Article by Leily Zhu
In the midst of the considerably dark year that 2020 became, Artlita shined a light in December by holding its first-ever pop up exhibition: Sharing the Light. From December 4 to December 12, the pop-up exhibition showcased the work of 20 Baja and Southern California artists from the Artlita Artist Community. The founder of Artlita LLC, Aleta Daria, worked hard at this socially distanced art exhibition, kicking off the event with a virtual opening night that displayed the artists’ paintings and photographs through a high-quality video. Attendees of the opening night were able to enjoy the gallery through a virtual tour.
Artlita Artists Share Their Work for ‘Sharing the Light’ Exhibition
Twenty artists from the Artlita Artist Community came together (virtually) on the opening night of ‘Sharing the Light’ to discuss their artwork and inspirations for creating those pieces. Read below to understand the processes these artists undergo to create such beautiful work.
Michael James Slattery is a photographer from Del Mar, California with a unique luminescent style to his work. After spending hours shooting to capture the transitioning light through sunrise or sunset, he creates limited edition prints of his work on acrylic, canvas and metallic photo paper. Everything he creates, down to the frame that his photographs are displayed in, is done with his own two hands.
“What I do is I start with a camera on a tripod at about 3 or 4 in the afternoon or 3 or 4 in the morning, and I continually shoot through either the sunrise or sunset. What you’re looking at is a blend of light from before, during, and after the sunset.”
“The skies in my images never happen in a single moment. They’re a blend of different skies. Just trying to incorporate the widest dynamic range of illumination, kind of like painters from the past like Rembrandt and Thomas Kinkad. It’s just an extension of that through photography.”
Zim Killgore is also a photographer who spends hours on his work. Though he was not able to attend the opening night, Artlita showcased his art in the pop-up exhibition and Aleta Daria was able to speak about what he had produced. Zim is very passionate about sharing his creativity with the world and feels rewarded that he can share it with the Southern California community.
This photograph was done with a piece of glass that he decorated with all the colors and accents you see on top, and then he had a model pose underneath the glass. This is how he was able to get the perception of the model being frozen under ice.
Taras Semchyshyn started his journey with photography only three years ago. Inspired by family who engaged with their creative sides, especially his uncle, Taras just started shooting. Taras’ goal is to capture something unique and tell his story through the lens.
“Photography is what saved me because I was personally in a dark spot in life. I don’t have a defined process. Since I have a general interest in the world around me, I have my camera with me all the time.”
“There’s a bridge here in Torrance, and no one has ever seen that angle before. It’s a non-descript bridge, but it could also appear to be a Roman ruin.”
“It was a completely cloudy, overcast, typical Southern California June gloom day, and then all of a sudden, the sun just blew up. A lot of times, as you all know, you have to be patient with your shots, and you’ll get surprised. My line is: you never know when the light’s going to come.”
Sean Hunter Brown
Sean Hunter Brown started photography about 12 years ago, and he has always been inspired by the ocean. From living in Mazatlan, Mexico to now in Laguna Beach, California, Sean has found himself drawn to the ocean from his 30 years of surfing to his days of photography. About five years ago, Sean started taking photographs like the ones you can see featured at Artlita, with the lens partially in the water, partially out of the water. He uses remote flashes to light up the portion underwater, so the images above and below sea level can be captured.
“Sharing the light – I think that obviously works for photography. I’m a photographer, and it’s always about light. Another form of light is my inspiration, which is the ocean. The ocean is what I like to capture, and I feel so at home at the ocean.”
Becky Black creates encaustic paintings with beeswax and pigments. She pulls the inspiration for her art from reading inspirational writings and water. Encouraged in high school by her art teacher, Becky has gone on to create paintings that present different meanings to different people.
“When I read, I see images, and then I attempt to paint those images. For the most part, it’s contemporary abstract when it comes out, and people find personal meaning in them.”
“The idea was we all have a pearl deep inside of us, and the idea is, sometimes in life, we have to dive down to harvest that pearl.”
