Mesa College debuts its new gallery’s first Student Art Exhibition


Lourans Michail’s mixed media sculpture features a trio of fists holding weaponized art instruments. Artwork is titled “Paint or Die,” “Therapy,” and “Pain Roller.”

Racheal Habon, Features Co-Editor

For the debut of San Diego Mesa College’s first Student Art Exhibition in its brand new gallery, Mesa art students captivate viewers with dynamic designs that reflect a wide range of artisanship.

Although a student exhibition is held at the end of every semester at Mesa College, this semester’s exhibition is the very first to be hosted in the new gallery, located in the college’s newly remodeled Fine Arts Building.

While the gallery has presented works by emerging and established contemporary artists like Mario Torero and April Rose since its grand opening in January, it’s nice to see the gallery filled with art exclusively produced by Mesa’s very own students to close out the semester. This exhibit, on view from May 9-21, features an eclectic mix of over a hundred artworks created by Mesa students who are a part of the college’s studio art classes. The collection of art on view is made in a wide variety of media: including digital print, papier-mâché, textile, found objects, recyclables, wood, concrete, metal, acrylic, charcoal, ceramic, and much more.

“Usually our student exhibitions have no theme,” said Alessandra Moctezuma, gallery director and museum studies professor at Mesa College. “It’s just a compendium of examples from the different studio art classes.” A central theme was not necessary, as the curated art pieces in the exhibition still proved to be a brilliantly cohesive collection.

Upon entering the gallery, visitors are immediately welcomed with vibrant and colorful artworks, including watercolor paintings, chalk pastel sketches, and an artwork titled “Portal Frames.” Created by Evelyne Martinez Herrera, “Frames” consisted of suspended frames crafted into boxes that housed different scenes and included political references like the American flag and a wrecking ball destroying President Trump’s border wall.

Other artworks shown in the Student Art Exhibition include handcrafted fashion pieces displayed on mannequins, a beautiful collection of ceramic sculptures sprouting with tillandsia (evergreen flowering plants known as “air plants”) created by Karen Gottlund, a sculpture of a pair of cherries atop a golden pedestal by Carolina Vazquez-Arce that presents themes of virginity and female sexuality, and a massive polyhedron sculpture made of mixed media. The polyhedron sculpture, titled “Student Group Project,” tasked students to create their own hexahedron geometric shape and then collaborated together to build a bold and diverse polyhedron cluster, which was elegantly suspended from the ceiling with poly-fiber filament. Among the faces of the polyhedron sculpture are butterflies, candy, musical notes floating through clouds, cherry blossoms, astronauts and nautical divers hovering in a space-like void.

An especially dramatic artwork shown in the exhibition is a sculpture by Vicente Salinas of a bleeding heart glowing at the center, above an Aztec pyramid hanging from chains, enclosed in a wooden cabinet. On the cabinet walls inside of the sculpture are the Aztec gods of life and death on the left and right, along with a framed picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe on the backside. Salinas’ artwork is meant to express the Spanish takeover of the Aztec empire.

Another impressive artwork featured in the Student Art Exhibition is a powerful mixed media sculpture by Lourans Michail of a trio of fists, each gripping various art instruments designed to look like weapons. Two of the fists are raising up paint brushes: The first paintbrush is made of bullets instead of paintbrush bristles, and the second paintbrush consists of syringes dripping with red, yellow, gold, and green paint. The third fist of the sculpture is holding up a paint roller, rolled with a string of bullets. Interestingly, the trio of fists are titled “Paint or Die,” “Therapy,” and “Pain Roller.”

In addition to displaying the art of Mesa students and professional artists alike, the gallery also serves as a laboratory for the art department’s museum studies program. When asked if the art pieces in the Student Art Exhibition were displayed in any specific way, Moctezuma explained that her museum studies class “sets up the artworks and connected some by theme or colors and patterns to make them pleasing to the eye and create a dialogue between the works.” Moctezuma’s students, who are training to work for the museums in Balboa Park, are given the opportunity to practice hanging artworks in a gallery through this exhibit. The work of Moctezuma’s museum studies class is seen, for example, with the nature-themed artworks strategically grouped together or in the assemblage of quilt patches created by different students.

Not every art student gets to show in the Student Art Exhibition, however. Moctezuma says that only three works per class are chosen to exhibit. “In terms of the selection, it depends,” she said. Moctezuma added that sometimes “the instructor selects the works and in other classes, students vote on the ones they feel are the most representative.” Generally, the artworks chosen exemplify originality and great craftsmanship.

Overall, Mesa’s 2019 Student Art Exhibition demonstrated the collaborative experience accomplished by the art students of Mesa — both an outstanding debut for the new gallery and a remarkable finale for the spring semester.