The term "emerging artists" figures prominently in this month's Arts Alive! shows. The phrase is usually ascribed to artists who are beginning to master their craft, and who show promise and devotion to expressing their vision. Imagine a chrysalis opening up to reveal some lovely winged creature -- emerging, moving forward.
An exhibit titled e·las·tic: emerging alumni artists signals the return of shows at Eureka's First Street Gallery after its spring recess. All 28 participants are recent art graduates from Humboldt State University.
"This show of over 130 pieces is evenly divided between painting and sculpture along with three site specific installations and two video presentations representing just about every discipline taught at HSU," said Heather Cruse, one of the participating artists, as she busily helped fellow interns put the finishing touches on mounting the exhibit. "That word ‘elastic' in our title was chosen because it well describes the qualities emerging artists exemplify; a capacity for change, not rigid or constricted, and certainly flexible and receptive to new ideas," she added. New ideas abound in Heather Cruse's videos, Courtney Cross' paintings, Malia Penhall's embroidery, and in the work of the multi talented Justin Skillstad (known for his prints) here presenting sculptures.
Viewing the works of artists at this important juncture in their careers is a favorite gallery experience. And (ahem!) it is a well-documented fact that many art collectors take special pride in having acquired works early in the careers of their favorite artists (hint, hint). The show promises to be a tribute to the excellent career preparation by the 24-member staff of HSU's distinguished Art Department and the Museum and Gallery Practices Program. A public reception for the artists takes place 6-9 p.m., Saturday, July 2, during Eureka's Arts Alive!
Two artists, Phyllis Barba and Matthew Ananda Oliveri reemerge with new work and have individual shows at Piante Gallery. Matthew and Phyllis are the owners of the former Accident Gallery, an important institution that contributed so much to Eureka's art scene.
Having run a gallery, both artists are keenly aware of the importance to emerging artists, of all ages, to have access to venues that make room for budding ideas and support the display of an artist's formative practices rather than only acknowledging perfected "finished" works as worthy of being viewed.
They recently scaled down that enterprise at 210 C St. with The Works taking over most of the space leaving Accident tucked in a corner as a full-of-surprises boutique and art supply shop. Freed from the routine of putting on monthly exhibits, the couple has been able to devote time to family and art making. This show is their first exhibit of new work since all the life changes.
"We're calling the show The Alchemist & Other Tales, as both of us, independently, found ourselves exploring how to depict transformative change and incorporate narrative into our work," said Matthew.
Phyllis Barba's predominantly black and white drawings have garnered many admirers for their effortless lines contrasted with emphatic placement of tone and wash. Her new work brings more of her subtle use of mixed media into play.
"In these new pieces, I pull on inspiration from my love of textile art, geometry, and plant forms. By putting select objects into my drawings of people, I'm carefully constructing a kind of back-story, a tale, that weaves these portraits into portrayals," Phyllis explained.
"I've always had a fascination with sci-fi writing about the near future," said Matthew, expressing his approach to storytelling and change. "A powerful fusing of thoughts about what's going on in the world now, and trying to visualize transformative solutions for the near future, lead me to a new appreciation of the word alchemy and its Arabic root alkimiya -- the art of transmuting metals."
Matthew, who often exhibits using his middle name Ananda, has proven his ability to create beautiful thought-provoking art in many media and styles that blend abstraction and realism. "My works in this show have evolved much like an alchemical transformation as I've turned to ever more modern materials -- Plexiglas, art-grade spray paints, and the use of a computer -- to deal with very complex shapes and color separation layers. One of the pieces I'm especially proud of is a portrait of a friend, made of 32 sheets of Plexiglas, a kind of MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or 3-D painting," enthused Matthew.
My pronouncement that this show could be called The Underground Meets the Elite was greeted with a groan by Matthew. "I don't want to be underground in any sense of the word. I think emerging artists, certainly those of my generation, no longer subscribe to the idea that its OK to be discovered a hundred years later and worth a lot of money after you're dead. Phyllis and I want our work to go out into the world and be part of the exciting transformations that are manifesting everywhere, and we want to work and make it happen here in Eureka."
"This opportunity to show at Piante Gallery is just the kind of focus and freedom we need to push our work forward," said Phyllis.
Emerging, re-emerging, pushing ever forward -- with freedom, but with focus -- can't wait to see where they go next.