In early 2007, Sullivan Goss acquired 32 oil and watercolor paintings by Orpha Mae Klinker (1891-1964). The paintings came from a single collector and all of them featured the historic structures of early California. They were all part of her famous series “the Landmarks of California.” The gallery began planning an exhibition immediately. As Gallery owner Frank Goss and curator Susan Bush contemplated the exhibition, they realized that something was missing: context. Thus began the search for a photographer to document these structures – or their sites – as they exist today. They found a natural in celebrated local photographer Bill Dewey.
Dewey had a lot of experience documenting structures, having completed projects for the California Missions, the National Parks, California’s State Park system and historical foundations and societies from the desert to the sea. He studied at UC Davis, the Rochester Institute of Technology and Santa Barbara’s Brooks Institute. He is also a fourth generation Californio with a native interest in historic preservation.
Klinker got a solid education in the arts from Laguna Art Colony founder, Anna Hills, as well as from famed desert landscape painter Paul Lauritz. She also studied at the Académies Julian and Colarossi. Her family built the Klinker building in downtown Los Angeles, one of its ﬁrst skyscrapers. As a woman of wealth, she was expected to contribute signiﬁcantly to society. She found her mission in historic preservation, painting this important series “The Landmarks of California” – most of which was published in the Los Angeles
Times. After completing the series between 1929 and 1939, Klinker lectured with these paintings around the State in an effort to support the nascent California Historic Landmark Registration Program.
This exhibition examines the history of California as told through images and stories of its historic adobes. On a more abstract level, the show also deals with art’s documenatry function. Dewey and Klinker approached documentation from distinct vantage points. By making oil paintings, she signiﬁed the importance of the place and helped to communicate the feeling of being at these sites. By taking photographs, he packed each image with precise information.
Ultimately, both notions speak to the value of historic preservation – an issue about which both artists are passionate.