The Mendocino College Art Gallery is proud to announce its new exhibit, eXplorations - Paula Gray: taking the X out of anxiety and other stories, which opens with a reception on Thursday, February 9th from 4-6pm. Paula Gray has taught visual arts at Mendocino College since 1986, both as an adjunct and full time professor. After retiring from full time teaching in 2014, she dove headlong into studio projects and has created an extensive and exciting new body of work. This show includes over sixty artworks that include three dimensional constructions made from found materials, collages, prints and paintings. The title of the exhibit alludes to a time of change in Ms. Gray’s life that, as often happens, came with an increase in anxiety. She describes a dream she had about the word "anxiety" itself in which the X was missing. This dream became a catalyst for artwork that began with a focus on the letter “X” and developed in myriad directions ranging from the abstract to representational.
Red X, Mixed Media, 2016
Employing her keen and dry sense of humor, three-dimensional X-shaped constructions are created from game parts, railroad signs, toys, and other odd bits and pieces of our culture. They take a whimsical stab at the often debilitating effects of anxiety. Collages are sourced from saved letters Gray sent to her parents when she went away to art school and from love letters exchanged between her parents during WWII. In these, the use of X's and O's as substitute symbols for terms of endearment easily adapt into the work and become part of the formal element of pattern. Likewise, postage stamp cancellations harvested from these saved letters become a beautifully patterned record of personal experience as well as a reference to a historically intense time and place.
Biblio Burro, Acrylic on panel with gold leaf, 2016
Many of the paintings in the exhibit feature a subject matter for which Ms. Gray is well known. In her words, “Animals, with their grace and devotion, have always been partners to my existence and well-being. Their presence is centering, their communication direct and uncomplicated. I noted that burros have played a subservient role as bearers of burden for people throughout human recorded history. Giotto, considered to be the father of modern painting, depicted burros in his religious frescoes, which made me think he must have had the assistance of one in his own travels and vocations, and as a model. I read of burros being used in South and Central America as rural "bookmobiles." I thought that a ‘Biblio Burro’ might also be employed to bring significant knowledge in our digital era of anxiety. I wanted to honor some animals and the stories they participate in to serve as reminders for us to ‘Act Balancing,’ that ‘The Race is Not to the Swift,’ (both names of paintings in the show) and that the heart is, after all, a drum that we dance to, even in times of anxiety.”
Gray grew up in a house on the sand dunes of Moss Landing, California, a small fishing village on Monterey Bay. Her parents came from farming backgrounds in Alabama and Missouri; in Moss Landing, her father ran a fish cannery and her mother was the postmistress and operated a branch of the county library out of a spare room in their house. Paula showed two aptitudes from an early age - a winning way with animals, and an ability to draw. She's been drawing portraits of people and animals as long as she can remember. Her artwork drew the attention of a syndicated cartoonist who suggested she apply to the Chouinard Art School in Los Angeles, where she was accepted and received her BFA in Fine Arts. While attending Chouinard, she went to work for Walter E. Disney Enterprises, fabricating attractions for Disneyland and Walt Disney World. She later attended graduate school at UCLA and received a Master's Degree in environmental design. But instead of plunging into L.A.'s art or design world, she went back to the country, this time to Flagstaff, Arizona, where she served as a curator for the Museum of Northern Arizona. While there she was influenced by her exposure to the Hopi and Navajo people and their art, especially their sense of design and the way they abstracted natural forms in their pottery, paintings and weavings. After three years, she returned to Los Angeles and worked for the Citywide Mural Project, supervising the creation of thirty murals around the city. She also got to indulge her longtime love of cartooning as an illustrator for the Constitutional Rights Foundation, writing and illustrating comic books and film strips. In addition, she has worked as a fashion photographer, book illustrator, public school art teacher, and a freelance graphic artist. In 1980, Paula moved back to northern California, began teaching art to youngsters and adults in Mendocino County and built her own house in Yorkville. She has remained committed to her own art practice, participating in over 100 exhibitions over the course of her career.
eXplorations - Paula Gray also marks the official start of the Friends of the Mendocino College Art Gallery, a new affiliate program with the Mendocino College Foundation. This exciting new partnership has been established to help the Gallery further enrich student’s exposure to contemporary art by bringing in guest artists and speakers from outside of the area, providing tickets and transportation to museums/galleries in the SFBA and adding additional hours for gallery operation to promote increased access for both the college and greater Mendocino County community. Ms. Gray has generously donated a piece of artwork to be raffled off in support of this new affiliate group. Raffle tickets can be purchased throughout the run of the show for $5 each or five for $20.
eXplorations - Paula Gray: taking the X out of anxiety and other stories runs February 9 - March 26, 2017 at the Mendocino College Art Gallery, Center for Visual and Performing Arts, 1000 Hensley Creek Road, Ukiah, CA 95482. Regular gallery hours are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 12:30-3:30 as well as by special appointment. Contact us at www.mendocino.edu or 707.468.3207 for more information.