“Ojai River Bottom” by Gayel Childress.

Gayel Childress, one of the primary artistic forces behind Ojai Studio Artists, will be the featured artist at The Ojai City Gallery and with a companion show at The Ojai Valley Museum March 18 through May 31.

In this exhibit, “Ojai Landscape Through the Eye of the Artist,” Childress showcases her expressive and innovative use of color while combining several media to capture the spirit of Ojai. Her substantial body of work ranges widely from landscape to figurative and from still life to abstract, but always includes a touch of whimsy that gives her work a sense of the mythical.

“I’m not interested in photo realism or an exact reproduction as the public might see the landscape,” said Childress. “I like to think I use my heart to see when painting. I feel shapes, colors, textures, and design. And oftentimes my brush leaves a touch of whimsy when finished.”

Born in Los Angeles, Childress moved to Ojai in 1976. She taught art in the local schools and was later appointed to the City’s Arts Advisory Board, now the City of Ojai Arts Commission. As one of Ojai’s first art activists she co-created the City Gallery, began the acquisition of local art for the City of Ojai’s Municipal Art Collection, and co-initiated an annual Ojai City Art Grant Program that continues to allocate funds for the Arts in Ojai today.

Childress is also a founding member of the Ojai Studio Artists Tour, an annual event spanning over 30 years; and co-founded the Gold Coast Watercolor Society. She received a commendation from the Ventura County Board of Supervisors for “Outstanding Contribution in the Arts in Ventura County” in 1997 and was awarded the Ojai’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999. Childress has received numerous purchase awards from the City of Ventura and Ojai as part of their permanent collections.

The City of Ojai Arts Commission invites the public to join at a reception for the artist March 21, from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in Ojai City Hall Chambers, 401 S. Ventura Street. The exhibit will be open to public viewing during normal City Hall hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and at the Museum Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 4p.m., Sunday noon to 4 p.m. Childress will also be doing hands on demonstrations at The Ojai Valley Museum, 130 W. Ojai Ave. Call the Museum for scheduled dates at 805-640-1390.