Library Gallery: Sparkling Ceramics, Photography and Paintings Both Lyrical and Legal

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Untitled III by Andrea Ciak is an example of Pâte de verre, a kiln casting method that literally means “paste of glass.”

    The Lamorinda Arts Council presents the works of ceramicist Andrea Ciak, photographer Jennifer Dzendzel and paintings by Carla W. Gelbaum and Michelene Insalaco this month at the Art Gallery in the Orinda Library.
    Ciak, who lives and works in Oakland, is showing a mix of 50 ceramic, glass and encaustic works. Encaustics are pigmented wax paintings. Her ceramic pieces are wheel-thrown, burnished and then naked raku, saggar or horsehair fired. She says color, pattern, texture, visual depth and tactile as well as visual experience are important factors of her work.  
    Works of pâte de verre glass are accomplished with a kiln casting method that literally means “paste of glass.” Frit granules are mixed with a binder such as gum arabic then applied to the inner surface of a negative mold such as plaster. Frit glass is finely porous glass through which gas or liquid may pass. When fired it retains the consistency of sand. Untitled III, a 3.125” x 4.5” pâte de verre glass vessel, sparkles like a streak of setting sun on ocean waves. 
    Regarding advice to those new to learning ceramics she says, “Persistence. A mundane answer but you can’t expect to be inspired every day. You have to go to work doing what you love. When you work at what you love at least you will be fulfilled.” 
    Ciak says that people are often told things like, “In our family we are scientists,” or, “We are all lawyers.” She wants people to know you can pursue things you love that other people in your family don’t do. Learn more about her work at

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Jennifer Drendzel’s Golden State is a photographic print on aluminum metal.

    Dzendzel of Orinda says she has always been interested in photography. She remembers playing with different cameras as a kid and getting film developed. She got her first SLR film camera in high school and learned dark room in high school. To document her children’s growth, she learned about digital equipment. What was once a hobby became a portrait and lifestyle photography business for families and small businesses.  
    The 20-plus photographs in the show are all landscape and nature-themed images with some creative portraits mixed in. She finds ways to connect vintage lenses to digital equipment and makes double exposures to push the boundaries of her learning. 

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Jennifer Dzendzel highlights nature’s symmetry in her 16” x 20” photograph, Tropic.

    Photographers who inspire her include Dorthea Lange, Ansel Adams and Annie Leibovitz, who helped define the Rolling Stone raw portrait work. She says she finds Franz Lanting’s National Geographic wildlife photographs captivating. 
    Golden State, a 16” x 20” photographic print on aluminum, recalls the end of a summer day on the California hills without a care in the world. See more of her work at

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Moonlight Sonata 5, a 36” x 60” acrylic on canvas, exemplifies the colorful optimism of artist Carla W. Gelbaum’s Visual Sonata series

    Gelbaum of Moraga paints from her imagination using universal themes and a vibrant, bold color palette. She counts Joan Brown’s visual memories, Henri Rousseau’s tales of exotic jungles and wild animals, David Hockney’s vibrant portraits and Marc Chagall’s poetic and lyrical dream world as influences. 
    She is showing a dozen acrylic paintings from her theme, Visual Sonatas, which encompass her recollections and dreams. These contemporary paintings are about love for family, people and the natural world. She says they are a humanistic and optimistic response to the cynical world we face today using harmonious rhythms of lines, colors and shapes to create a visual sonata. 
    Her Moonlight Sonata 5, a 36” x 60” acrylic on canvas, is bursting with blossoms and portraits backed by swirling blue sky. To view other works see

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Artist Michelene Insalaco promotes a message of peace in Square Words #4, a 12” x 12” acrylic on wood panel.

    Insalaco, of Orinda, grew up with a mother who taught her how to paint, sew, and make stained glass and other fun projects. Her dad, an avid lover of modern art, filled their home with beautiful posters and books of works by Miró, Calder, Warhol and others, she 
    “My mother instilled in me a love of creating art and working with my hands,” she says. She continued with art courses in high school and college but ultimately chose a career in law, which she enjoys. But as art is her first love she continues to work in different mediums including painting, stained glass and pottery. 
    Half of the 11 pieces she is showing consist of horizontal lines in paint, paper with phrases, silver leaf and tape. The other half are square panels containing phrases that have a square number of letters. The words in both pieces relate to our constitutional rights and the violence that jeopardizes our freedoms and our peace. Constitutional Lines #1, an 11” x 14-1/4” acrylic on canvas, has a quote from the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 
    To keep her work fresh she visits galleries and museums such as San Francisco MOMA whenever she can. When traveling she seeks out modern and contemporary art. Favorites include the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Musée de Picasso in Spain. Visit to learn more. 
    “Art is a way for people to communicate at a deeper level and share thoughts, ideas and emotions which are invaluable because this helps create a community,” says Insalaco.
    “The arts are vital for individuals, society and the world,” says Gelbaum, “It has been said that art is for our soul what food is for our body.”
    An artist reception takes place 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, June 2. Light refreshments will be served. The gallery is at 26 Orinda Way and open Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Call 925-254-2184 for more information or visit

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