The creative process is an elusive thing that most write off as either you get it or you don't. Yet scratch the surface and even the most mysterious artistic decisions are revealed as cogent solutions to deep aesthetic inquiry. Such is the case with these three artists, all of whom currently have art up now in Berkeley.
Jenny Bloomfield makes paintings that invoke the process of darkroom picture-making: the wash of chemicals, the splash of creation, where the image is secondary to the drama of the flowing periphery, almost to an extreme where even subject is negated. "The paintings bring to mind old photographs, and within this emotional common ground the viewer is free to make their own association," she said. "I recognize the 'conversation' is somewhat akin to the experience of meeting someone in your dreams who is a complete stranger, unlike anyone you have ever met before, who surprises you with their ideas, yet presumably you made them up!" Terrain, along with the work of Christel Dillbohner and Danae Mattes, runs through April 1 at the Berkeley Art Center (1275 Walnut St., 510-644-6893, BerkeleyArtCenter.org).
Johnna Arnold produces a wide variety of photographic-based art. Her masterful, meditative compositions dance between well-balanced and almost too well-balanced. She appears to choose three distinct processes to create her photographs. So how does she decide which process to use for each image? "The earliest photos are triptychs in which I enlarged details that I captured along the freeway," said Arnold. "The second group is merged together to unite visual fragments we glimpse as we drive. In my newest work I'm out of the car, putting myself in the frame to show my relationship with these inhospitable, manmade landscapes." Beyond the Lens, along with the works of Marco Breuer and Lothar Osterburg, runs through March 31 at Traywick Contemporary (895 Colusa Ave., 510-527-1214, Traywick.com).
JoAnn Ugolini makes eloquent, small-scale, modernist works of bright color, employing both collage and painting. "My work is always focused on composition — no matter what medium I'm working in," said Ugolini. "When I paint, movement comes through brush strokes and abstract shapes gather and are interrupted. When I work with collage, the tearing away of paper takes the place of the brush stroke." In Piazza, at Barbara Anderson Gallery (2243 Fifth St., 510-848-3822, BarbaraAndersonGallery.com), runs through April 14.