Émile Zola, the novelist and amateur photographer, said, "A work of art is a corner of creation seen through a temperament." Two current group shows take approaches to the natural world that manifest both individual temperament and the eclectic temper of our time's art discourse.In San Pablo's Beyond Nature, photographers Joan Bobkoff, Dimeng Brehmer, and Kristen Satzman seek and find poetry, lyricism, and even transcendence in solitude. Bobkoff's interest in cosmology and mysticism finds expression in her semi-abstract photos of glass as metaphor for water, and perhaps a metaphor for our psychic states, too ("The Other Tree," "DNA," "Reptile," "Red Sphere"). Brehmer's Asian calligraphic heritage is revealed in her meditative long-exposure landscape studies on printing and Japanese rice papers, and on small silk banners ("Abide," "Breath," "Solitude," "Suburban Lights," Floating Leaves"). Satzman seeks "the sense of spirit found in sacred places [like] ... churches, temples, graveyards and gardens" with a humble plastic Holga camera, utilizing its effects, or defects, to create traditional silver prints with an elegiac 19th-century feel ("Duet," "Sighting," "Dream Pool," "Night Garden"). Beyond Nature runs through November 14 at San Pablo Art Gallery (One Alvarado Sq., 13831 San Pablo Ave., San Pablo). 510-215-3103 or Ci.San-Pablo.ca.us/main/artgallery.htm.
In Intimate Nature in Berkeley, Mari Andrews, Kim Anno/Ricardo Rivera/David Coll, Alicia Escott, Terri Friedman, Judith Selby Lang/Richard Lang, and Zach Pine think both locally and globally instead of metaphysically, examining Berkeley's Live Oak Park and the larger issue of ecological sustainability. Andrews creates post-minimalist sculptures using natural materials ("Propensitus Gravitas," "Hive," Frill"), as does Zach Pine, who photographs the ephemeral sculptures he makes outdoors with available materials ("Noon, Stinson Beach, California. Sand balls on rocks. I know the tide will take them away"). Escott makes conceptual/performance works about endangered wildlife ("Bear Relocation Documentation #2, Inverness CA"), while Friedman makes stylized landscape paintings and some odd recycled-material sculptures ("Subliminal Rapture Rug," "Where Is the Center of Forgiveness?") with no easily discernible relationship to the theme of landscape. Anno/Rivera/Coll's multimedia installation, "Water Mark," projected real-time videos of the nearby Cordonices Creek that viewers could affect via a piano keyboard. Most affecting, however, were the Langs' installations ("Out of Sorts") and giclée prints ("Known Quantity — Combs," "Known Quantity — Tiparillo Tips") of detritus culled from Kehoe Beach and sorted, as well as their tangled-fishing-line Pollock parody digital print, "Full Fathom Five." One word: "Plastics." Intimate Nature runs through November 28 at Berkeley Art Center (1275 Walnut St., Berkeley). 510-644-6893 or BerkeleyArtCenter.org