‘Vistas, Varmints and Vagabonds: The PAC6 Paints the Wild West’ Opens July 31 at the Santa Paula Art Museum

The PAC6 Painters — Linda Brown, Marian Fortunati, Nita Harper, Debra Holladay, Laura Wambsgans and Sharon Weaver — take on an old West look in Virginia City, California. Their exhibit, "Vistas, Varmints and Vagabonds: The PAC6 Paints the Wild West,” is scheduled to open Saturday at the Santa Paula Art Museum. Courtesy photo

The PAC6 Painters return to the Santa Paula Art Museum this summer with their second major exhibition. “Vistas, Varmints and Vagabonds: The PAC6 Paints the Wild West” is scheduled to open Saturday and be on view through Nov. 7.  

“Heading for the High Country” by Linda Brown, Oil on linen panel, 20 x 30 inches. Courtesy photo

The artists will be on hand for an opening reception on Sunday, Aug. 1, from 3 to 5 p.m. Admission to the reception is $10 for SPAM members and $15 for non-members. All of the 81 artworks in the exhibition will be available for purchase. The exhibit will also be available to view online at www.santapaulaartmuseum.org beginning July 31. 

“A California Morning” by Marian Fortunati, Oil on linen panel, 14 x 11 inches. Courtesy photo

PAC6 is a group of six women artists from Southern California who joined together in 2014 to travel and paint en plein air across the country. They are Linda Brown, Marian Fortunati, Nita Harper, Debra Holladay, Laura Wambsgans and Sharon Weaver. While the six artists paint side-by-side during their expeditions, each artist renders the location and subject matter in her own distinct style.  

“Wild West Show” by Nita Harper, Oil on panel, 16 x 12 inches. Courtesy photo

“We thrive on our differences,” says Fortunati.  

“We push each other’s abilities,” adds Weaver.  

The variety and volume of works that result from the group’s travels have resulted in two museum-caliber shows. “Between Heaven and Earth: The PAC6 Paints the Sierras” was exhibited at the Santa Paula Art Museum in 2017. 

“Searching for the Mother Lode” by Debra Holladay, Oil on panel, 12 x 16 inches. Courtesy photo

In “Vistas, Varmints and Vagabonds,” the PAC6 Painters explore the American West, painting its classic scenery, colorful characters, historic happenings, and all the things that make it a uniquely special time and place in history. The show’s initial muse was the author Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain), more specifically his 1872 travelogue entitled “Roughing It.” The group was not only looking for new places to paint in the Western landscape, but they also wanted their collection of paintings to tell a story about what life was like in the American West. Following in Clemens’ footsteps, the PAC6 painted locations including Lake Tahoe and Angel’s Camp in California, and Virginia City, Nevada before the COVID pandemic forced the six women to reimagine their mission. 

“Engine 29” by Laura Wambsgans, Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches. Courtesy photo

Stay-at-home orders meant that the artists were no longer able to travel, nor work alongside each other. The group decided to move forward by referencing some of their past pilgrimages and by performing their own historical research to round out the exhibit’s content. The show now includes scenes in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and Montana. Isolation afforded a few practical advantages: the artists had much more time to reflect on their works in progress and, therefore, more time to make thoughtful edits and additions. It was also an opportunity to experiment with new techniques. All six artists agree that their new exhibition has been made stronger by the challenges it faced. 

“Leave the Light On” by Sharon Weaver, Oil and gold leaf on canvas, 24 x 30 inches. Courtesy photo

The Santa Paula Art Museum occupies two historic buildings located at 117 N 10th St. and 123 N 10th St. in downtown Santa Paula. The museum features rotating exhibitions of vintage and contemporary art, art classes for children and adults, creative community events, a well-curated gift shop and more. Visit Wednesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $4 for adults, $3 for seniors, and free for students and members. To contact the museum, call 805-525-5554, or email [email protected]

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