Lessons From the Deep End

By Matt Katz

Photo by Christopher Zsarny / Z Studios

Rejoice, 2013, 7’x10’x10’ Abstract dancers rejoice as the setting sun creates another masterful backdrop.

It started with a little red book.
Back in October of 2014, Ojai Studio Artists (OSA) published the book to celebrate the 30th anniversary of its annual art tour. As you’d expect, it’s loaded with page after page of fabulous local artists. One in particular grabbed my attention: Douglas Lochner (cover + page 39), a minimalist sculptor who strives to “create art that touches people on a primal level.”

I’m a big fan of the primal level and try to spend a lot of time there. But what really drew me in was Lochner’s former career path.

In 2001 he started a company called Flexible Energy®, which was something of a proactive retort to the inefficiency of our energy structure. Designing ultra-efficient distributed energy solutions led Lochner into the world of fine art, and in 2007 he left the commercial sector.

In the early stages of this issue, I was taken with the idea of minimalism and the art of efficiency — the streamlined speed and accuracy of a hummingbird as opposed to a lumbering bear. But the connection between energy efficiency and minimalist art fell to the wayside as Lochner’s volcanic intellect erupted with other compelling angles.

Ryan Smith’s interview came in with an extra ton or so of prime meat, which, unfortunately, had to be trimmed due to space limitations. Suffice it to say that novels could be written on many of the thought-provoking tangents their conversation took. To be sure, Lochner operates on a higher intellectual frequency than most.

Anyway, I bookmarked his page and aimed for a run in this August 2015 issue. A few seasons later, while poking around my desk, my 7-year-old daughter noticed a photo of Rejoice, a Lochner sculpture depicting a trio of abstract dancers, and confirmed what I already knew.

“It’s a really cool sculpture,” she said with big-girl certainty.

“Yeah, it looks great,” I replied. “And just imagine, those stainless steel dancers are even taller than you are.”

She rolled her eyes. “Dad, I don’t have to imagine. I know. I see it every week.”

Turns out she’s been taking swim lessons in Lochner’s pool, dog paddling at the foot of that very sculpture. He’s more than a hyper-intelligent artist, you see. He’s the grandfather of one of my kids’ classmates.

I share this story to illustrate the close-knit community we live in. This is a place where the concept of six degrees of separation is frequently split in half. It’s a small town wrapped in a medium-sized county, a patchwork quilt of interconnected yet distinct communities. And after nearly a decade of publication, Ventana has become one of the myriad threads that combine to create our local fiber.

My little swimmer is an artistic type. Her little brother is a Lego fiend (and part-time Jedi). They both make some pretty wonderful creations. And who knows, with time and practice, they just may develop their creative skills into a profession.

But as figurative painter Michael Pearce (page 11) indicates, there exists a great chasm between creative types and artists. Pearce is a true artist, no question about that, and he’s on something of a mission to reestablish “skill-based art” as the apex of the art world.

Writer Mark Storer went deep into the layers for this article. I’m not sure how many “research” meetings at the pub it required, how many “interviews” went down over who knows how many pints. But it worked.

And with the bottom of the page gaining on me and a mid-summer sun whispering temptations in my ear, it’s high time for me to follow his lead.


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