“I had a fantastic art teacher in high school who basically after I took my first class with her, she said ‘Sign up for every class you can with me and don’t listen to any directions. Just do whatever you want. You’re doing a good job,’ so she really planted a seed in me that bloomed later in my life now, so that’s a dedication to her.”
Special Feature: Love’s Cradle – Auction Item
An encaustic painting by Becky Black, ‘Love’s Cradle’ was the featured silent auction item of ‘Sharing the Light,’ benefitting the Choose Love Movement. The heart in the middle of the cradle signifies that even love wants to be cradled.
Julieta Valdez started her journey 15 years ago when she started working with colors, which is what moved her to paint. Painting is an outlet for her to express her feelings. She has traveled the world with her art from Mexico to other parts of the world. Everywhere she goes, she experiments and takes what she learns with her. Both of these pieces talk about communication and love because without communication, there’s nothing.
Brenda Salamone’s paintings have won awards both internationally and in the United States. She paints with oils and pastels. All of her work has been scanned and is available in high-resolution, which allows printing at large sizes in a variety of substrates.
“The geomorphic abstraction series is about the importance of digging deeper and seeing beyond the superficial. I have a very large collection of gemstones and minerals. They’re often hidden inside a matrix of very dull gray stone, and it’s not really apparent that there’s this beauty inside, and it isn’t until what’s inside is revealed and polished that their true beauty shows.”
“By sharing the light of these stunning aspects of our Mother Earth, I hope to express the inward significance of our true selves. Human beings are very visual creatures, and it is our nature to make judgments based on outward appearances.”
Karla Preciado paints with vibrant colors and expressive strokes. She uses her art to create a bubble of joy that transports her back to old and new happy memories with her family. Her art merges well with the exhibition’s theme of “Sharing the Light” because she began creating her collection, ‘Good Vibrations,’ as a response to the pandemic.
“I remember as a kid, my parents used to listen to a lot of different music, and for some reason, the Beach Boys stand out. I associate that with happy memories and an upbeat feeling. We used to play that music when we went on camping trips and when we went to the beach. It was just filled with fun. When the pandemic hit, I kind of wanted to go back to that little bubble, that little space of joy.”
Gretchen Weidner is a Southern California muralist, painter, and licensed artist who works between New York and Southern California. She moved out to San Diego in 2014 to pursue her career as a full-time artist. Her collection showcased in the ‘Sharing the Light’ exhibition, ‘It Could Be You,’ is “completely reflective” of her journey to Southern California.
“I use all local muses, so they’re women that give me their photos, and I’m able to use them as inspiration. Each woman in the painting will tell me their story about a journey that they’ve been through, their life journey where they found hope or inspiration or peace of mind, and that story then becomes the reflection in the sunglasses. The goal is to sort of reinvent the landscape painting so it’s not just a landscape – it brings a human connection to a place in Southern California.”
“That’s Julia – She moved from New York City to Los Angeles, so Hollywood became her reflection, escaping a challenging relationship, and finding her own independence in Los Angeles. I try to represent diverse women so that everybody’s beauty is represented equally, and I think a lot of women find themselves in these portrait paintings because once you put sunglasses onto a portrait, it becomes ambiguous.”
Ginger Lou is a mixed media artist from San Diego. Her art tends to focus on the female as a positive character in each piece, and though each piece tells a story, she prefers to have the viewer craft their own story and decide what each piece means to them. Ginger creates collage art using vintage paper, paint, wood, objects, etc. She has always considered herself an artist, and in 2002, she became a professional artist.
“I feel it’s more important for each viewer to decide what each piece means to them as an individual through finding meaning in the symbolism of the pieces through their own experience, through their life journey.”
Rosario Glezmir is a painter who moved from Mexico to San Diego, California to live with her sons and granddaughter. Her art is an expression of her soul, and her Mexican heritage. It reflects an appreciation of all techniques, which allows her to express her emotions through her work. She has participated in exhibitions internationally, ranging from the United States to Mexico to France.
