Artist: Helen Werner Cox
Exhibition: Silent Screams
Media: Oil pastel, water colors, crayons, markers, Wood
Gallery: Max L. Gatov Gallery West
Helen Werner COx is currently a grad student in her last year at CSULB. She will be receiving her MFA in Drawing and Painting. Unlike most of the artists that I have met this year, Helen hails from New York somewhere outside of Ithaca, NY. She left to study art in Massachusetts and then went to teach art in middle and high schools for 30 years. She has held a job in education for decades as a teacher and a librarian but it never stopped her from being creative and pursuing her dreams.
The lines in her work are rounded. No doubt that this stems from her notion that “Society is trapped in a carousel” and that society is doomed to repeat its mistakes forever. The colors Cox used give the carousel a faded aesthetic which gives viewers the idea that it’s not the carousel’s first spin. There’s depth in her use of color as well. The difference in color between background and foreground provides an extra dimension to each piece with the bright colors you can expect to see on a carousel near the viewers’ eye.
Cox believes that society is trapped and doomed to rotate about a fixed point without ever making any real progress. If this is true, it certainly is frightful to think that we are just destined to repeat ourselves. Perhaps this is why the horses are illustrated screaming. . .maybe they, too, realize this truth that cox believes. They seemed to be in pain and their faces were too hard to look at. Maybe this is how much Cox believes society is in trouble. Without progress or any real change, our fate has already been written.
Helen Werner Cox made me look at carousels differently. I don’t mind it since she did so with grace with her art. When I walked in I thought that maybe she really liked horses? But after hearing her speak on what it all means, I opened my eyes and began to notice her message in each painting. Just as it’s supposed to do, it spoke to me. I looked inward as an individual in society and noticed that I also live on repeat. That my life is an inanimate horse that’s bound to spin forever and that’s something that I won’t let myself become.
Artist: Samuel Jernigan
Exhibition: The Weight of Whimsy and Ideals
Media: Ceramics, Sculpture
The subject of this week’s artist conversation is Samuel Jernigan. Jernigan is a graduate student that graduated from CSULB with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in ceramics last fall. He has worked as a production artist but his passion for creating is 16 years old as he has been an artist since 2000. But his love for ceramic art is 7 years old now. He spends hours upon hours on his work. But when he isn’t working on his art he is binging “shitty television”, enjoying “witty comics”, and (to my surprise) not drawing.
Jernigan places a of his focus on ceramic art, which is solely what was exhibited in this gallery. Jernigan uses the usual materials to create the base of the ceramics. But to apply color to his work, Jernigan prefers spray paint because “it doesn’t run”, as he claimed. What stood out was how his work seemed faded, yet intentionally faded. The scale of his work is almost life-sized. A good amount of his work was the size of a person, a few were small enough to share a table space, and a few were the size of toys.
Jernigan’s art was beautiful. He was inspired by broken and mistreated toys he encountered at a flea market. He appreciated the beauty in the toys and from that he was inspired to reinstate the beauty of the toys. He did so in his pieces in which the toys are brightly colored, yet maintain a faded aesthetic. To Jernigan, it’s all about belonging.
This art meant a lot to me. I felt like I myself found old toys when I walked into the gallery. But I immediately noticed the faded aesthetic of the pieces and it reminded me of a faded youth–like a time long lost. There’s a story behind each of the broken, disoriented, and faceless pieces with colors that have lost their youth.
Artist: Josh Vasquez
Exhibition: Vida / Morte
Media: Mixed-Media, Painting
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Gatov Gallery West
Josh Vasquez is a Los Angeles native and spent most of his life in the Downtown area. From a young age he loved to paint and it seems like his love for the arts has gone unchanged since he is currently an undergraduate at CSULB pursuing his dreams. Vasquez is enrolled in the School Art and studying in Painting and Drawing. When asked numerous times by the visiting ART-110 class what his hobbies were, he replied each time with “I love to paint”. The love for it was apparent in his exhibition, Vida/Morte, where Josh Vasquez illustrated life and death in the same pieces while maintaining the separate identities.
Vasquez described his work as abstract. I’m no art aficionado so I will agree that it is abstract. His pieces were in black and white, such is life and death in the eyes of the artist. He painted on stretched plastic (trash bag) and used spray paints, paint, and permanent markers in a majority of his pieces. His piece, Rosado, features a what may seem like a spiral featuring thick lines from spray paint and thinning inward. The lines throughout his works are jagged and mostly thin. I was later told by the artist that what I thought was a spiral was actually a rose. The rose is a recurring motif in his works as are the skulls.
Josh Vasquez’s work in this gallery is about Life and Death. He purposely uses black and white in his work to denote the differences between the two because the purpose of the gallery is to illustrate the two as being separate ideas. But a harmony is created when they’re placed in the same pieces with flowers (life) and skulls (death). I asked if anything provoked him to create this, perhaps a death in the family or maybe a newborn? But Josh claimed that nothing provoked the art, it was just an idea he had. A classmate had noted some aggression in his piece, Rosado, and asked about his state of mind when he painted it. To that Josh replied that frustration didn’t drive the piece. In fact, he practices meditation so he paints in a meditative space.
His art was beautiful and Rosado was especially captivating. It was the first time I walked into the gallery and Rosado pulled me in. What captures me upon first viewing the piece was what I believed to be the spiral. I received the chaotic appearance of the spiral as being the frightening appearance of death. The looming shadow that overtakes all without notice. The thick lines up top so full of life wore thinner and thinner as the eyes ventured downward. And at the bottom of these lines was the cloud. I later learned that the chaotic cloud is a rose. So what I perceived as death was redefined as being the symbol of life. Thus reinforcing the meaning behind Vida/Morte, that life and death can be within the piece yet maintain separate identities. This resonated within me because often times life can be going terribly. When life seems to be falling right down to rock bottom, I often make the same mistake I made viewing Rosado. I mistake the chaotic, horrifying cloud that I think is overbearing my life for what should actually be the rose in my life. I don’t always see that life is a blessing and a miracle in itself.