The Society of Six, led by Selden Gile, part of the San Francisco Bay Area modernist art scene, painted plein air from 1917 to 1927. William Clapp, later Curator of the Oakland Museum and one of the Six, described their work as the intent “to produce joy through the use of the eyes.” After hiking short distances in the East Bay Hills or along the Oakland waterfront they painted small canvases that could be done quickly and “on the spot” creating a visual language defined by distinctive color and spatial relationships. Louis Siegriest, Maurice Logan, August Gay and Bernard von Eichman completed the close-knit group working from Gile’s cabin on Chabot Road, Oakland.
Led by the great artist Professor Anthony Dubovsky, our Visual Studies seminar Fall 2015, met weekly to discuss the Art History spectrum considering visual language, layers of meaning, and methods to organize expression. Mr. Dubovsky’s exhaustive knowledge of art and culture and the special insights provided by my fellow students, fueled our discussion to understand what is intentional and what is discovered in the artist’s creative act. Our goal was to grasp the diversity of visual language and nurture our own voice through individual art practice and group discussion. Tony introduced me to the work of Selden Gile suggesting the spontaneous plein air approach of the Society of Six might inform my art practice. The seminar experience was rich and priceless. Because of the seminar, I have renewed the exploration of visual language. What is my current painting vocabulary? It is time to let the painting speak for itself. Now, when I pick up my brush, dip into the paint, and connect with the canvas, I bring intent, and also the courage to let go. What will the painting be? What will I discover? I draw inspiration from the poet Paul Valery in Mauvaises Pensées et Autres: “the painter should not paint what he sees, but what will be seen.”