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Sandy Ostrau

Palo Alto, CA

I take scenes of everyday life-- people, places and activities-- and reduce them to their fundamental elements. I strip away the superfluous detail and minutiae of the moment in order to present each scenario in its essence. At a certain point, specific content is not that important or even relevant, but rather what appears to be going on, creating situations that can be observed or contemplated in more universal ways. This sense of ambiguity or vagueness allows for a range of interpretations and assumptions, for viewers to perhaps add their own content, emotions or undercurrents, overlaying what they think is happening with their own explanations. To heighten their engagement, I use texture to create a sense of dimensionality, a perception of three dimensions in two, thereby inviting viewers to "step into" each composition as if they were actually there, and to participate in their own narratives.
Many of my paintings invoke feelings of solitude or even loneliness. The figures appear connected but often seem to be looking away from one another, absorbed in their own lives and stories, perhaps occasionally connecting, perhaps not, like strangers in the same scene. At other times, figures seem to be waiting for someone to arrive or for an activity to begin, anticipating a meeting or a reunion for instance. Whatever the circumstances, there's always an outcome awaiting discovery.
The ways I express feelings of solitude or disconnectedness in my open-ended plot lines are based on my own introspective moments as well as on assumptions about the subjects in my compositions. With my ever-present sketchbook, I observe alone, recording actions and interactions at a distance, working with whatever I can see, taking what little information is available and imagining the rest. So much is unclear, uncertain and not possible to observe. Blending in the settings-- the trees, water, and other surroundings -- I translate my observations into paintings, which in turn become the stories, stories we can either share with one another or ponder in our own unique and personal ways.
The Northern California Coast has always been an important inspiration for my work. With plans to spend more time up there working, I’ve leased a beautiful studio space on The Sea Ranch. The surrounding coast geography will undoubtedly continue to influence my work.
Wescover creator since 2020

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