See Works of Helen Mirra and Sean Thackrey at BAMPFA

Marin County inspires Mirra’s spare, abstract woven works, and Thackery is a photographer who makes “objects of contemplation.”


Thackrey’s San Michele I.

Photo courtesy BAMPFA

Zen Buddhism is described by the sages at Wikipedia as emphasizing “rigorous self-control, meditation-practice, insight into the nature of things and the personal expression of this insight in daily life, especially for the benefit of others ... it de-emphasizes mere knowledge of sutras and doctrine and favors direct understanding through spiritual practice and interaction with an accomplished teacher.”

Zen, with its Taoist bent, has influenced contemporary Western abstract art since the Beats. No Horizon: Helen Mirra and Sean Thackrey presents two North Bay artists working within this philosophical tradition.

Sean Thackrey — at whose Thackrey & Robertson Gallery on Union Street I saw William Blake’s Job engravings in the late ’70s — is a photographer who makes “objects of contemplation” that are limitless, or without horizon, to cite the title of a series of works made in collaboration with composer John Cage, also influenced by Zen. Shown in this exhibit are photographs made over the past two years of the stones of Venice, memorialized in print by that earnest Victorian John Ruskin, and in snapshots by countless later cultural pilgrims. The frontal photos (San Michele I, Cannareggio V.3) are affixed to wooden panels fabricated to highlight the subtle beauty of each limestone slab (probably Venetian hotels), each one a quiet, intimate universe.

If Venice inspires Thackrey’s minimalist photographs, the geography of Marin County inspires Mirra’s spare, abstract woven works in linen, silk, and wool. The artist does not represent the landscape, but rather her memories of time (March-April 2018, September, 2018) and place (121 May, Overlook—Green Gulch—Redwood Creek—Heather Cutoff). If the landscapes are not readily identifiable, the interplay of color and texture may evoke the state of being in nature to those familiar with and sensitive to the natural world and the genius loci, the spirit of place. A poetry reading by Lyn Hejinian and Frances Richard takes place on Friday, Aug. 23, at noon. No Horizon runs through Aug. 25, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, 2155 Center St., Berkeley, 510-642-0808,

This article originally appeared in our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.

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