san francisco art magazine archives

The Art of Nature

Napa Land Trust Paintings and Other Landscapes

The North Coast Four

China Basin Landing
185 Berry Street, San Francisco
September 22 - November 3, 2001

Reviewed by Carol L. Weinfeld

Goat Rock View North - Hanya Popova Parker

Hanya Popova Parker
Goat Rock View North
oil on canvas, 36" x 36"

     With their plein air paintings, The North Coast Four (Jocelyn Audette, Dana Hawley, Linda Kammer, and Hanya Popova Parker) match nature's art with their own. Besides creating lovely images, the artists are aiding The Land Trust of Napa County. Twenty percent of the paintings' sales go to the organization. Since its founding twenty-five years ago, the Land Trust has protected nearly 25,000 acres of Napa County land for future generations.

Drinking Day - Linda Kammer

Linda Kammer
Drinking Day
oil on linen, 30" x 30"

     Plein air (French, "open air") painting refers to painting out of doors, where the artist paints directly from nature with a special focus on the transitory effects of light. The style became well established in the nineteenth century due to the Barbizon School of painters (including Theodore Rousseau and Jean Francois Millet), who sought a spontaneity in their work that studio painting lacked. The American Barbizon School, including George Inness and Winslow Homer, was influenced by their French counterpart. Plein air painting became prevalent throughout the west, especially Southern California in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and in Oakland, California, particularly with the Society of Six. Besides the North Coast Four, there are currently the Sonoma Four and the Oak Group in Santa Barbara, California, who continue the Barbizon tradition.

North of Ft. Ross - Jocelyn Audette

Jocelyn Audette
North of Ft. Ross
oil on linen, 40" x 49"

     The North Coast Four often paint outdoors together. This may, in part, explain their similar manner of paint application, which is usually thick and rapid. But part of the similarity also arises from the plein air technique, which is an excited response to the rapidly changing qualities of light in nature.

     In this exhibition, the artists showcase the lines of nature, caught in the view of the moment. In "Goat Rock, Looking North", Parker's limited palette leads the viewer to focus on the forms of the rocks. A Van Gogh-like tree fills the frame of Kammer's "Airing My Airpits at the Coast". The few colors make us observe the tree's branches, which stretch out to us, and to the land. Hawley's title "Guardians" may refer to the rocks whose sinuous shapes echo the swirls of the ocean, or it could refer to the Land Trust and to the North Coast Four, who guard the land through their art. We notice the intricacies of the rocks' surfaces in Audette's carefully-studied "North of Fort Ross". The curve of the shore draws the observer in, while the zigzag of the foreground is in opposition to the sloping background. All of the paintings impress us with nature's beauty, which motivates us to help preserve these lands.

Russian River Below the Trees - Dana Hawley

Dana Hawley
Russian River Below the Trees
acrylic on canvas, 14" x 18"

     The most interesting aspect of the show is the two identical views of Mount Tam from Foote Botanical Preserve by Audette and by Hawley. It is difficult to believe that they were painted from the same angle. In Audette's painting, the undulating hills are of greens, browns, grays, and a little yellow. Mount Tam seems far away, like the views of Mount Fuji in Japan, dwarfed by the foreground. We focus on the individual aspects of the landscape, like stumps or rocks. Hawley's scene is blurry and evocative of the feeling of being surrounded by nature. We imagine the movement of flowers in the wind due to the softness and variety of colors. The foreground is abstract in contrast to the concrete, serene mountain in the distance.

     This is an impressive show by four accomplished painters. The visitor is reminded of the awe-inspiring Northern California landscape, and the importance of protecting it.

--Carol L. Weinfeld
     Carol L. Weinfeld is a contributing writer for San Francisco Art Magazine.

     All images this page courtesy of the artists.

     For more information about the Land Trust of Napa County, visit

     For more information about the artists, visit their web sites: