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Dual-ing Artists Find ‘Home On The Range’

Photo by Bobbi Bennett, painting by Joan Scheibel

Photo by Bobbi Bennett, painting by Joan Scheibel

Porch Gallery Hosts Bennett-Scheibel

Show Through March 29

By Demitri Corbin

It’s 3:30 when I approach Porch Gallery where artists Joan Scheibel and Bobbi Bennett sit awaiting my arrival.  I’m here to interview them for their new show, ‘Home on the Range,’ which opened the past weekend.

Gallery owners Lisa Cantoni and Heather Stobo are inside attending to business.  I greet the two artists and they chat as I set up for the interview.  The sound of the late afternoon traffic on Matilija is joined by the clink of wine glasses against the bottles of Perrier and Chardonnay that Heather sets down before us.  With refreshments in hand, we begin.

Demitri Corbin: Hello, I’m Demitri Corbin I’m sitting here  at Ojai’s Porch Gallery.  I’m sitting here  with Bobbi Bennett and Joan Scheibel … hello, hello …

Bobbi Bennett and

Joan Scheibel:  Hello, hello!

DC:  -We are here to talk about their collaborative show at the Porch called, “Home on the Range.”  I think I’m going to start with you, Joan, because I don’t know you very well, although you do know our publisher, Bret Bradigan.  How do we start with that … that …

JS:  Connection?

DC:  Yeah, connection.

JS:  I’ve been working with Bret for many years now.  We do a magazine together for another client of both of ours, so we have been working on a magazine called, Architecture For Sale, so we’ve been working together for many years and actually just met him through this collaboration and show.  I only spoke to him on the phone or through email, and it was nice to put a face to the voice.  He’s a wonderful, brilliant, creative person to work with.  He’s one solid guy.  So, we’ve been working many years together and I finally met him this month!

DC:  That’s great.  That’s what I heard was that you finally met.  And Bobbi, you kind of worked with Bret, all though it was more with me with the Men of Ojai Calendar.

JS: (surprised) Oh.

BB:  I know.  That’s me.

We all laugh.

BB:  You know me and the men of Ojai!

DC:  And that’s it was, I was talking to Lisa yesterday about this project in particular and your being a risk taker, this was a big risk for you, as was the Men of Ojai Calendar for you.  You took that risk and you delivered something that the community really appreciates.

BB:  And as I recall I was the one that sold the piece, right?

DC:  Yes, first one, which, by the way, came back to us and it’s sitting in a friend’s house.  (to Joan)  She took the assignment of shooting a nude portrait of someone who was actually well, still living but dying.  And you caught the life in him.

JS:  That’s beautiful.

BB:  And it was actually one of the most challenging pieces I’ve ever done.  That one.  Cause he had a double colonoscopy and I had to shoot him naked and make him look phenomenal.  And I did.  I put him in a hammock and put a Persian cat on him.

DC:  And it just came out a wonderful portrait.  And what also came out is your style, which I fell in love with when you first moved here.  And now to see this show combining two styles – I don’t want to say styles, but two mediums I guess-

JS:  Yes, two styles too, though.

DC:  And what came out is another for the community, a really exciting event.  So, I want to know how did this collaboration come about.

BB:  Well, we met about a year at a party.  Actually in July and Joan approached me and wanted to do a show.

JS:  No, I actually approached you and said, “Are you Bobbi Bennett,” cause we had not met.  I’d seen her stuff through mutual friends and had worked with the same artists, so I knew of her.  And at this party a friend of mine said, “Oh, that’s Bobbi.”  So, I went up to her and said, “Are you Bobbi Bennett,” and she said, “Yes,” and I said, “I’m Joan Scheibel.”  And she goes, “Oh my god, I’ve been wanting to meet you,” and I said, “I’ve been wanting to meet you, as well.”  And we kind of met at that party and I said, “Let’s get together for coffee and maybe we can do something together.”  Like a show, not a collaboration.

BB:  Yeah, we weren’t going to do a collaboration, so I was kind of excited about it.  I was having a kind of challenging time Santa Fe and I really wanted to get back to LA.  And I said, yeah, I’d love to a show with a painter who I really liked her work

DC:  You were mutual fans of one another.

JS:  Yes.

BB:  But then  I had this sort of thing where I wanted to do pieces like this.  And met basically on my birthday at LACMA I did get a couple of galleries and situations where they were like saying “yes,” but things weren’t really coming together

DC: And you say this is what, August of last year?

BB:  It was September, September 28th.  So it was that week, like 2 days before and we were at LACMA sitting at the bar and I drew up these sketches and I said, “I have this idea.”  And when I saw Joan’s paintings in her studio I thought, maybe I’ll do the painting part.  But when I saw her abstract horses, especially her cowboys on horses, I started thinking, “Why don’t we do something together instead of doing these separate shows.”  And the cool thing is I sketched it out on these tiny little napkins and she understood it right away.   And I would have to say like that’s been – I’m going to jump a little bit — that’s the great thing about working together is that we get each other – artistically.

JS:  We fight like an old married couple.

We laugh.

DC:  You fell right into step with that, huh?

BB:  Yeah , and it was just, you know … I didn’t have to be … she said yes! When I came out here I had already set up with Lisa and Heather to do a show and they wanted to set me up with someone else, ’cause their like, “We don’t know Joan, and you want to show, like this painter, you know and we don’t know.”  So I come up here and it was right before I was supposed to go back to Santa Fé, and I had this little sketch book and I want to show you Joan’s paintings, this our idea and what we’re going to do.  Lisa was way into it, like, “Yeah, let’s do it!”  And Heather was like, “Well, let me see what you’re doing.”  And she just stared at me like I was from Mars.

JS:  She showed her the napkin.

DC:  I can see the look on her face.

BB:  And she’s – you know, she gives you that look, and she says, “You know Bobbi, I really like your work and I like you.  But I can’t give you a solo exhibition with a painter I don’t know based on this cocktail napkin.

We all laugh!

DC:  Not going to happen.

BB:  And so, I said, “Well, what if we make something.”  And she looked at me and I said, “You know, when are you going to make a decision?”  Because she, they were was running out of space for the year and I really wanted to be in their gallery.  Because I’ve been watching them on Facebook.  And I said to Joan, “Would you be up for coming to Ojai, it’s not LA…” And she was like, “Absolutely, yes.”  So we produced this piece –

JS:  No, she said, “We have two weeks to get me a piece,”  and I said, “Let’s go, production is in!”

BB:  So we did it.

DC: Let’s go to you, Joan, cause I’d never seen your work – let’s go to your gallery, your studio.  Your studio is in West Hollywood, as well.  Tell me more, I guess.

JS:  Well, it’s in West Hollywood.

DC:  You’ve been there for how long?  Is it a gallery or your work studio.

JS:  It’s my work studio.  For about – this particular studio – for about 2 years now.  I said immediately let’s produce this piece.   I’ve shown with various artists and I basically come into this style which I’ve locked in and I’m very happy with it.  I’ve gone through many dimensions of styles and work when I first started.

DC:  Did this style come out of this particular space?

JS:  No, it was developing and then when Bobbi came in and kind of showed up and I said, “This is what I do,” and she loved it.  And the work together kind of matched better with the style of photography … and I live and work in the same space, which I love, cause when I have an idea at like 3 o’clock in the morning I can just get up and

DC: Boom, go to it.

JS:  I can just go right over, I don’t have to drive anywhere … and I’m very excited.  I’m very excited for what we have in the future together,  this show and how it’s just been seamless, we’ve been pretty seamless with the working experience and the creative part of it.

DC:  I want to talk about, or ask just some words on a few, three in particular that stood out for me the most.  There’s always something that goes, “this speaks to me.”  I think the first one, though that I liked was “Silver Stream,” in the back.

JS:  Yes.

DC: That one particularly I like.

JS:  That’s one of my favorites.

DC:  It is?

JS:  I always say that when I come into the show, I love all of them.  But it’s been a process that piece, right?

BB:  Yeah, well, I think your painting changed in that piece.

JS:  And it’s on burlap.  So it gives it a different texture.  It was originally supposed to be on bareback but then I thought I want to do something different with that Joshua Tree and she put on that Airstream.  So, it’s always been a precious piece to me.  So, I’m really happy you said that.

DC:  That was the first piece that made me go, “Wow.”  But I love “Raven’s Crossing,” and “Thin Blue Line.”  But the Airstream, that was the most intriguing for me.

Painting by Joan Scheibel, Photo by Bobbi Bennett

Painting by Joan Scheibel, Photo by Bobbi Bennett

BB:  Mine are definitely those two, ‘Ravens’ and ‘Thin Blue Line.’

DC:  And it was a great showing.

JS:  Opening.  It was amazing.

DC:  You got your posse out.

BB: Oh my gosh.

DC:  The community came out.  It’s one of the best, I think one of the largest openings they’ve had.

BB:  Yes.

DC:  It was pretty large.

BB:  They said it was the largest opening they’ve had.

JS:  Well, the support and the love, and the enthusiasm from everybody, I had so many people come up from LA and rented rooms.   We all, I’ll have to say it was one of the most magical weekends and nights and people were just happy-

BB:  And even the next day people were coming back and hanging out.

JS:  I had at least 40 people stay the night and rented rooms.

DC:  That’s a lot of people.  That’s like a wedding’s come to town.

JS:  We had the lunch over at the Agave Maria’s, and we had like, you know, 30 people at lunch before the opening on that Saturday (laughs) and my friend looks at me and goes, “Is this your wedding reception lunch.  And everyone was so happy and we went over to The Hub –

DC:  You hit The Hub?!

JS:  We hit The Hub, we were playing darts –

BB:  I missed that whole part –

BB:  I can’t do the party before the show or I won’t even be ready.  But Joan, she’s the social butterfly, much more than I am.

JS:  The whole time was great and everybody was just on a different … everybody was just full of love and support and happiness and uh … nobody wanted to…we even had to come up in the afternoon and get my car and nobody wanted to look at the gallery.  I had like five friends with me when we came to pick up my car.  They didn’t even want to look at the gallery, they just wanted to wait until five o’clock….

DC:  That’s exciting.

JS:  And when they came in, I had about four people … they cried. ‘Cause it was … they had no idea what I was doing with Bobbi.  They knew my work and they knew everything that I have done up until this point and I had not shown anybody anything.  And I thought I’m just going to wait for the opening of the show.  So, nobody had a clue of what we were doing together.  It literally took their breath away and people were very moved.

BB:  Yeah…

DC:  So both of your followings had no idea what was going on.

BB:  Yeah, they were just like, “You’re doing what?”

JS:  And you couldn’t explain it either.  It’s like, “We’re putting two pieces together in recine…”

BB:  The other thing I want to comment on about the work is that, you know, I really have been living in the Southwest for about two years.  The land has become sort of ingrained in me.  There is a definite passion on my part about just really showing the land in the Southwest.  What I find is phenomenal is that, you know, Joan’s not in the Southwest, she’s in LA!

JS:  I’m a Los Angeles New Yorker!

BB:  I’m like, “This is so weird!”  You know, we joke because we are like really opposite,  and I just think it’s amazing it’s just become so cohesive as one piece.  And obviously it resonates with people because there’s red dots on the wall. And that’s pretty cool, cause you can go, “Well, we really love it but hopefully people want it in their house or somewhere else.”  So, it’s kinda cool that , you know, it’s affecting people that way.

JS:  I think ‘Bareback’ the one of the horses.

DC:  The one in the window?

JS:  Yes.  That’s me and Bobbi standing and looking at the show.  She’s the white horse, I’m the black horse and it really, truly is.

DC:  Yeah, I love that piece, too.

JS:  That’s us.

DC:  But again, it’s that one in the back that has something.

JS:  You know, I’m so happy the fact that you said that.  I was just talking to Lisa a couple of hours ago, I said, Lisa, this piece moves me and it moves me in a way that…and once Bobbi put the Airstreams in …

BB:  But it’s not like the Airstreams here that are all polished.  The ones in New Mexico are not and people kind of live in them because they’re – they don’t have any money.  It’s not like here where, “Yeah, well I spent forty-thousand dollars – or more – on my refurbished Airstream because I got a lot of money,” and I wanted to show the trailer in the photography and then landscape, like there’s a softness and a hardness about both of the pictures and the paintings.

DC:  There’s something that comes out to you is all I can say.

BB:  There’s beauty in it but it also makes you a little agitated but you want to keep looking at it.

DC :  It makes you feel.

BB:  Right.

DC:  It makes an emotion come from you.

JS:  It’s kind of that traditional feeling, you want feel safe.  The tradition of ‘Home on the Range’, which is the name of the show.  You know, go back to roots and family, feeling safe.  And then putting the edge on it.

BB:  Well, also showing that it’s not safe, it’s actually dangerous.  That whole image of the prickly pasture is an allusion, you go into that pasture, you’re going to get bitten by a cactus, your horse is going to fall into a ditch and it all looks really good until you have to out there and experience that.

DC:  What you said, I felt that in some of the others … the two strips, I think that they were just the photo, the cow and now I think there is something else there.  But there’s the danger of being in the wilderness that you kind of feel in, well, in all of the paintings.  Some of them are kind of laid back but there is a … nature is there in its beauty and danger.

BB:  In photographing those longhorns, I was really close to those longhorns with my camera.  I’m used to using a small, plastic cameras, there’s no telephoto lens… and, you know, the ranchers would comment that the animals are really posing for me.  And there’d be a moment where I’m taking the picture, I always try to feel the vibration of the animal or the land or whatever it is, and try to feel it really hit the film and that’s when I know I’ve gotten it.  But there’s also like, this thing could kill me right now.  And they’re right in front of me, all they have to do is run up towards me and I’m dead.  And … I’m like what the hell am I doing?!

We all laugh!!!

BB:  Why are you doing that?!

JS:  Yes, this piece, right here on the wall where the longhorn is just looking straight into the camera, it’s just…

BB:  And it was in the snow, so there was just no gettin’ away! I mean really, that’s the thing I think I like doing creative in New Mexico and bringing it back to California because it’s just such a different way of being.  You don’t really understand it if you’re not there but I think it translates in the work.

DC:  My next question because I heard somewhere in our discussion earlier, what are plans for future collaboration, if any?

JS:  I’m done, we’re gettin’ a divorce!

BB:  I can’t take it anymore!

JS:  I’ve filed the papers already!

BB:  I get half!

JS:  Yes, she gets half of everything.

DC:  But this is still the honeymoon, so, what’s next?

BB:  You wanna go?

JS:  No, you can go.

BB:  Well, we’re in the Water Works show with Heather and Lisa, that big show that they put together.

DC:  Okay.

BB:   That’s really exciting, so we had already decided that we were gonna do water images, so the next show is going to be called, “Wet.”

JS:   So our next series is water, but we’re going to keep going with this, too, like commissions.

BB:  We have commissions for more work, so I’m going to be hanging out at the ranch, shooting owls and all kinds of stuff.  But I feel like this isn’t really done yet.  We’ll probably continue but we’re also going to gradually get into that water art thing.

JS:  The show will be called, “Wet,” though.

DC:  That’ll be … what’s the word…

 BB: Wet.

DC:  Intriguing, titillating-

BB:  Makes you want to go!  Who cares about the work!

DC:  Gosh!

BB:  It sounds like fun!

JS:  That will be the next series, and then I already have a series after that, so…

DC:  Busy, busy, busy.

BB:  We’ll be busy for awhile.  This is already gone, like, if there’s anything left I have my gallery in Santa Fe that wants stuff and there’s stuff happening in LA that’s pretty cool.

(The post office tower begins to toll four o’clock.)

DC:  Beautiful.  And then the clock chimes.  So with that, any last words you want to say about … Ojai?

JS:  Ojai has been, it’s been so much fun and I…when I left I was here before the show, I spent four days here, two nights at Lisa and Heather’s and then I spent Saturday at the Ojai Casa Inn with all my friends, it was like a frat party, it was like college, everybody was just like, “We’re at a Mo-Tel,” and it was really funny, everybody was driving up with bottles of champagne – and when I got on the road I was already missed Ojai.  I missed the girls, I missed everything about it.  So, it’s nice to be back for this interview and just to revisit and I walk in and I think, you know, it’s a great show.  And I hope people come to see it before it closes.  It’s worthwhile.

BB:  For me it was like coming back home and to do something really so different in the Southwest and have it start here, it just felt really good to me.  It just felt like the right place to begin.  And it was just such a great meeting point for the Santa Barbara people, the LA people and just everybody I know here.  It just has a sense of community and I think it was perfect.

DC:  Wonderful.  Thank you.

JS:  Well thank you, Demitri. And it was effortless, it wasn’t even work, it was just a magical, creative experience.

DC:  Wonderful, and that’s what we want here in Ojai!  Thank you so much.

JS:  (to BB)

BB:  Except when….

DC:  I’ll turn this off before they start telling stories.  Thank you Joan, thank you Bobbi!

Porch Gallery presents

 Bobbi Bennett and Joan Scheibel  – Home On The Range, February 26 to March 29. Porch Gallery Ojai is located at 310 East Matilija St.  For more information visit porchgalleryojai.com

2 Comments

  1. avatar
    Lisa Tkachuk

    I like the article…the show is moving, emotional and charged. I loved the combination of the two visions by both artists. The colours, style, the union of the pieces worked for me and I look forward to seeing more from these two! The gallery owners are delightful and really know what they are doing. Overall a wonderful experience! I think it leaves us wanting more!

    • avatar
      Bret Bradigan (Author)

      Thanks for the comment. I’ll be sure to pass along to Demitri. Check in when you can … Lisa and Heather always have something interesting going on at Porch Gallery.

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