Artists explore concept of community in Cal Lutheran exhibit
Santa Barbara artists Jane Callister and Lucas Murgida are among the creative talent featured in “Common Ground: Artists Reimagining Community,” an online art exhibit and virtual conversation series in the William Rolland Gallery of Fine Art on California Lutheran University’s Thousand Oaks campus.
It will be on display through April 8.
Organized when the COVID-19 pandemic kept people from connecting in person, it has become an in-person exhibit that examines the concept of community.
In May 2020, while California was in the early months of its COVID-19 stay-at-home order, Jennifer Vanderpool, a Santa Barbara resident and Cal Lutheran adjunct art faculty member, and Rachel Schmid, curator of collections and exhibitions, began assembling the original virtual exhibit.
“I invited 10 artists to exhibit who, in turn, each invited an artist who then asked another,” said Ms. Vanderpool. “The project continued to grow like a web to eventually include 24 artists when it launched online in November 2020.”
The works included in “Common Ground” — experimental film, music, comics, paintings, photography, graphic novels and more — questioned the concept of community.
“Once Upon a Crocofish” is the title of Ms. Callister’s installation in the exhibit.
“It alludes to a series of works I began in 2019 entitled `It Started with a Crocofish,’ ” she said. “To entertain my father when he was ill, I drew silly hybrid animals and surreal figures, which later led to a series of tiny figurines that I made during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike my usual large-scale, dramatic, abstract paintings, this quietly entertaining body of work was a way of uplifting people’s spirits amid the turmoil of our cultural upheaval.
“The opportunity to exhibit these works at Cal Lutheran enabled me to put them together into a format that creates a domestic setting, including a comfortable chair to rest and reflect on the isolation in our homes we all experienced during lockdown. Against a vibrant, painted wall, the objects sit on shelves alongside the small framed drawings, further emphasizing an intimate experience. This project was conceived of as a gesture of kindness through humor and pleasure,” said Ms. Callister, born on the Isle of Man in Britain in 1963 and now a professor of art at UCSB, with works across the mediums of painting, sculpture, drawing and installation.
During the past 20 years, she has exhibited in many notable venues including the first Prague Biennale at the Veletrzni Palace in Prague, Czech Republic, in 2003 and Extreme Abstraction at the Albright Knox Museum, Buffalo, N.Y., in 2005.
Recent solo exhibitions include Baroco-pop at Royale Projects, Los Angeles in 2018, and “It Started With a Crocofish: New Drawings by Jane Callister” at the VITA Arts Center, Ventura, in 2019. Her work has also been featured in notable books such as “Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting” with essay by David Page (Phaidon Press, 2002), and “LA Artland by Chris Krauss” (Black Dog Press, London, 2006).
Mr. Murgida creates situations that provide audience members the opportunity to experience very private moments in very public situations.
A former cabinetmaker, busboy, locksmith, yoga teacher, and laborer in the adult fetish film industry, he utilizes the under-appreciated aspects of human existence — such as furniture, locks, teachers and service professionals — as raw material to craft his artistic experiences.
“For the ‘Common Ground’ exhibition, I included documentation of a long-term project titled `None of this is Real,’ which I completed while I was an artist-in-residence at the Grand Central Art Center at Cal State Fullerton in Santa Ana,” said Mr. Murgida.
“From July 2018 to September 2019, I installed and performed five different viewer interactions for the community of Santa Ana revolving around my experience working as a professional locksmith. Since 2005, I have been invested in an ongoing project, ‘The Locksmithing Institute,’ in which I travel to different public places and teach people skills and themes related to locksmithing.
“The work featured in the ‘Common Ground’ exhibition includes a video that documents all five iterations of `None of this is Real,’ ” he said. “Also showcased are two shadow boxes that house material remnants of tools and materials that were part of the viewer interactions as well as drawings completed by a courtroom illustrator who I hired to document the experiences. Lastly, there is a small box that I constructed to house the pieces of the experience that people got to keep if they participated in the project.”
In 2002, Mr. Murgida received his bachelor’s of fine arts from the San Francisco Art Institute and his master’s of fine arts from UCSB. His work has been reviewed in the Art Forum, The New York Times and Los Angeles Times.
In 2010, he was an artist-in-residence with Vooruit Arts Centre in Ghent, Belgium, and two of his photographs are housed in the Berkeley Art Museum’s permanent collection. In 2018-19, he was an artist-in-residence for the Grand Central Art Center at Cal State Fullerton, funded by the Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts.
The artists were invited to include more recent work in the in-person show, but it features the same variety. Two screens and a projector show videos, and patrons can pull up short films on their phones by scanning QR Codes.
“The in-person exhibit is a combination of works by established, internationally exhibited artists with incredible rising stars fresh out of graduate and undergraduate programs or just starting their careers,” Ms. Schmid said.
In connection with the online exhibit, Ms. Schmid and Ms. Vanderpool paired up artists and researchers over Zoom to discuss different concepts of community. The pairs explored a range of topics including aging, architecture, autism, filmmaking, kindness, memories and sex work.
The online exhibit and recordings of both the conversation series and a March 1 in-person talk by featured artist Walpa D’Mark of Los Angeles are available at bit.ly/3kVWOpp.