By Ryah Cooley
Fight or flight. It's a choice artist Missy Reitner-Cameron knows well, particularly since the 2016 presidential election went down two years ago.
"Some people are using art to communicate their anger and dissatisfaction," Reitner-Cameron said. "And other artists are using it to find peace and calm."
But she also knows there's a space in between those opposing emotions, one that can hopefully be filled with mutual understanding. It's what led Reitner-Cameron, who is the founder of both (iii) Design and The Bunker SLO, a shared creative space, to participate in and guest curate the Common Ground 2019 art exhibit, which is currently on display at Studios on the Park in Paso Robles.
The show invites viewers to see how artists are engaging with the current political landscape, representing their beliefs and anxieties through their original work, all the while striving to find common ground as a nation and as people. Common Ground 2019 features about 40 pieces done in glass, sculpture, found objects, 3-D art, interactive works, acrylics, and oil paintings by local artists like Lena Rushing, Mark Bryan, and Robbie Conal.
"It's very diverse," Reitner-Cameron said.
The San Luis Obispo artist has made both rage-fueled art and creative works to soothe her soul. Around the time President Donald Trump was elected, Reitner-Cameron was busy working on creating the former. Her painting done on wood panels, So It Goes, features a blond underwear-clad woman on a stage surrounded by the bodies of dead women, lying in a circle around her feet on the ground.
"Since that time I've been doing more mellow art—calm and peaceful—but I wanted to bring it [So It Goes] back because, as a woman, I do feel disposable," Reitner-Cameron said. "When I was younger, especially, I felt not heard. And as the parent of a 17-year-old girl, I want people to understand that it's still very real."
The message resonated further for Reitner-Cameron as she followed the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who testified to Congress in September about being sexually assaulted in 1982 by Brett Kavanaugh, who Trump nominated to the Supreme Court this year. In spite of her testimony, Kavanaugh's appointment continued, undeterred by allegations of sexual assault.
"It's still very applicable," Reitner-Cameron said. "It still seems like there's a level of anxiety and fear that's still very present. I'm hoping that come January, when there are more women in Congress, more women who are active, that change is coming for women, people of color, and LGBTQ people."
These days, Reitner-Cameron is busy crafting more calming work, mainly simplified, modern landscapes and cityscapes, many of which are inspired by her frequent trips to Wyoming.
"It really chills me out," she said.
Reitner-Cameron hopes that the Common Ground 2019 show will offer viewers a chance to see a different perspective and connect with a piece that reflects their own feelings about our currently tumultuous and divisive existence.
"Artists I think deal with things differently than other normal people," Reitner-Cameron said. "I'm visual and I'm an empath. When I feel things, I really feel things; it's achy. Someone may be able to look at one of these paintings and think, 'That's how I feel.' That's all I want." Δ
The space between
The Common Ground 2019 art exhibit will be on display at Studios on the Park through Jan. 27. The gallery is open Monday through Wednesday from noon to 4 p.m., Thursday and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from noon to 9 p.m. Visit studiosonthepark.org for more information.
Arts Writer Ryah Cooley is taking deep breaths. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.