Rosario experienced a traumatic event in her life, and she started painting as a form of therapy. Her painting helps her detach from pain and process the difficult emotions that she was experiencing. Tying her work to nature was natural, and she wanted to paint the trees to reconnect with planet Earth and herself.
This piece is part of the ‘Power of Thought’ series. The faces are half-finished so the spectator can discover the souls of each painting. She wanted to paint a woman because they represent traits such as strength and tenderness. The flowers in this painting symbolize the ability to turn negative feelings into positive ones when difficulties arise.
Yandi Monardo was born in Uruguay and moved to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. All of his pieces are based on Baja and Mexico, capturing colors of the sunset, sunrise, ocean, mountains, etc. He tries to incorporate all of the different landscapes that exist within Mexico into his artwork. Yandi uses a technique called Acetate Laminate, in which you paint on the back of the piece, and it is then reflected on the front of the page. The image you see is not actually what was painted, but rather a reflection of the painting – in simple terms, he paints in reverse! He uses mixed media and primitive brush strokes to capture an abstract image of the landscapes he is painting.
Scott Murphy is a local photographer based in San Diego, California. He photographs landscapes and cityscapes, and he is passionate about capturing the ideal escapism of city life in a picturesque landscape. His work is photographed at high resolution and available in multiple formats, including acrylic, paper giclees and HD Metal.
“I shoot a lot in downtown, and I feel like downtown in San Diego is kind of unnoticed. When people think of downtown, they think of the bars, clubs, other things like that, so for me, when I photograph downtown, I like to capture the energy. I pretty much want our downtown to feel like it would rival Chicago or New York.”
Lee Sie is a photographer from the Netherlands. He moved from the Netherlands to Northern California and now resides in San Diego, California, and his photography reflects his worldly view and diverse experiences. He enjoys shooting outdoors and capturing the sky, surroundings, and colors that come with nature. His work at Artlita can be printed in multiple formats, including acrylic, paper giclees and HD Metal.
Alejandro Martinez-Pena uses acrylic paints, inks, and oil pastels for his paintings. He was born in Monterrey, Mexico, and currently resides in Tijuana. His art has been exhibited all over the world, including Mexico, the US, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Italy, Thailand, Korea, Poland, China, Singapore, and Oman. Alejandro tries to incorporate natural elements into his art to emphasize the importance of taking care of nature.
“My first intention when I paint is to delight the spectator. The title of the exhibition is great to apply to my work – ‘Sharing the Light.’ I want to share my light, the light of my colors, the way I paint, to all the people to enrich their soul.”
“Another very important thing is I try to evoke organic spaces because I want people to be more conscious and have more respect for the environment. That’s why the way I paint is with very organic elements – to evoke natural spaces, and you can feel the light we have every day.”
Rebecca Martinez Gonzalez
Rebecca Martinez Gonzalez is from Monterrey, Mexico. Since she was 9 years old, she has been very involved in art, and her dad encouraged her to paint and attend art classes. She has taken many workshops with different techniques, and she considers herself a person of evolution, merging together yesterday and today. Rebecca’s work has been exhibited in Tijuana, San Diego, London, and Budapest.
She is fascinated by textures, transparencies, and colors and what happens when she mixes them. Rebecca loves to see how they can transform in limitless ways.
“Despertando” conveys the rebirth of woman, in which she expresses herself without fear and sharing the light in a way that you can dance and enjoy life.
Alvaro Blancarte is an avid painter who works in his studio every day. He is also a mentor, teacher, muralist, materialist alchemist, researcher, and storyteller. One of his artworks is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. Alvaro uses painting to tell a story and as a journal to express his emotions.
“Art is all about making it happen. Art is a disease for which there is no vaccine, and I am very happy to see so many people suffering from this disease because these people are the ones who are going to make the world change.”
“I am very happy with this new era. I am happy about my previous era, as well. I am happy about this new contemporary art that is helping the younger generation to become interested in art and make them push forward to thrive and wish for more when it comes to art.”
