Nathanael Gray

From The delta to the sea  |  on view July 2 – August 4, 2022

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From The delta to the sea

A droplet of water hangs in the clouds above the Sacramento Delta. The droplet falls on an orchard and its journey begins. It drains to a slough, merges with the river, widens into the Suisun Bay, the San Pablo Bay, the San Francisco Bay, and tumbles into the Pacific Ocean. It washes on the shore, then surges out to the deep toward the horizon, into a great expanse.

10,000 years ago, what we now call the Sacramento River did not flow into a bay. It remained a river, flowing through a deep canyon reaching the Pacific Ocean where the Farallon Islands are today. Traveling along the delta toward the ocean is both a spatial journey, and a journey through time. Each transition in the landscape signifies a different passage. The Bay was once not a bay, the edge of the ocean was once an inland forest, sand was solid rock. Water flowing, second after second, minute by minute, day by day, year after year.

Each water droplet makes little impact on the landscape, but the accumulation forms an estuary that sustains life. It is a rest stop for migratory birds, spawning ground for fish, even the mud heaves and contracts with millions of living organisms.

As I stand at the edge of the ocean painting, the Farallon islands are a faint speck on the horizon, thirty miles out to sea. I consider that my life has parallels with each individual droplet of water. I only take one trip down the river. While by some accounts I am still a young man, to my astonishment I am approaching middle age, and this landscape will change very little in my lifetime. On a geologic scale my time here is a moment. Like a single droplet, I make no discernible impact, but as water carves rock, the ocean moves.

Birds hover over the bay, fish swim upstream, an artist paints, and water flows from the delta to the sea. These paintings are my sediment deposit along the banks before I plunge into the deep toward a horizon that I cannot see past, into a great expanse.  

Nathanael Gray, June 2022

Meet The Artist
Please join us
Saturday, July 9th from 1:00 – 3:30 PM
to meet Nathanael and view the exhibition!

No RSVP required

Artist Biography

After strenuous treks on mountainous trails and deserted beaches, Gray sets up his easel as the sun is setting, capturing the fleeting golden moment of light drenching the landscape. Working quickly, he applies thick amounts of oil paint onto the canvas using a large palette knife in order to create paintings that are textured and tactile. Painting on location allows the natural elements like gentle breezes, the moisture of the fog and the birds singing to add to his impression of the place. Gray hopes to capture the feeling of an existing landscape rather than an accurate detailed rendition.

Gray was born in Anderson, Indiana and began painting at the age of 12. He began exploring his natural surroundings by painting on location with his family who were supportive of his desire to create and document. His first studio was a tiny room in the garage of his parent’s home which he says he still misses today. Gray later went on to receive his bachelor’s degree in painting from Indiana Wesleyan University. His first solo exhibition during college was at the Columbia Club in Indianapolis, Indiana and before graduation he had another successful solo show at the same location. To better understand the landscape, he went back to school to get his masters in landscape architecture from Ball State University in 2012. This provided him a deeper understanding of the landscape and its infrastructure and natural systems.

During his years in Indiana, Gray searched for abstraction in the landscape and often painted man-made structures in the environment like dams, gravel pits and landfills. This enabled him to study the breakdown of composition into simple abstract elements offering the viewer beauty in the most unlikely places.

Upon moving to the California Bay area in 2015 and discovering the array of terrains in his new environment, Gray went back to his roots and began painting plein air again. His series of paintings are about first impressions of his new environment while surrounded by the landscape he loves.

More Available Work

Painting FAQ

All paintings must remain at the gallery through the duration of the exhibition (August 4th).
Paintings are signed, framed when noted, have finished edges, are wired and ready to hang.


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