American Art Collector | Sandy Ostrau: Crosscurrents

November 2021

Sandy Ostrau says, “Though I strive to eliminate details, I also like the idea of connecting things—people to people and people with landscapes. In this body of work there are references to man-made structures likes piers, wharfs and other things you find on the beach. They help underline how we are part of the landscape, immersed or embedded into the natural  world.”

City Beach | Oil on canvas | 30 x 40 inches
City Beach | Oil on canvas | 30 x 40 inches

Crosscurrents, her first solo exhibition at Dolby Chadwick Gallery in San Francisco, will open November 4 and continue through November 27.

Ostrau was brought up in the Bay Area of California. The moist atmosphere of the Pacific Coast and the innovations of the Bay Area Figurative Movement of the mid-20th century have inspired her. She admires the way Richard Diebenkorn, for instance, brought some of his techniques of applying paint as well as his sense of value and design into his figurative work from his experience of abstract expressionism.

Manchester Beach Walk | Oil on panel | 12 x 12 inches
Manchester Beach Walk | Oil on panel | 12 x 12 inches

Diebenkorn wrote, “Abstract means literally to draw from or separate. In this sense every artist is abstract for he must create his own work from his visual impressions. A realistic or non-objective approach makes no difference. The result is what counts.”

The result in Ostrau’s paintings is non-specific scenes with ambiguous figures that are both two-dimensional and imply depth. Her application of layers of paint and control of color and value not only gives the surface of her paintings a physical depth, but imply an alluring spatial depth, inviting viewers to step into the scene to join the narrative or to create their own. She recalls Hans Hofmann’s theory of “push and pull” in which color, shape and light imply depth rather than one-point perspective.    

Dune Drift | Oil on panel | 42 x 42 inches
Dune Drift | Oil on panel | 42 x 42 inches

“I love painting outside,” she explains. “Early on I did abstract paintings and learned how to simplify. Outdoors, there is so much information you have to learn to distill it. You have to choose. What are you trying to say? What is hitting you?”

Her experience of the landscape and of the effects of light on color translate into paintings that are inviting to contemplate as physical objects of paint on canvas or panel, as well as portals for stepping into and rejoining the landscape.