This is a response by Greer Upton to "Sacred Darkness:Sculptural Fabrications of Story and Place", a show by John Watrous at Santa Rosa Junior College Art Gallery in Sonoma County, California.

"As the viewer enters the space it is extremely dark, forcing one to assess their surroundings and reassess their senses. One thinks, "am I safe?" Immediately one faces a twelve foot high red fabric panel, bordered with yellow, that sets a Bhuddist or liturgical tone. Above your head are vast amounts of gathered, clear plastic sheeting that rhythmically sway to a creaking sound as a faint breeze glides across your head. A few tiny, yellow lights gently moving with the plastic, a crinkly motion flickering to reveal large, metal geometric collages of copper and tread metal.

Next you pass through an opening into an even darker and larger space (40' by 40') to witness a room that exudes the feeling of a dramatic fantasy anthropological -religious artifacts museum . In the center behind a communion rail lies a large, beautiful, mechanical installation piece (20' long) that is an homage to a rowing scull. It is set off by red volcanic-like lights that seem to convey a landing strip.

Suddenly a mechanical sound clicks on and the scull comes to life slowly moving forward and backward while hovering over a waving black ocean that comes to rest on a shore of white crushed rocks. As the scull comes to a temporary quiet rest, one becomes aware of strange sounds ....whales? popcorn? ghosts? (actually it's VLF recordings of lightening). Now that your eyes are beginning to adjust to the darkness ,you see that on either side of this nautical machine are rows of well crafted sculptures on display, under sci-fi floating lights. And finally you realize that you are the spectator, present inside a spacious theatrical installation."

John Watrous is a long time instructor (28 years) at the college, teaching 3 dimensional design and computers in the Art Department . Watrous comes from a science background thus his fearless use of technology blended with fine craftsmanship create personal intriguing pieces. The show includes several site specific sculptures that become monuments related to his travels, i.e. (Monte Alban, Mexico and the North woods of Wisconson).

All of the lighting for the show was designed and built by Watrous using light emitting diodes (LED's), perhaps the first gallery show anywhere using these new devices. In light of the current California power shortages it is interesting to note that the show can be entirely powered by battery and consumes less than 15 watts of power.

See the show online at
Read a review by the local paper at:

Sacred Darkness:
Sculptural Fabrications of Story and Place
Feb 1st to Mar 15, 2001
Santa Rosa Junior College Art Gallery
Artist Biography John Watrous

John Watrous plays in the field of art and technology. He is comfortable dancing on the cutting edge of art and technical research, experimenting with site specific work and real time remote sensing. His current one man sculpture show at S.R.J.C., Sacred Darkness, is a reflection of his interest in science and the unseen.

He has been on the art faculty at Santa Rosa Junior College for 28 years where he teaches three dimensional design and computer art. He has an M.A. in sculpture and received an A.A. degree from Santa Rosa Junior College.

Besides being very active as a Boy Scout, when John was eleven years old he got his ham radio license and participated in international contests. John has returned to ham radio after a 30 years absence, again winning esoteric contests. The 'ether' and 'unseen' qualities of radio influence his sculpture.

After spending time in Wyoming as a cowboy, John attended U. C. Berkeley as a science major until he was drafted. He served in the Air Force as a electo-mechanical technician. Returning to school in 1969, he attended S.R.J.C. changing his focus to an art major while helping his parents build a home in Gualala. From S.R.J.C. he transferred to Humboldt State University and then to New Mexico Highlands University. He returned to S.R.J.C. as an art teacher and gallery director. John has been working with computers on and off since 1964. In 1983 in began using computers in his art classes and he initiated the first all online class at S.R.J.C. in 1996. He was the art department chair for 7 years.

John has been the judge for several art shows. He has also received awards from Celebrate Sonoma for teaching and from the city of Santa Rosa. He was represented by the Gallery of Functional Art in Los Angeles, where he showed furniture and lighting pieces.

He spent part of his sabbatical leave in Turkey in 1998, to experience Muslim culture and architecture. His travels and experiences are reflected in his sculpture and sound recordings.