When you walk into the historic Carnegie Art Museum in downtown Oxnard, you’ll be immediately captivated by the vibrant bursts of energy coming from a large installation piece that’s currently on display by interdisciplinary artist and arts educator Christine Morla. It’s a refreshing approach to the museum’s classic exterior and interior setting. The piece, titled “Refraction,” is made of hundreds of individual weavings that were made by Morla over the past 15 years, and is her largest piece to date. The installation’s strategic and delicate placement creates a 2-D experience for the viewer. Morla says she has taken this approach to give the viewer the chance to enter the piece in a physical manner.
In addition to the two large installation pieces, Morla’s exhibition entitled “Kaleidoscopic Gaze” includes eight paintings on wood panels. Six of the eight pieces are works created this year with a grant awarded by the city of Oxnard’s cultural arts committee. The remaining two pieces were made in 2009 and 2010, and consist of hundreds of paper shreds woven together into geometric and floral shapes, which are then adhered to a wood panel to create a large work. The resulting layered images are a personal narrative of Morla’s Filipino heritage.
Born and raised in Oxnard, Morla has woven her identity and the love she has for her community into her work, the layers of crafted micro-weavings and circular starbursts each constructed of recycled paper and color swatches as well as discarded wrappers from discarded Filipino snack foods. According to Morla, “I’ve intentionally cut the paper so that there’s specific text on the pieces, so when people look at it from a closer point of view there is also an element of poetry and a play on words in the art. You have to travel with the work as you view it.”
By using discarded materials, Morla offers an implicit critique of how we casually dispose of “waste” in our society by creating beauty out of so-called trash. Another possible interpretation of her calculated palette choice relates to Oxnard’s diverse cultural landscape, environment and history. The piece “Overcast” has an obvious association to the city of Oxnard, especially during this time of year. In addition to the weather, however, Morla asserts that when you examine the color palette, it can reflect everyday life. The shades of gray in this specific piece are quite heavy, which Morla suggests can relate to day-to-day stresses. The piece “Pink Sky over Strawberry Fields” examines the city’s agricultural history; this specific piece is definitely one of the most enthralling works in the “Kaleidoscopic Gaze” collection.
“Weaving was passed on to me by my father, who was a weaver in the Philippines. My work is in homage to him. He taught me to use the process as a means for meditation and cultural representation.”
“Kaleidoscopic Gaze” is currently on exhibit in conjunction with “Diffusion: Paintings of Blinding Light by Kevin Short.” A surfer raised in Goleta, Shorts collection of oil paintings depict the disorienting and beautiful effects of sunlight on ocean breaks and beaches.
“Kaleidoscopic Gaze” at the Carnegie Art Museum through Aug. 18. Artist Talk with Christine Morla, Aug. 1. For more information, visit carnegieam.org.