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Open Studios art exhibit opens minds

Sometimes art can be found in the most unlikely places — like the inside of your garbage can.

The Open Studios Exhibition that took place on Sunday evening inside the Fine Arts buildings on campus encompassed a broad cross-section of art from 29 Cal State Long Beach graduate art students. The showcase highlighted each artist’s best work, from paintings to photography and 4-D displays. The exhibit brought visitors into the artists’ unique, behind-the-scenes working environments.

The six-piece photography series by Julie Williams made a bold statement about finding art in carelessly tossed trash. Williams hoped the public would take note of the transformation of recognizable garbage into abstract beauty.

Her artist statement given on the Open Studios Web site explains, “The splatters on the sides of the [art] can reveal the history of labor and life as paint, dirt, food and debris are moved in and back out of the can in a weekly rhythm of wear and tear.”

When initially viewed, the garbage can was hardly visible. Instead, it seemed as though paint had purposely been splattered across a canvas using deliberate motions. Certainly, as Williams would like, the reality of the pictures caused viewers to reflect upon what American culture truly values.

Art took a different form for someone like Lydia Tjioe Hall. In the center of her workplace hung a giant cone with a large handful of straight pins gathered in the center or casually dangling from sporadic places along the cone’s edge. However, it was the process that took place prior to the cone’s current state that made the piece special. Hall first froze the pins in a block of black ice before letting the 13-hour process of melting begin. As it melted, the water bore a hole into a pile of salt arranged underneath the cone.

Hall explained her inspiration for the piece by saying, “I am interested in the passage of time and documenting the changes.”
She further explained that people are rarely aware of the time they spend each day and that it is not until something big shakes their lives up that we take notice.

Some of the pieces, like Hall’s, proved to be better with a bit of explanation, but the criticism from viewers was more likely to be given to the art left unattended by its creator.

From a distance, fiber artist Connie Lane’s display painted an eerie and almost disturbing picture of animals strung in the style of a slaughter house wall. Upon further inspection, the “dead animals” were actually pillows dyed and tied as if they were actual HoneyBaked Hams.

Opposite that wall was another wall lined with stark white pillows, similar in appearance to an insane asylum. On one pillow, more than 100 Chinese fortune displayed messages like, “You need not worry about your future.”

As a whole, Lane’s attention to detail caused her piece to stand out from her peers, but the piece may have made an even bigger impact had she been present to provide her creative mindset. Instead, the piece was left open to interpretation.

Visual artist Shaden Mousa created a realistic bedroom that, once inside, provided the sensation of being directly transported to Egypt. A spray-painted gold remote control aside a bowl of fake fruit provided simple details that accompanied lampshades adorned with paper leaves and a bed outfitted in golden sheets. A poster of Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra hung on the wall while the most impressive pieces remained in the corner. Two hand-crafted busts of women decked out in traditional Egyptian garb sat on Mousa’s work desk. The intricate details on the women’s faces exemplified a sense of the artist’s understating of life-like sculpting.

Some used their pieces as a means to express themselves while others wanted to take a stand against political injustice. According to her statement online, Alyce Haliday McQueen’s photographs of women’s legs alongside colorful cars meant to prove her point that “there are no longer distinctions between the warm flesh of the women’s bodies and the cool metal of the cars. They lose their identities as they are viewed as one continuous surface that is defined by visual and tactile qualities.”

The proof was in the pudding, so to speak, when the amount of labor and working hours were taken into consideration.

In essence, visitors needed to step into the exhibition with an open mind and wild imagination in order to leave with a feeling of fulfillment, which is exactly what many viewers did.

 

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