Gardens and Growth

Varying views of landscape emerge from the two-person show now at Natalie's Fine Threads. Lucienne Bittl's oil paintings are small, lyrical affairs that address the world of birdhouses, lily ponds and other artifacts in idyllic backyards. She captures the dreamy expanses of nature, barely trodden upon by humans, whether on the Oregon coast or in the French countryside.

Closer to home, in more ways than one, the understated watercolorist Rosemary Takeda displays art about plant life, from the home garden domain (i.e., "Gardening Angel") to a painting of a colorfully outfitted fresh produce stand in Ventura County. Extending that interest further, she also shows affectionate portraits of farm workers in the field, that prominent yet virtually invisible demographic in this region. Takeda also shows one of her vibrant still-life studies.

Another good example of her still-lifes, "Tuscany Kitchen," can be seen over at the Buenaventura Gallery, where the annual Merit Awards show is underway this month. Here, members of the Buenaventura Art Assn. show their work, for judges to ponder and the rest to see.

Highlights include David Starfas' darkly funny and surreal image, "My Magic Box," Nicole Erd's chunky, roughed-up landscapes and Nora Yukon's quasi-ritualistic assemblages. The painting contingent ranges from the tart color harmonies in Ledlie Corse's "Still Life with Peppers and Blue Plate" to Don Day's sepia-toned piece, "Watchman," with its protagonist swallowed up in an industrial labyrinth of pipes and machinery.

* Rosemary Takeda and Lucienne Bittl through Oct. 11 at Natalie's Fine Threads, 596 E. Main St., Ventura. Gallery hours: 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday-Saturdays, noon-4 p.m., Sundays. (805) 643-8854.

* Merit Awards show, through Sept. 23 at Buenaventura Gallery, 700 E. Santa Clara St., Ventura. Gallery hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesdays-Saturdays. (805) 648-1235.

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