South Valley artists open their doors

‘Water Carrier,’ (photo etchings) by Julie Franco of Gilroy.

Liz Kraft may have been a scientist working at NASA, but the
world of art never eluded her.
Kraft, a talented artist herself, was the driving spirit that
has kept arts alive in Silicon Valley.
She was the founder of Silicon Valley Visual Arts, was president
of the Pacific Art League in 1992 and often was awarded by her
colleagues for her efforts.
Liz Kraft may have been a scientist working at NASA, but the world of art never eluded her.

Kraft, a talented artist herself, was the driving spirit that has kept arts alive in Silicon Valley.

She was the founder of Silicon Valley Visual Arts, was president of the Pacific Art League in 1992 and often was awarded by her colleagues for her efforts.

But Kraft, who passed away in November, will live on in spirit through her work in the last decade for Silicon Valley Open Studios.

“I met Liz Kraft, who started all this,” said Susana Lasta, a Morgan Hill artist who will be showing her work this weekend through Open Studios. “She was a scientist. I knew her through my husband, who worked for NASA, and she was working on this right up until the point where she died. Now she’s passed away, but I think she’d be happy with all of the success.”

What began 17 years ago as a part of a global way to bring artists and art lovers together has now turned into an event where more than 400 artists in the Bay Area have opened up their studios to the public over three weekends each spring.

This weekend, artists from Santa Clara County will show off their work, including five Morgan Hill artists and two Gilroy artists.

Three of those artists, Lasta, Julie Franco and Evelyn Klein, will show their work together at Klein’s studio on Redwood Retreat Road outside of Gilroy.

“We are really trying to get people familiar with the process of art,” Lasta said.

But that’s not always easy in a community that hasn’t always catered to the arts.

“In South County, it’s just about getting people to notice art more,” Franco said. “In Carmel, arts are very accepted. Here we have to work.”

And that’s what Open Studios is about, not just giving artists a chance to show their work to the public without needing a gallery, but to give art lovers a chance to understand what and artist thinks and the process behind each piece.

“It’s really neat to open up your studio so people can see your personality,” Franco said.

Franco focuses her artwork on piece using watercolor and gouache and recently got into print-making from working with Klein at her studio.

“I tend to be more of a naturalist,” she said. “I do a lot of plants … natural things from the earth.”

Franco has a bachelor’s degree in illustration from the Academy of Art, and when she isn’t working on her art in her home studio, she helps teach for Gilroy Community Services.

She will teach Kids Discover Arts beginning in June and also will be teaching sketchbook classes at Meridian Health Center in in San Juan Bautista on Saturdays.

Franco said she has been doing art as long as she can remember.

“Ever since I was a little girl. I was one of those kids who grew up drawing on the walls,” she said. “My mom said I came full circle when I did a mural up in San Francisco.”

Lasta has been doing art for nearly three decades. She earned her master’s of art degree from La Plata in Argentina and also studied in Holland and Germany. Her work has been shown in several different countries and in many cities in the Bay Area. She moved to Morgan Hill in 1989, but many of her abstract landscape pieces remind her of her home in Argentina.

” ‘Patogonia’ is part of my country, Argentina,” she said of her piece ‘Winds of Patogonia VI’ (pictured at the top of the page). “I think it is a landscape that is inside of me.”

Lasta focuses on monotypes and photo-etching, but has also worked with acrylics, pencil drawings, pastels, and she always incorporates collages in her work.

“Always I’ve used collage in my 28 years of art,” she said. “It’s always dynamic.”

Klein, a Canadian artist born in Chile, is recognized for her etchings, lithographs and mixed media paintings. She runs Equinox Press, an art studio specializing in printmaking.

Klein also offers art classes for all levels in mixed media painting, etching, collography and monotype.

Silicon Valley Open Studios 2003 programs are available at Gallery Morgan Hill, 17490 S. Monterey St. For information on Franco’s sketchbook classes, call 209-2278. For more information on Klein’s classes, call 848-9959.

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