Faces of Portola Valley

Post image for Alan McGee’s photographs examine landscape as metaphor

“Beauty and Terror: Landscape as Metaphor” by photographer Alan McGee of Portola Valley is the featured exhibit at Portola Art Gallery (75 Arbor Road) in March. A reception for the artist will be held on Saturday, March 18, from 1:00 – 4:00 pm.

The show features photographs from 35 years of Alan’s explorations on the beaches of the San Mateo coast. He was initially drawn to this stretch of coastline near Pescadero because of the beauty of the landscape, with its eroded sandstone formations.

It was on these beaches, with his 8×10 view camera, that Alan encountered first-hand the photograph as metaphor: “While trudging along the beach with my camera and tripod balanced on my shoulder, I came upon an interesting jellyfish, about eight inches in diameter, lying on the beach. The jellyfish was accompanied by a flow pattern of black sand that contrasted nicely with the beige colored sand of the beach. I set up my view camera and aimed it at my subject.

“I then put my head under the dark cloth, adjusted the tilt of the back of my camera and the focusing knob, bringing the upside down image into focus. Much to my surprise, the camera’s version of the image created a curious creature, enrobed in black, which seemed to be winking at me as it was rising up out of the inverted background. This experience literally took my breath away.”

Over time, explains Alan: “The area beneath my dark cloth became a magical place where I could contemplate the image on the ground glass free of distraction. This became a process of meditation with open eyes, an entree into my unconscious realm. I began to experience the transformation of the natural world into figures of fantasy, many of which were indeed terrifying.”

Beauty and Terror is also the title of Alan’s newest book, published in December 2016. This book is part of Alan’s efforts as a recent octogenarian to create a photographic legacy. His first book, published in 2014, is entitled Rodin Revisited, and is placed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Musee Rodin in Paris, and the Cantor Art Museum at Stanford University. He plans to publish three more books and place them in libraries and museums that will make his work accessible beyond his lifespan.

“Reflections” (11×14″, photograph, 1980) is one of the featured artworks in Alan McGee’s March exhibit, “Beauty and Terror: Landscape as Metaphor,” at the Portola Art Gallery; photo of Alan McGee by Frances Freyberg (c) 2014

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Sculptor Roger Stoller’s giraffe installed at El Paso Zoo

Thumbnail image for Sculptor Roger Stoller’s giraffe installed at El Paso Zoo

When photographer Irene Searles and I visited sculptor Roger Stoller at his home in Ladera last February, he was working on a sculpted giraffe for the El Paso Zoo. Roger let us know that after two years in development, the giraffe is now installed in the African Exhibit and renamed Lmara, the colloquial name for giraffe used by […]

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Jen Ratay leads the Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund in support of nonprofits and social enterprises

Thumbnail image for Jen Ratay leads the Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund in support of nonprofits and social enterprises

An East Coast transplant, Jen Ratay now couldn’t imagine living anywhere else but here. “I deeply love the outdoors, and this area is so beautiful,” said the Ladera resident. “People are passionate and intelligent. And there’s no better place to do social innovation work.” The latter is key as Jen is the Executive Director of the […]

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Spotted: Portola Valley artist Drue Kataoka proclaiming “Now Is the Time” at Hillary fundraiser

Thumbnail image for Spotted: Portola Valley artist Drue Kataoka proclaiming “Now Is the Time” at Hillary fundraiser

Portola Valley artist Drue Kataoka, who graduated from Sacred Heart Prep before attending Stanford, came dressed Wednesday afternoon for a local fundraising lunch for Hillary Clinton as she did at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. She explained:  “I created this  artwork [pointing to her t-shirt)] that celebrates the 240-year journey towards electing our first […]

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A visit to The Hawthorns, a bit of history hiding in plain sight in Portola Valley

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We were in good and knowledgeable hands during a walking tour of The Hawthorns in Portola Valley, thanks to Alex Von Feldt (left in photo above), who is both a town resident as well as Director of Grass Roots Ecology, formerly known as the Acterra Stewardship Program. An engineer by education with a professional background in high tech, […]

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Linda Fornaciari and Di Gow: The forces behind the Ladera Crier

Thumbnail image for Linda Fornaciari and Di Gow: The forces behind the Ladera Crier

Both attorneys by profession — although no longer practicing — Ladera residents Linda Fornaciari (on left) and Di Gow sort of fell into taking over editing and publishing their neighborhood newsletter, the Ladera Crier, five years ago. They’d both moved to Ladera in the 90s. And both were very involved volunteers at Menlo-Atherton High School where their children attended. So, it was […]

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Brian Tetrud draws on family granola recipe when founding Ladera Foods

Thumbnail image for Brian Tetrud draws on family granola recipe when founding Ladera Foods

Brian Tetrud is a Ladera born and raised guy who grew up eating his mother’s homemade granola. So it’s no surprise that he’s named his company Ladera Foods and the first product was granola based on her recipe, now called Almond Pecan Granola. “She still bakes her own granola,” he says. “I made it for roommates […]

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Woodland School student selected to perform at Carnegie Hall

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Alexa Brown, a student at Woodland School in Portola Valley, has been selected for the 2016 Middle School Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall. She will perform as a First Soprano at Carnegie Hall in June 2016 with the Honors Junior Choir. Participation in one of the three Honors Ensembles is limited to the highest-rated […]

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Sculptor Roger Stoller specializes in large works for public and private collections

Thumbnail image for Sculptor Roger Stoller specializes in large works for public and private collections

Roger Stoller had one thought when he graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena with a degree in product design — moving to Silicon Valley. “I’d read Alvin Toffler’s book The Third Wave and thought to myself, ‘If I’m going to be a product designer, it’s going to be in Silicon Valley,’” he […]

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Brian Greenberg gives Tour de Menlo, scheduled for August 22, a big thumbs up

Thumbnail image for Brian Greenberg gives Tour de Menlo, scheduled for August 22, a big thumbs up

Portola Valley resident Brian Greenberg started cycling about eight years ago. “It was way easier on my body than tennis,” he says. He rides everyday, logs 70 to 100 miles a week, and gets a good workout by climbing Old La Honda and Alpine Road frequently. As he’s done a half dozen times before, he’ll […]

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Talking Lyme disease with Linda Giampa of Bay Area Lyme Foundation

Thumbnail image for Talking Lyme disease with Linda Giampa of Bay Area Lyme Foundation

Two misconceptions about Lyme disease were cleared up within minutes of sitting down with Linda Giampa, Executive Director of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation, headquartered in Portola Valley. First, in California, tick season — and by association Lyme disease — is year-round, unlike the Northeast where it is seasonal (May to September). Second, it’s not deer […]

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