CMA ready to open with work from 28 artists

by Mick Rhodes | mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

The pandemic has had its way with us. It’s killed more than 543,000 Americans and counting,  and has devastated countless families.

Along the way it has exposed heretofore unseen physical and mental health problems, amplifying widespread disparities in access to healthcare.

Yes, some industries have thrived, but thousands of businesses ceased to exist and unemployment soared to levels not seen since the Great Depression.

The unprecedented isolation also had a profound impact on one of the essentials of human existence: the need to create.

But for artists, it hasn’t all been bad. Art went on, despite having no physical forum in which to show a painting, perform a new piece of music, or mount a new play.

In fact, some creative people thrived and discovered new digital forms of conveyance over the past year. They used Zoom and other platforms for record release parties and music festivals, art exhibits, live theater performances, comedy shows and that oh so 2020 creation, the podcast.

Locally, art went on as well, and for the first time in more than a year, people will be able to see some of it in person beginning Friday, April 2, when The Claremont Museum of Art, at 200 W. First St., finally opens its doors for “Inside Out: Emerging from Isolation.” The show features 28 new works from 28 artists and will be up through May 30.

“We’re really excited to finally be able to open again,” said CMA board member and exhibition coordinator Catherine McIntosh. “There’s just something about seeing art in person. It is just different than looking at it on a digital screen. It’s just not the same. It’s a different experience.”

Inside Out has actually been in the on-deck circle since August 2020, when Los Angeles County first began talking about a phased reopening of art galleries.

“We installed the exhibition initially to be ready to open in the fall,” Ms. McIntosh said. “But, as you recall, the surge came and that didn’t happen.”

The exhibit came about after CMA called on more than 60 artists to submit photographs and a statement describing work they had created between March and July 2020 for a new kind of show it called a “Virtual Studio Tour.” The video has since had more than 750 views.

“Which I was really glad to see that we got that much response,” Ms. McIntosh said. “It was wonderful.”

Flash forward to this month’s good news that schools and some businesses—among them art galleries—could reopen at limited capacity, and Inside Out is finally making its CMA debut.

“Some of the galleries in town have been open with Artwalk, and I know they get a few people trickling through, but I think a lot of people are anxious to get back in the museums and to have the experience of seeing art again,” Ms. McIntosh said. “And the artists are just so anxious to share what they’re created.”

Among the things one gets only from an in-person gallery show is a sense of scale.

“Paul Faulstich has a large piece,” an acrylic and latex on birch panel, “Red-tailed Hawk,” “that if you look at it small on a monitor, it’s light blue sky with tan birds floating through the air,” Ms. McIntosh said. “But you see it in person and it’s quite large. And you realize that it’s a board with the texture of the wood, the grain of the wood. And that’s what you see in the bird, that it has actually been masked off, and this expanse of blue that’s not quite solid blue. It’s more the way a sky has a little variations to it. It’s very subtle.

“But the scale of it, you feel like you’re up in the sky when you’re looking at it in person. And it’s just not the same when you’re looking at it on a screen, especially when you’re looking at it in a little tiny version on your iPhone. It’s just a different experience.

“And there’s a personal connection. It’s almost like a conversation between the viewer and the artist with the painting kind of being the language that’s spoken. I think the artist expresses a lot of feelings and visions and whatnot in what they put into the work they’re creating, and it all has to do with texture and scale.”

Another sensation exclusive to an in-person events has to do with experiencing color, Ms. McIntosh said.

“The colors that at are in paint and in ceramics, they’re just different to the eye than what’s reproduced in yellow, cyan and magenta, or in red and green dots on a monitor,” she said. “You can’t reproduce the same colors that you see with your eye that are done with pigments or natural materials. It’s just not possible.”

As a companion to Inside Out, CMA will present a slide show of more than 150 images of pandemic-era work and comments from area artists.

Ms. McIntosh would not hazard a guess at how seeing people inside the CMA gallery once again will affect her. “But I know the artists are just going dying to come and see all the other artists’ work in person and for their friends in the community to be able to come see their work,” she allowed.

“I think so any of the artists have just felt a disconnect. They’re painting or they’re working in clay and they’re creating, but there’s nobody who’s getting to share in the experience of what they’ve created. And I think they’re all really anxious to be able to share that.”

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