UCSC Currents online

Front PageAccoladesAppointmentsClassified AdsLettersMaking the News

February 4, 2002

Getting below the surface: 'Painted Psychologies' at Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery

By Ann M. Gibb

What's under the facades most of us use to get through our days? "Painted Psychologies," an exhibit through March 10 at the Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery, displays work by two artists who dare to delve beneath the superficial layers protecting us and reveal hints of what lies beneath.

In Mirror, as with her other works, Holly Roberts first covers photography prints with layers of paint.
Detail from Julie Green's The Last Supper, showing food from "last meals" chosen by inmates on death row in Texas prisons.
Shelby Graham, director and curator of the Sesnon Art Gallery, has brought together the work of contemporary American artists Holly Roberts and Julie Green to create a show about artists striving to reveal inner worlds through painting.

Graham has long admired the work of Holly Roberts--"I'm inspired by the risks she takes," explains Graham--and after seeing slides of Julie Green's work, realized the two painters' work was complementary.

"These are people who love to paint and are trying to say something with their painting; they are both getting below the surface and into psychology. It's art about edges--both obvious and blurred," Graham says. By featuring just 24 pieces, "Painted Psychologies" allows the viewer time to contemplate and explore the interior worlds suggested by these paintings and objects.

Holly Roberts reveals the inner by first obscuring--literally covering her black-and-white photography prints with layers of paint--then manipulating the images to uncover emotional aspects of her subjects.

In Young Woman with Purple the nearly life-sized head shot of a full-lipped woman confronts the viewer with a steady gaze. The photo seamlessly blends into her painted figure, primitively rendered, straight and thin, dressed in a short black shift. With her relaxed and neutral face, the woman invites you to consider the contrast between her head and body, right down to her simple shoes rendered as inverted Vs. Just like life, there is no simple answer to the riddle posed by the dichotomy of this portrait.

At a quick look, Julie Green's The Last Supper appears to be a display of 12 pale blue-and-white porcelain plates, neatly lined up on shelves. But like other pieces in "Painted Psychologies," more is revealed when the viewer looks closer. Each plate depicts food items from last meals chosen by inmates on death row in Texas prisons. The Last Supper is a haunting example of what Green strives to capture in her work: the fleeting moment. The plates and their accompanying labels, listing the entire meal, starkly represent some of the last wishes of condemned prisoners.

"Painted Psychologies" has attracted attention on and off campus. A curator and a registrar from Copia, a new cultural museum and educational center in Napa, Calif., have visited the exhibit, as has the curator of a gallery in Grass Valley, Calif.

The Sesnon Art Gallery also maintains an active outreach program coordinated by Emily Lessard, a senior majoring in art and a Chancellor's Undergraduate Intern. Lessard has arranged tours of "Painted Psychologies" for fifth- and sixth-grade classes from Santa Cruz County schools. So far, about 25 students have participated, and more classes are scheduled to visit. After students view the exhibit, Lessard leads a series of follow-up visits at their schools, including a classroom art project related to "Painted Psychologies."

Lessard herself was a participant when exhibit artist Roberts taught a workshop for UCSC art students. "It was an exhilarating and freeing process," says Lessard, describing Roberts's class, in which Roberts introduced students to her process of first covering photographs with paint and then selectively removing it: "We had five hours to come up with three finished pieces. [Roberts] encouraged artistic freedom and not planning ahead; it was about intuitive response, just like the title of the show."

The opportunity to meet an artist, see her work, and learn the process from her hand had a profound impact on Lessard. "Meeting someone working in the art world and having her teach a workshop is a tremendous value to the community of art students at UCSC," says Lessard, a value added through the innovative programming of the Sesnon Art Gallery.

Return to Front Page

  Maintained by pioweb@cats