Thursday, March 3, 2016

Library exhibit captures Benicia's waterfront

(Originally published in the 3/3/16 edition)

   “When you’re alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go downtown.”
   Tony Hatch might not have had Benicia in mind when he wrote Petula Clark’s biggest hit, but his words are definitely applicable. As citizens become bogged down in the bad news of the world and the implications of the presidential election, they can find solace in walking down First Street and beyond.
   Or as Mernie Buchanan and Nancy Freeman put it in the title of their newest exhibit at the Benicia Public Library, “Let’s go for a walk.” 
   For the next four weeks, visitors of the Marilyn Citron O’Rourke Art Gallery will be treated to paintings by the two artists that capture the lighthearted essence of Benicia’s waterfront. Buchanan says the exhibit was inspired by her chihuahua Faun.
   “In the two years since I’ve had this little dog, I’ve been forced to get out and walk twice a day,” she said. “I’m usually a hermit in my studio.”
   In that time, Buchanan has gotten to know her neighbors and see a different perspective on the town she has been painting in for 28 years. 
   “I have met more of my neighbors walking along the trails on the waterfront and seeing everybody else with their dogs,” she said. “It’s so bright and pretty and friendly.” 
   Last summer, Buchanan began doing paintings of scenes along the waterfront and figured it would make for a good library show. Having done three prior solo exhibits at the library, which she said take a lot of work to fill the gallery’s space, she decided she would recruit another local artist and settled on Freeman.
   “I love Nancy’s style,” she said. “She’s got a unique way of painting very sophisticated paintings in sort of a primitive, fun way. You never get bored looking at her work.”
   Buchanan approached Freeman with the possibility of the two of them doing an exhibit at the library.
   “Boy, that would be a project for the winter,” Freeman responded. 
   After the idea was accepted by the library, the two spent months capturing scenes of Benicia with their paintbrushes, and Buchanan was thrilled with the results. 
   “We painted all winter, and it turned out to be just beautiful,” she said. “It’s better than I even imagined.” 
   The two painted scenes as varied as the Thursday farmers market, the marina and lots and lots of dogs. The largest painting in the gallery is Buchanan’s “Dog Friendly,” which has various dogs and their owners by the First Street shops.
   “it’s the first one I did in this series just to see if I could do this huge painting capturing the feel of how dog friendly this town is,” she said. “They’re all really friendly with each other- both the people and the dogs.” 
   Buchanan says she hopes the exhibit will inspire people to explore their town more.
   “Even if you don’t have a dog, get out there and walk along the trials,” she said. “Just open your eyes to what a blessing we have with all these beautiful trails along the waterfront. Pretty much the title says it: ‘Let’s go for a walk.’”
   “Let’s Go For a Walk” will be on display through Saturday, March 26 in the library’s Dona Benicia Room, located at 150 East L St. A reception will be held from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 19 where patrons will view the art, enjoy treats and light refreshments and meet the artists. For more information, visit 

"First Street Thursday Evening" by Mernie Buchanan

"Dog Friendly" by Mernie Buchanan

"Buoys and Gulls" by Nancy Freeman

"12th Street Gang" by Nancy Freeman



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