With headlines and consciousness dominated by the political and economic news of the day, a pair of recent art openings offers apt and timely explorations of a world that’s proving to be smaller than ever before.
In “We Are All In This Together: The Global Financial Crisis and the U.S. Election,” offered at Oxnard College’s McNish Gallery, co-curators Monica Furmanski and Peggy Tranovich unite a chorus of artistic voices to present a surprisingly harmonious tapestry of human frailty and global interdependence. “We use art to stimulate a conversation about issues facing us,” notes art historian Tranovich, who instructs on the subject at Oxnard College. “While we’re experiencing this worldwide sigh of relief with the elections behind us, all the thorny issues remain.”
Although the heavy lifting in the solution of societal woes typically falls to government, social consciousness could play a larger part than many realize, with art serving as a catalyst for new understanding. “Standing in a gallery space,” Tranovich notes, “we have the opportunity to step beyond the well-worn paths of our mind-space, to explore thresholds of new ideas, or to find new contexts to old ideas.” Co-curator Furmanski agrees, “We’re working with artists who want us to look beyond ‘pretty pictures,’ who challenge us to reflect upon our own misconceptions and biases.”
Furmanski, an art professor at Ventura College, deepens that challenge at Ventura’s 643 Project Space, presenting a second political offering with Michelle Onstot’s “Guilty Pleasures.”
In “Guilty Pleasures,” Onstot offers an intimate look at her life and work as it plays out against the backdrop of our two American wars. In her introduction to the show she notes, “In 2003, Iraqi journalist Hassan Ibrahim was asked ‘who is going to stop this war?’ He answered, ‘I have absolute confidence in the American Constitution, absolute confidence in the ability of the American people.’ ” Onstot was galvanized by Ibrahaim’s statement, and explores without judgment the wisdom of his faith through a series of personal portraits and observations on spending and lifestyle.
“I think art’s ability to reach people is maximized when it makes very personal statements,” the artist notes. Rather than stand in judgment of American lifestyles in general, she offers her own life as a template for self-exploration, showing, for example, that she consumed 1,198 gallons of gas in the first half of this year. “I don’t know what 1,198 gallons of gas looks like,” she offers, “but I know exactly what my morning cup of tea looks like. I’d need 19,172 cups of tea to hold that much gas.” As with her other explorations of personal consumption in the show, she compares the cost of all that gas ($3,982) against her donations, in this case, to New American Dream ($0.00).
“Hassan Ibrahim is still waiting for me to do something,” she concludes. “I went to the beach today.”
E-mail James Scolari at email@example.com.
“We’re All In This Together,” through Nov. 28 at the McNish Gallery, Oxnard College, 400 S. Rose Ave. 986-5800, ext. 1929. “Guilty Pleasures,” through Nov. 29 at 643 Project Space, 643 Ventura Ave. 320-7279.