Collaboration Becomes Transformation
By Jackie Bell Johnson
Through January 6th
Pulling The Forest Along The Road, which opened November 5th at Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana is the culmination of a massive year-and-a-half long effort of collaboration, transformation, and discovery. The artists, Diana Markessinis and Darren Petersen were given the opportunity to partner on this project through the help and support of Hope Center For the Arts’ artist mentorship program Hope Art Lab, an NEA funded program run by Director of Visual Arts Lisa Lo Russo. “For me, this project is very near and dear to my heart as it aligns with Hope’s mission of ‘Transforming the lives of adults with intellectual disabilities through the arts’.”
The exhibition is a collection of trees, each one hand made using a combination of powder-coated steel, papier mache, cardboard, and paint. Each tree is unique, covered in vibrant patterns and placed in the gallery space like you would find trees in the forest. There is just enough space to make a winding path through the forest. The lighting is a single source spotlight, creating a serene sunset effect onto the space. The shadows from each tree fill the voids on the walls and creep along visitors faces and bodies as they navigate through this storybook landscape. At the entrance to the space is a video showing the logistics of moving these trees from Hope to a rented trailer that drives them to Santa Ana. Each tree is carried gingerly, one by one. The video is an endearing view of the artists’ creations: characters in a play.
The opening was packed, and Petersen was grinning from ear to ear. Surrounded by family he was constantly posing for photos. Even before opening night he felt a sense of validation. “Well, I’m an artist now, as it is,” he recently declared. He didn’t always feel that way. Before this experience he liked to make things, but he viewed his making not through an artistic lens, but a tinkering one. In his mind, as in the mind of most people, being an artist is an elevated status reserved for famous creative geniuses bestowed with the title from some powerful entity. The time and labor put into this project became a badge and realizing how much he and Diana accomplished changed that.
This is the second iteration of Hope Art Lab. The first was with artist Marvin Castillo and Cheryl Walker. Both are mark makers, interested in the process and intention drawing. Their exhibition Rhythmic Bond was exhibited back in August at Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center in Anaheim. These collaborations are carefully established, with Lo Russo acting as matchmaker, translator, and studio manager for each pair. The artists spend 6-10 visits with each other, just getting to know each other, their studios, artwork, and what they like. Once an idea sets in they get to work, the partnership lasting a year and a half. The art that is made is not just the pieces in the show. Lo Russo states “It’s the reciprocal exchange. The relationship has to evolve between the two artists. They have to learn to speak the same language.”
For Markessinis the trees allow you to “unleash your inner goofball.” The process was liberating: the need to compromise and collaborate permitted her to let loose. “Darren doesn’t like to draw as much as imagine, create, layer, paint, repeat… his lack of hesitation is freeing and inspiring.”
Pulling The Forest Along The Road, Darren Petersen and Diana Markessinis. Through January 15, 2017.
125 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, CA 92701
More events are being scheduled to coincide with this exhibition, including a mini-tree building workshop with the artists. Please follow Hope Center for the Arts on Facebook for updates. www.facebook.com/HOPEcenter4arts
For more information about Hope Center for the Arts or to donate, please visit their website: http://hope4arts.org/
Website for artist Diana Markessinis: http://dianamarkessinis.com/