5 picks for February ArtHop: Bitwise unmasks some remarkable Fresno heroes
Addie Carr might not be a name in Fresno you recognize. She isn’t a politician. She doesn’t throw or catch a ball at Fresno State. She isn’t a local news anchor or corporate denizen.
But here’s the thing about Carr: You should know her name, if only because of what she gives back to the community. As director of program services at Neighborhood Industries, a non-profit organization that uses a business model to help disadvantaged people develop life skills, she’s a tireless worker. A colleague calls her the “Mother Teresa of Fresno.”
For tonight’s ArtHop, you’ll get a chance to celebrate Carr and 25 other unsung heroes in the opening of the portrait series “Unmasked,” a novel and compelling idea for an art exhibition. It runs at Bitwise South Stadium through May.
(A complete list of venues for ArtHop, the monthly open house of galleries and studios in the downtown and Tower District neighborhoods, is available here. And later in this roundup, I’ll share four other ArtHop picks with you.)
The Bitwise “Unmasked” project was hatched by CEO Jake Soberal and filmmaker/artist Enrique Meza. Supported by others on the Bitwise team, they asked a cross-section of Fresnans to nominate unsung heroes in their lives. The criteria was intentionally broad.The goal was to find people “doing important, hard, good, and sometimes messy work in Fresno that doesn’t come with a lot of fanfare.” The selection team strived for cultural, ethnic and geographic diversity.
Meza photographed each of the 26 honorees, making big, formal portraits.
I got a chance to take a sneak peek at the exhibition before it was installed at Bitwise, and Meza’s work is beautiful. There’s David Mendanian, a revered former journalism teacher at Clovis High School, holding an old issue of the school paper. Erin Goldfarb, of the organization Dress for Success, which empowers women to “achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life,” is gorgeous in a resplendent black gown as she sits on a piece of furniture draped in gold fabric. Wayne Hurley, of D.A.N.C.E. Empowerment Inc., looks ready to shimmy out of the portrait with his white sneakers.
The subjects were asked to dress elegantly. (OK, so the beloved artist Chris Sorensen, who often marches to his own tune, didn’t get the memo and showed up for the portrait session wearing a puffy applique dinosaur sweatshirt made by his granddaughter, which ended up being very sweet. And it’s always nice to have an outlier.) Meza positioned many of them in his studio with classical-style furniture, adding a timeless and regal feel to the images. Ornate frames, many of them scavenged from around the city, gives the series a French-salon sensibility. The overall result is a sense of gentle, but not ostentatious, pomp. I like how that elegance contrasts with the often gritty, tough work that many of the honorees do. It’s like seeing a bunch of athletes in black tie.
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For Soberal, that was part of the project’s appeal. He wanted a series that would fit into a swanky corporate office, say, or in a hall of presidents.
“If you’re a Manhattan socialite, you might end up with a portrait like this,” he says. “Most of the people we’re honoring, probably not.”
The best part: The honorees get to keep the portraits after the show closes. Perhaps, he says, the portraits will become family heirlooms.
All of the honorees are expected to be on hand for the ArtHop reception. It will be quite a gathering.
“We want these folks to feel celebrated,” he says.
With these two-dozen-plus folks in attendance, the gathering will be like a work of art in itself.
Other ArtHop picks
Fresno Pacific University
For more than a decade, teacher Marc Patterson and his colleagues have put together a series of socially conscious art projects with students at McLane High School ArtVenture Academy. I remember the first time I saw one of these exhibits — it was about immmigration — in a special exhibition at Arte Americas, and being impressed not only with the sophistication of the messages but the technical and artistic promise of the students. I’m sure some of those budding young artists from shows in years past have gone on to meaningful artistic careers, and that others will likely enjoy a lifetime of elevated social consciousness.
At a retrospective at Fresno Pacific University titled “Voice to the Voiceless,” you can see works from these “issue” shows, including ones on homelessness, immigration, civil rights, incarceration, agriculture, water and terrorism, always with careful attention to the stories of those who are often left out of the mainstream:
In one artwork viewers can read the thoughts of a McLane student who grew up in the foster-care system. Another illustrates the shared landscape between humans and the animals displaced by human-made structures. Every work is based on multiple research methods from books to one-on-one interviews.
The ArtHop reception will be held in McDonald Hall, Fresno Pacific University, 1717 S. Chestnut Ave, Fresno. The exhibit continues through March 8 in four campus locations: McDonald Hall, Sattler Hall 104 Art Gallery, AIMS Hall and Alumni Hall.
Fig Tree Gallery
Linda Zupcic is trying something new.
After a decade of making black-and-white relief prints, she is branching out in a new exhibition at Fig Tree Gallery. She explains:
From soft, quiet poetic reflection, to wildly gypsy-dancing splashes of color, to sensual curving shapes in motion. Come closer to receive the gift of delicate traces, refined nuance, and hidden layers of meaning.
The show continues through March 3.
Gallery 25 / Vernissage
It’s a busy month for co-op Gallery 25, which has shows at two venues. In its regular space at the M Street Art Collective, Ann Leedy’s new exhibition with guest artist R.G. Barnes is “Steadfast Right Angle.” Leedy explores the relationship between dreamlike experiences and encounters with the “real-world” through the medium of pastels. Barnes focuses on a search for self-discovery and for the universal personal experience through the medium of sculpture.
And at Vernissage, a Gallery 25 members’ exhibition is titled “Les Bons Amis.”
Spectrum Art Gallery
In a new one-person exhibition at Spectrum Art Gallery titled “Nihil Sanctum,” photographer Robert C. Cochran includes works dominated by “stylistic experiments in digital imaging which attempt to simulate traditional photographic processes or affects of time and technique characteristic of paintings from the Italian Renaissance.”
The show runs through March 3.