Sanford Rd.), Santa Rosa, CA 95401. The Laguna Environmental Center is open to the public Monday through Friday, 9am-5pm, but because of the variety of hall uses during the week, please call ahead to make sure you can view the art (707-527-9277, x107). Another great time to view the art exhibit is during our Second Saturday of the Month Open Houses from 10am-3pm. They are FREE and open to the public. Proceeds of art sales benefit the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization.

Upcoming Exhibits

A Photographic Journey through the Laguna de Santa Rosa
On display September 4, 2015 to January 4, 2016

A juried selction from the Laguna Foundation's 25th Anniversary Photo Contest -- 28 images from 23 local photographers. Join us for the Opening Reception on Saturday, September 26, 3:00-5:00pm. Free, no RSVP necessary.

January through April, 2016, California Flora, Botanical Paintings in Colored Pencil by Nina Antze (details coming soon)

May through August, 2016, Fabric Arts by the Pointless Sisters Art Quilt Group, (details coming soon)

September through December 2016, Laguna Photographs by Joan Humberstone, in memoriam, (details of the exhibit coming soon)

Heron Hall Art Gallery

The goal of this gallery is to exhibit multiple shows per year of nature-themed art for sale. A portion of the proceeds benefit the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation. Click here for an art exhibit floor plan of Heron Hall. If you are interested in exhibiting and selling your artwork in Heron Hall, please read through the parameters and fill out the brief application at the end of this documentPDF file opens in new window. We will contact you as soon as possible after we receive your application. Thanks for your interest!

The Laguna Foundation works to restore and conserve the Laguna de Santa Rosa,
and to inspire public appreciation for this Sonoma County Wetland of International Importance. 


For more information, please contact:
Anita Smith, Public Education Coordinator and Heron Hall Manager
(707) 527-9277 x 110, anita@lagunafoundation.org