Decades ago, like many places across the nation, the San Fernando Valley looked much different than it does today. With acres and acres of open fields, fruit orchards and small, family-owned farms–long before suburbanization–the valley was rural.
And for those who grew up here, memories of pastoral tranquility still linger. At La Galeria Gitana, gallery director Karen Nichols vividly recalls the horse ranches, produce stands and abundant livestock that once filled this section of Los Angeles.
Then, when the freeways rolled in, the landscape was in for a change. More than a few communities were dissected; Nichols’ family, like many other households, was among those who had to give up their homestead and make way for progress.
Yet today, even a cursory examination of the San Fernando Valley reveals images similar to those that existed a half-century ago. Such “Rural Remnants” are the subject of the current exhibit at La Galeria Gitana.
Representing the work of twenty-six artists, the show is filled with remembrances of the farms and ranches that once existed here. However, recognizing that parts of L.A. still retain a distinctly country feel, the exhibit clearly demonstrates that our city is like no other.
The work of artist Jane Thorpe provides a thorough glimpse into the rural character of her own neighborhood, Kagel Canyon. Several months ago, her resourcefulness had her regularly thinking about what she’d eventually paint for this show.
Walking with her dogs, she didn’t have to travel very far to discover a plethora of subjects for her paintings. Buck and Sally, a couple of goats who live down the block from Thorpe, were to prove excellent models. While the sycamore trees that she has grown so accustomed to, as well as the local feed shed, were excellent subjects, too.
Thirty-eight years ago, when Thorpe moved from Stratford, Connecticut to Kagel Canyon, the area was much the same as it is today. Its rustic nature was appealing back then, and continues to charm Thorpe even now.
“There’s a sense of being outside the city, but still having all the conveniences,” she explained.
From an early age, Thorpe had an interest in art, as her father was a commercial artist who had his studio in their home.
With an extensive art background of her own, last year, Thorpe began focusing on plein air painting. In conjunction with the paintings she did while visiting her hometown of Stratford, Thorpe began a blog about her work, which provides valuable insight into Thorpe the artist, as well as various aspects of her paintings. Several of the pieces that will be on exhibit at La Galeria Gitana are also chronicled on her blog.
From beehives to billy goats, for Thorpe, her fascination with life is a sure measure that inspiration will continue to fill her canvases.
(“Rural Remnants of the San Fernando Valley” will be on exhibit at La Galleria Gitana from November 19-December 24, 2011. A special artists reception will be held on Saturday, November 19 from 6:00-10:00 p.m. The gallery is located at 120 N. Maclay Avenue (Suite E) San Fernando 91340. For additional information call: (818) 898-7708.)