By Hayley Thomas
In 2008, two men – Gordan Fuglie and Tim Anderson – met at a local Denny’s and proceeded to talk art. Both men were hungry for pancakes and eggs, but hungrier still for an overarching haven for art in the mid-state area.
FILLING A NEED
“Look at Central California – our geographical region starts in the north at Santa Cruz and goes all the way across to the Nevada border crossing over Bishop, and the south is Ventura out through Death Valley,” said Fuglie, “and ask yourself, ‘What kind of artists have been through here?’”
The answer is long and varied, encompassing acclaimed photographers Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, who photographed the region’s natural beauty in the ‘30s and ‘40s, artist Judy Chicago, who kick-started the feminist art movement while teaching at Cal State Fresno in the ‘70s and John Nava of Ojai, whose ornate tapestries currently hang in the grand Our Lady of Los Angeles Cathedral. The Kern County town of Delano is home to the nation’s first Chicano mural, and the list goes on.
The Atascadero resident, now CCM Head of Curatorial Affairs, said the Central Coast is especially rich in art.
“Heart Castle is a monument to the veracious, hungry [art] collecting appetite here, just a few miles from us, so there’s a lot of interesting things going on when you begin to poke around, and it really hasn’t been addressed,” he said. “You start thinking, ‘Gosh, we actually have something to be proud of.”
With that in mind, Fuglie co-founded the Central California Museum of Art [CCMA] with Anderson, who currently serves as director of the Cuesta College Art Gallery in San Luis Obispo.
Fuglie said the goal of CCMA is to develop a venue for serious historical and contemporary exhibitions, the likes of which can be found in neighboring Santa Barbara and Monterey counties.
The CCMA Advisory Council – made up of artists, educators, curators and professionals spanning the state – aims to carry out that goal by concentrating the fullest curatorial and scholarly attention on the art and artists of the growing 13-county Central California region.
Although a permanent museum space has yet to be procured, the CCMA has already begun its work presenting exhibits at local venues and promoting artists through their Web site.
Peter Zaleski, who draws inspiration from North County's ranches, hill and vineyards, exhibited his work at the Cuesta Collage Art Gallery last spring.
The art show was a natural first for CCMA.
"He's a Templeton artist who is collected internationally, but has never been featured in our county," Fuglie said with a chuckle.
Last month, CCMA and ARTS Obispo partnered for an exhibit featuring Santa Barbara painter Nicole Stasburg and her work entitled "Paradiso Inferno: Drought and Fire in the Central Coast Landscapes."
Fuglie called the work fresh and a good example of work that represents the region.
"She's somebody who looks at the climate and the environment [of Central California' and the periodic fires -and it's a new way of seeing our land," he said.
PARTNERING WITH STUDIOS ON THE PARK
CCMA's third show will be held at Paso Robles' Studios on the Park, solidifying a first-time collaboration that could grow into a fruitful partnership.
Fuglie praised local artist Anne Laddon, founder of the artist nonprofit, workspace and show venue.
"It was such a brave move, putting Studios on the Park in the most vigorous part of Paso Robles with the locals and tourists coming in. That's a visionary goal she accomplished," he said.
Tim Anderson, now CCMA Head of Exhibition Design, echoed that sentiment.
"In the past I've enjoyed volunteering to install shows of local artists at Studios on the Park," said Anderson. "Having a nationally recognized photographer like E.F. Kitchen show her work in San Luis Obispo County exposes the mid-state to goings-on in the larger art world."
The exhibit, E.F. Kitchen's photographic journey, "Suburban Knights: A Return to the Middle Ages," is now running through Nov. 14 at Studios on the Park.
The images depict the lives of everyday Americans who relish dressing in elaborate costumes and clashing swords in their spare time. Kitchen said the subjects' passion for a bygone era spoke to her artistic process.
"I love the Renaissance period and the Middle Age period and my work kind of has that old-fashioned feeling to it," the artist said of her black-and-white photographs.
"Obviously, I'm working with old techniques - a platinum process and not a digital process. This will be a chance for people to see photography that's not digital, not silver - it's platinum, so it's all hand done and hand processed," she said.
"[The exhibit] is about the people who re-create this era and dress up and create these personas and why they do it and what compels them, as grown adults, to be running around hitting each other over the head with sticks," said Kitchen.
"They seem to really be involved in it and they just love it. They can't wait to get out there and go into these mock battles. I think it's fascinating because it's a subculture I wasn't aware of and it's also something that was great because it hasn't been photographed before in a serious way."
"Suburban Knights: A Return to the Middle Ages" was previously shown in New York City and Los Angeles, and a book by the same name is now available at Amazon.com and other retailers.
Kitchen, who resides and works in Venice Beach, Calif., will be traveling to Paso Robles for the first time thanks to Fuglie's use of Facebook to track down the celebrated artist.
"[Studios on the Park] is a wonderful venue and I'm very excited," said Kitchen.
CCMA Advisory Council member David Zapf underscored the importance of utilizing local venues like Studios on the Park.
"Partnering with a rage of galleries in San Luis Obispo County and Central California is at the core of our mission," he said.
Studios on the Park founder Anne Laddon said the partnership allows the nonprofit to network with other great artists spanning the sate.
"Our goal in inviting CCMA to collaborate with us was to bring to Paso Robles nationally known and respected artists from out of the area," she said. "[Fuglie and Anderson] have a history working with artists in other cities and they know artists we don't. We want to bring Paso Robles new, exciting and stimulating visual arts."
During the 2009 and 2010 Paso Robles Festival of the Arts, Studios on the Park hosted the work of artists from around the state along-side the work of celebrated resident artists. The venue may continue to collaborate with CCMA to host more statewide artwork.
Studios Program Director Sasha Irving said it's all about "showcasing what we have to offer here, as well as what's going on further afield."
OCT. 29 RECEPTION & BOOK SIGNING
Irving said Kitchen's artwork speaks for itself with its unique and compelling subject matter. The entire community is encouraged to stop by Studios on the Park for the artist's reception and book signing slated for Friday, Oct. 2 from 6 to 8:30 p.m.
"['Suburban Knights'] is something that can appeal to all ages and it's especially appropriate for Halloween. I can imagine little kids and professional artists getting excited about the exhibit," said Irving.
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT CCMA
Formed in the Spring of 2010, the Advisory Council of the Central California Museum of Art recognized what they felt was the shortage of serious exhibitions and scholarship on important artists working in the mid-state region.
The council, whose members are currently from Fresno and Santa Barbara Counties, as well as the mid- and northern areas of San Luis Obispo County - with strong interest expressed in Santa Cruz and Kern counties, aims to address this need via information and education on the CCMA's website; and collaborative exhibitions at various art spaces, galleries and museums throughout the region and definitive scholarly publications on area art and artists - eventually securing a professionally staffed and equipped permanent building for the museum's activities.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 310-776-0919.