On Exhibit

On Exhibit

 

Just as medical schools have partnerships with teaching hospitals, art schools can have teaching galleries. In a bungalow tucked back in the southwest corner of the Oxnard College campus, the McNish Gallery hosts shows of contemporary art that enrich the curriculum of the college’s excellent art department. Artist and educator Christine Mora teaches advanced art courses, serves as chair of the art department, and is the director of the McNish.

When asked what sorts of lessons the gallery exhibits offer, Morla said that the possibilities are twofold. The first area is technique: form, composition and various media. Students also have access to diverse cultural statements, particularly nontraditional expression and attitudes. In addition, students have the opportunity to work alongside the artists in designing and hanging the shows.

The current show, Butter and Bone, features the work of artist Sandra Low. Much of Low’s work features food, particularly food that was popular in the 1950s — food that is not likely to whet the viewer’s appetite. To the contrary, a mild feeling of revulsion is evoked by the mounds of melting butter, the greasy piles of spaghetti, lasagna or pancakes. One series of paintings titled “Classy Living” combines familiar, although not appetizing food items with ambiguous structures that might be houses or might be blocks or then again might just be geometric shapes. One has a dollop of melting ice cream dripping down the sides of a house, or then again perhaps it is a piece of cake. Another in this series, “Jiffy pop,” has a strange round shape emerging from a pan (or perhaps a house) with a few kernels of popped corn at the bottom.

In several of the large paintings, figures or objects are clearly depicted in outline but they are covered with melting butter or cheese. One canvas features a football helmet drenched in the greasy goo with the words Hustle Down in large squared-off letters behind the helmet. Another (pictured) depicts a prone sharpshooter, completely covered in something yellow oozing over the entire figure. Behind the figure the word Morass appears above with its reflection below. These images are disturbing, as are those in a series of drawings titled “Casing.” The casings are wrapped bodies and the whimsical things happening to a body, such as being the foundation for sushi, are not what would be expected. Low said that the “Casing” series is her reaction to the seemingly constant stories of mass deaths in hurricanes, earthquakes, revolutions, genocide. We have become inured to seeing wrapped bodies.

“I like being inappropriate,” says Low. “I use collage and parody to pick at the absurdities of living in a consumer society. Humor, pop surrealism and social commentary are consistent threads in my paintings and drawings.” She mentioned that her choice of color, like the varieties of food depicted, echoes the art of the ’60s and ’70s. She has a good idea of the palette she will use before beginning a painting, but may change her idea as a work progresses. When asked about the advice she would give to students, Low said, “If you make art, you should say something worth saying, and it’s all right to have fun.”

Sandra Low’s work typifies the excellence of the three exhibits by contemporary artists that Oxnard College’s McNish Gallery hosts each semester in addition to the one juried show of student art that is presented. These exhibits are not only major teaching events, but also valuable contributions to the cultural life of the community.


Butter and Bone through Oct. 29 at McNish Gallery, Oxnard College Campus, 4000 S. Rose Ave., Oxnard. For more information, visit oxnardcollegeart.wordpress.com.

 

On Exhibit

On Exhibit

There’s an oxymoron, maybe more than one, inherent in the title of the Carnegie Art Museum’s current exhibition Subjective Truths: Contemporary Realism Revealing Universal Truths through Subjective Perspectives. The works exhibited reflect contrasting ideas and demonstrate that logical inconsistencies can produce strikingly effective visual experiences. “Realism,” for example, would by definition exclude surrealism, yet some of the most effective and thought-provoking “subjective truths” produced paintings that are clearly surrealistic.

Alexandra Manukyan’s large canvas, “Pearl Rehabilitation Colony for Ungrateful Daughters,” depicts two girls in red costumes facing off at some distance from each other on ice skates, wielding sabers under the slightly sadistic smile of a great white stone Buddha. Clearly Manukyan’s take on realism is representational.

A more subtle surrealism is demonstrated in Elizabeth McGhee’s Mythica series. McGhee’s paintings at first seem to be conventional portraits, but closer inspection reveals commentary on ancient myths. Rhea appears to be a depiction of an obese young mother holding a baby and a baby bottle. But the baby is a stone swaddled in a blanket, and the bottle is crystal clear and empty. Most curious are the wing-shaped geodes behind the apprehensive goddess as she waits to see whether her child-devouring consort, Cronos, will swallow the stone in lieu of the hidden baby Zeus.

The Carnegie’s director, Suzanne Bellah, organized this show in partnership with The Representational Art Conference (TRAC2015), hosted by the Arts Initiative of California Lutheran University. Bellah said she did not set out to make the show exclusively represent women artists, “It evolved that way.” She observed that recent representational shows had, naturally enough, included still life and landscape paintings. This exhibit has very few that could be included in those categories.

More than half of the 40 works exhibited are portraits. This is not to say that there is redundancy in these choices. While there are many full-length and three-quarter-length portraits, they do not simply replicate the techniques of old masters. When asked what the viewers would experience, Bellah said, “I think they would find a wonderful example of art being a visual way to stretch your mind.”

Courtney Murphy’s brilliant canvases are more portraits of shimmering satin than of the dancers wearing the bright green or red skirts. Only brief glimpses of ankles and feet indicate a human subject. In “Cascade,” (pictured) the crimson tiers of fabric belong to a seated woman whose hands are also seen but nothing else of the figure above the knees. Other partial portraits are from Bobbie Moline-Kramer’s Face to Face series where not even the entire faces are shown. The features do not include chins, barely reach the hairline and include only one side of the face. The portraits focus on emotions such as the hint of resentment on the face of a young woman or the intense sorrow of a mature woman whose tear leaves a long streak of mascara down her cheek.

The works representing other than human subjects are strikingly diverse. Terry Arena’s “Chives” is drawn in graphite on a cut out plate, and “Bees” on the bottom of a cookie tin. They are so delicate and detailed that magnifying lenses have been provided. At the other extreme are Karen Kitchel’s three very large paintings of bent brown grasses. Kitchel will present an Artist Gallery Talk on Nov. 5 at 6:30 p.m.

The 19 women whose works are currently on exhibit at the Carnegie go beyond arresting imagery to present sharply realized statements about reality. Equally meaningful, McGhee’s mythic subjects reveal intense human experiences at the core of these ancient stories about gods. The images in this exhibit are both visually stunning and intellectually significant. It is not to be missed.


Subjective Truths through Nov. 22 at the Carnegie Art Gallery, 424 S. C St. in Oxnard. For more information visit www.carnegieam.org.

 

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