Imprints of Nature and Human Nature: Paintings and Photographs by Fatemeh Burnes at Mt. SAC

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Fatemeh Burnes, in her solo show “Imprints of Nature and Human Nature,” at the Mt. SAC (Mt. San Antonio College) art gallery, gives us fine demonstrations of painting with imaginative pictures of cozy and fantastic forest glens, complete with writhing branches and twigs encouraging us toward a light that promises even more content in this constructed environment. A bird listens to a sound from outside the picture; the element of sound is significant in many of the works.

Even the abstract photographs in the exhibition summon up things to hear. Bare feet. Swishes of fabrics, hair, skin, and what does a flower sound like as it grows and ages?  Burnes masters media from oil painting to painting on metal and painting with light and color in her photographs.  Art critic and curator Peter Frank writes:

Burnes concerns herself with much more in the world than light itself. But she always comes back to the condition(s) of light, to the presence of light in what we see and even in what we sense, that is, in what we see even though we don’t know we are seeing.

Entering the art gallery and looking around I found profound artworks that were blurring borders in painting and in photography. There’s all kinds of intelligent art criticism in the beautiful catalogue (due out this week) by smart people: Peter Frank, Shana Nys Dambrot, and Betty Ann Brown. But I don’t want to think about discourse now in regard to these pictures; I know the critical discussion is in good hands and it’s the direct experience that counts here.

Burnes’ pictures tackle ideas of fantasy and reality in wonderful ways, and still manage to be about serious issues of light and movement. There is a charged-up energetic wholeness to the various directions in which Burnes’ art takes us. We can feel it. The pictures are exciting and stimulating; art should be interesting.

Enlightenment (see picture above) captures viewers in its ancient tangle and carries us through to its resolution; the bright light in the forest. The birds in the forests work with movement in what at first appear to be abstract photographs. These photographs are about light and time, capturing in a lively blur the movements of dancers, the suggestion of movement of other beings and objects–they vibrate with life and what could be more natural?

Factory reveals Burnes’ interest in the rhythms and lines of cubism and Russian futurism. One can feel the heat permeating the triptych from the piston factory her grandfather owned. The sounds she hears when she thinks of the factory are conveyed to the viewer in this painting–it fits together aspects of nature and human nature.

Conquest, is another stunning example of light meets motion. The image is filmic and full of life. Sepia tones enhance the drama and we are reminded of the relief paintings of Mantegna in the Renaissance– his homage to the ancients. Continuing with the exuberance, we come to Flourish which is absolutely painterly, departing from the absolute representation of traditional photography. Frisky color and layered light is new and brave.

Still, though, Burnes does not stop–she creates more experimental pictures, these made by building up layers on surfaces of copper or steel, for example—-scratching, scribbling and sculpting on the surfaces, painting and collaging here and there, coming up with more layers that are the fragmented of lively motion. She makes something new and old as we can see in Air Fossil (I Was Born). For this piece, Burnes applies natural pigment, acid, and oil onto cold-rolled steel to create abstract images. Here, she has painted bubble-spheres adding an underwater detail and enhancing the landscape.

A book signing and closing reception will be held at the gallery Sunday, April 21 from 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. (They have lovely receptions!)

In addition to Burnes’ work as an artist, for years she has been an art instructor, the gallery director, and curator at the Mt. SAC Gallery, a wonderful space and operation which is well-cared for during stressful times for community colleges. Her students assembled the show in tribute to her many gifts and talents.


Fatemeh Burnes”Imprints of Nature and Human Nature”
Art Gallery, Mt San Antonio College (Mt. SAC)
1100 N. Grand Avenue
Walnut, CA 91789
909 274-4328
Hours: Tues-Thurs 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. and Tuesday evenings 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Closing Sunday April 21 with a reception and book signing, 3:oo p.m.till 6:00 p.m.











Air Fossil (I Was Born)

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