Longtime Friends

American Art Collector, 1 May 2021

Lisa Esherick and Deanna Forbes bring new solo shows to SHOG Gallery in California.


When Lisa Esherick and Deanna Forbes talk about how they first met each other as young up-and-coming artists in California, the discussion eventually turns toward their art educations, which took place concurrently at the San Francisco Art Institute. “We had the same teachers, including some really great teachers that were well known,” Forbes says.

“Well known” is an intriguing hook that begs a follow-up question. Who were your teachers? “Richard Diebenkorn, Elmer Bischoff, Frank Lobdell, Jack Jefferson, Manuel Neri and James Weeks,” Forbes says, confirming that “well known” might even be a vast understatement. “I guess you could call Deanna and I third-generation Bay Area Figurative painters. What made their work great is that they had a foot in realism and a foot in abstraction. But that’s where her and I met and we’ve been friends ever since.”

“That’s more than 50 years. We’re both in our 80s, and still very much alive and very much painting,” Esherick adds.

Starting April 29, SHOH Gallery will present two solo shows for the artists at its Gilman Street location in Berkeley, California. Esherick’s show is titled Out of the Window and will feature images inspired by sights out of windows. The series’ origins go back several years to when the artist was hired to paint a work that would eventually go to a collector in Stuttgart, Germany. “Once it was done I took it to Germany and then proceeded to travel around Europe with friends,” Esherick says. “So much of the world can be seen from a window, and I just loved the idea of the window as a theme. Particularly the way the window itself framed the subjects.

Forbes’ show, titled Remembering Water, comes from her visits to Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California. She first visited the park when she was 1 year old, in 1941, and she later worked at the park for three years. “I’m very connected to it, and everything in my work is something that I’ve felt after watching that place for many, many years,” Forbes says. “I love the idea of painting the same place, the same lakes, the same bodies of water. I like water because it twists its way into your brain and challenges me as an artist. Water is constantly moving.”

The two solo shows will remain on view through May 22, and the works should excite new and old collectors alike. “The paintings of Lisa Esherick and Deanna Forbes invite you to contemplate moments. Viewing the works in these two tandem shows, respectively titled Out the Window and Remembering Water, is akin to eavesdropping on old friends sharing a profound and affectionate meditation on place and time. As good friends often do, they harmonize in their commonalities and find vitality in their different styles and perspectives,” says gallery owner Julie McCray. “A stillness and serenity permeate both women’s work. Human figures, if they appear at all, as in Deanna Forbes Manzanita Lake Fisher, are remote and unintrusive. In Lisa Esherick’s series of paintings…the artist has the viewer safely insulated indoors, observing the beauty of nature framed by man-made boundaries, while sunlight fills the space. This body of work is especially poignant after this past year of quarantine and uncertainty.”