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Blue Line shows off 'Masterpieces'

Exhibit marks the 39th annual membership show for Roseville Arts
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Artist Jenny Stepp awoke one morning from a deep sleep with an idea.

Usually, she can’t trace back to the sources of inspiration for her artwork. Her ideas tend to “just happen.” But this time was different.

Stepp decided she would make a kinetic sculpture using metal and glass, and call the piece “Dream Catcher,” after the traditional American Indian object of the same name.

“I just thought ‘that’s what I need to do,’” she says.

The Roseville resident toiled away for three months — she works on multiple projects at once — creating this moving sculpture, which she considers a reflection on society.

“We all have different sets of dreams and we’re all trying to find what our dream is,” Stepp says, on a recent afternoon.

She stands in the garage of her house, which serves as her studio. Her son’s dog Wyatt sunbathes in the driveway. Tools, safety goggles, gloves, a metal chop saw, tile saw and containers of glass fragments line the studio’s shelves. A large kiln sits in the corner.

“My favorite is (using) metal and glass, which are opposite materials in a sense, and combining them to create a cohesive form,” Stepp says.

Her “Dream Catcher” piece is currently on display as part of the Blue Line Gallery’s juried membership show, Masterpiece Medley, which runs through Saturday, April 2.

This exhibit marks the 39th annual membership show for Roseville Arts and the fourth year for the Blue Line Gallery. Roseville Arts is the nonprofit organization behind the gallery, which opened on Vernon Street in 2008.

The show represents a variety of two- and three-dimensional media, including photography, painting, watercolor, fabric painting, mixed media and metals. The exhibit features the work of 50 artists, from as far away as Texas, selected by juror Elaine O’Brien.

“Elaine O’Brien selected such a fine representation of work and has exceptional experience,” says Julie Hirota, CEO of Blue Line Gallery, in a press release. “We’re honored to have such an esteemed educator jury this year’s membership show.”

O’Brien has served as professor of modern and contemporary art history and criticism at California State University at Sacramento since 1998. She is editing a non-Western modern art anthology textbook and regularly lectures on subjects in her area of expertise.

Rocklin artist Diane Ruhkala Bell has a mixed-media piece in the show called “The Greatest of These.” Bell made the piece using old quarry siding tin, nails and acrylic on a wood panel. She cut a section of the tin and then worked away at it until she saw an image in the rusty, dented areas.

“(It’s) kind of like looking for images in cloud formations,” she says. “The tin became an old open book, figures appeared and then I added text, ‘And the greatest of these is love.’ It’s part of a beautiful verse from Corinthians.”

Bell says she enjoys contemplating the mystery and history of found, recycled materials and incorporating these pieces into her collage and assemblage pieces. She uses rusty tin and old wood from abandoned quarries around her home. Sometimes, Bell integrates beach debris, dried pond scum, plant forms, insects, bones, fabrics and handmade papers into her art.

Stepp also occasionally incorporates found objects into her works — she welds the items together to form a sculpture.

The southern California native moved to Roseville several years ago with her husband. They have two sons in high school. Stepp doesn’t remember exactly when her artistic passion began, although she does recall enjoying coloring books as a child and imagining her future as an artist.

“Yeah, I’d like to do this for the rest of my life,” Stepp says. “It was just always there.”

She started selling her pieces five years ago and within the past two years made art her primary occupation. She will travel all around California this summer for art shows.

Stepp has exhibited her artwork a few times at the Blue Line Gallery and some of her pieces have been auctioned off during Roseville Arts’ annual Lottery for the Arts fundraiser. Her handcrafted jewelry can be purchased in the gallery’s gift shop.

She says her interest in using metal came from all the art shows she has seen in the past 20 years and realizing it was something she had to try. Then she grew curious about glass. Most of Stepp’s formal training has come from one-on-one instruction, classes at Sierra College, and the dozens of glass and metal workshops she has attended.

“(Art) takes a lot of experimentation,” Stepp says. “You can be taught the process but you need to figure out how to make it work with your philosophies and artistic form.”

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com.

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Masterpiece Medley, juried membership exhibit

When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays until April 2, and 3rd Saturday Art Walk 7-9 p.m. March 19

Where: Blue Line Gallery, 405 Vernon St., Suite 100 in Roseville

Cost: Free, donations welcome and artwork for sale

Info: Call (916) 783-4117 or visit www.rosevillearts.org

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For more information about the artwork of Jenny Stepp, visit http://www.artwareartwear.com/. For more information about the artwork of Diane Ruhkala Bell, visit www.dianeruhkalabell.com.