Alvaro mentioned that one of his techniques when it comes to teaching is that he has his students generate a series. By doing this, it forces them to have a mental image in their brains made of plenty of art that they want to express, and by doing so, it helps them to truly become an artist.
Emilee Reed, retired after 30 years with Walt Disney Co., lives and paints in Anaheim, California. She is a published artist and a member of many art associations. She has worked with both watercolor and acrylic paint pores. While she views watercolor painting as a stressful, precise art that is very technical, she enjoys the abstract characteristics of acrylic pores and looks forward to seeing the end result.
“The work that is showing right now has got a bit of a split personality. I dabble in two worlds. One is watercolor, which I love, but is so technical, and I am so precise in that everything has to be absolutely perfect. People make the comment: ‘Isn’t it relaxing?’, and I go, ‘Good God, no, I’m a nervous wreck.’ To get out of that world and to be able to paint loosely, I tried experimenting with the acrylic pores. I love how the colors flow together, how the light just is immersed in every piece. I put additives in there that create cells that expand, and it’s just, you can plan what you think what you want to have happen, and then you watch to see what it does, and it’s just such a marvelous thing.”
“I just love the absolute abstract of the whole piece, as opposed to the very tight restrictions to the watercolor, where I end up doing architecture. I love doing these.”
Paul Bond is an oil painter who comes from an illustration and design background with a degree in Commercial Art. He did illustration work for many years, creating a lot of book illustrations and designs. Paul describes his work as narrative. He paints in the genre of Magic Realism, and his paintings now reside in private collections all over the world from Australia to Europe to the Middle East.
“In the illustration world, you’re usually given a mental or literary concept, and you have to come up with a visual reference for it. As a result, all the work I create now, which is a genre of Magic Realism, is all very narrative. Every story, every painting is really a bigger and longer story. This painting was born as I was contemplating my childhood. I grew up in Laguna Beach as a young kid, and as I look back on it, I realized how much I idealized that part of my life and how we compartmentalize certain experiences. Even if we talk to other family members, they might remember something really different, but we’ve created this whole memory snapshot around something that we carry around with us. This is a hymn – an ode to, for me, as I look back on it, what was really an ideal childhood.”
About 20 years ago, John Cocozza moved from New Jersey to San Diego and worked with his idol, photographer Aaron Chang. He primarily shoots surfing photography, and his photographs have been published in many media outlets and magazines including Surfing, Transworld, WATER, Eastern Surf Magazine, VERT, Tracks, Surfshot, Surf News, Surfrider Foundation, and Surfers Journal.
“I shot this photo at dawn. Myself and another speaker tonight, Michael [Slattery], we swam out in the ocean in Coronado in the dark very early in the morning. I was always interested in how he did his photography, and he was interested in how I did mine, and I told him, ‘Well, come on out with me, and I’ll try to get some shots of you in the water.’ I was sitting out there, treading water, and in this spot in particular in Coronado, the wave breaks – it only breaks very few times a year, and it’s these pitching huge barrels that come in with these south swells that come up.”
“For the artists out there, you have my utmost respect because you create things from a blank canvas. Whereas myself, I just go out there, and I see beauty, and I capture it as best as I can. I love the concept of ‘Sharing the Light’ because, as you can see, for a photographer, light is everything.”
As a great wrap-up to the opening night of Artlita’s first pop-up exhibition, John remarked how proud he was to be a part of ‘Sharing the Light.’
“Honestly, there’s been two great moments in my career that I was really proud of being an artist. One was decorating a boutique hotel and the second was when Aleta came to me and asked me to be a part of this project with all of you amazing people.”
Look Forward to More Pop-Up Exhibitions in 2021
Though the opening night was virtual, Artlita’s first-ever pop-up exhibition brought together a community of Southern California artists that embody the Artlita Artist Community. ‘Sharing the Light’ gave these artists the opportunity to discuss how light plays into their art and expresses the emotion and light that art has brought into their lives and others’ lives.
In the upcoming year, Artlita plans to host more pop-up exhibitions for Southern California artists. Given the year that we have had, these upcoming exhibitions give us something uplifting to look forward to.