2/08 tahoe mt. news
By Kathryn Reed
Border patrol hovering overhead and cattle stampeding nearby – it’s all part of the scenery for Phyllis Shafer.
The desert has captivated her artistic streak much like the Sierra Nevada does. She and a friend are spending a couple months in the Sonoran Desert -- due south of Tucson, 30 miles north of Mexico. The two artists immerse themselves in the landscape every day from about 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Lake Tahoe Community College art instructor is wrapping up a six-month sabbatical before she returns to the classroom spring quarter.
“I’m so motivated by the landscape. That’s why I paint … why I paint outdoors. I don’t think it would work for me to take a picture and go into the studio,” Shafer said while taking a break. “When I go outside I absorb what my feeling of the place is.”
On a rare day with cell phone reception, the enthusiasm she exudes for her craft seems tangible and lively – like the spirited artwork that flows from her brush to canvas.
“She communicates the feeling of nature,” said Turkey Stremmel, director of the Stremmel Gallery in Reno. Shafer’s desert pieces will be in a show at the gallery in March 2009. “Across the room you know it’s a Shafer. Technically it is interesting, not straight forward.”
Shafer admits traditional landscape painting is not what she’s about – and viewing her work it would be hard to disagree. (www.phyllisshafer.com)
The Autry National Center’s Yosemite exhibit started with Ansel Adams and ended with a Shafer. Her piece was part of the traveling show that stopped at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno last fall. Shafer has a piece in the NMA’s permanent collection.
The point of the sabbatical was to rejuvenate her – personally and professionally. The college pays for three month sabbaticals every six years. In return, she has been working on material for a new class at LTCC called Narrative and Symbolism.
Through one’s imagination and symbolism of visual images, Shafer says students will learn to create original pieces in this class.
In all her work, Shafer uses what she calls her “fanciful imagination combined with observation.” In the desert she describes a cholla cactus looking like a mop head.
The sun, wind and bugs – not to mention backing into a cactus or two – are constant reminders of her locale. While Shafer is painting, her friend Linda Ruckdeschel of Oakland is doing the same or photographing.
The day cattle ran on either side of them, Ruckdeschel was so startled she forgot to take the lens cap off. Shafer figures the feds have plenty of footage of the duo – helicopters and planes are a constant reminder the border is just down the road.
Maybe the added attention will draw even more attention to this local artist. However, selling her work is becoming more common as people discover the South Lake Tahoe painter. She had two solo shows at the Stremmel Gallery which were sell-outs.
“I’ve reached a point that after I die I want my paintings left to tell a story and stay beyond me,” Shafer said.