Sunday, October 18, 2015

Why make art? Artists respond in new exhibit

(Originally published in the 10/14/15 edition)

   Why do artists make art? It’s a simple question, but every artist has their own take on why they pursue art for a living. This premise is the focus of Arts Benicia’s newest exhibition “Why Make Art: Twenty-Five Benicia Artists Respond.”
   The exhibit can be viewed at 991 Tyler Street starting today with an opening reception to be held on Saturday. Longtime Benicia photographer and event co-curator Hedi Desuyo posed the question “Why make art?” to 25 local artists. They responded with short statements which will be on display next to their works of art and will be accompanied with portraits taken by Desuyo.
   Desuyo says the project began a few years ago when she started taking portraits of the artists. From there, she had the idea to do an exhibit.
   “I wanted the exhibit to be more than just artists’ portraits,” she said. “I wanted some of the artists’ work, but I also wanted a statement on why they make art.”
   In her more than 30 years with Arts Benicia, Desuyo has seen plenty of artists come through, and she has felt they’ve had stories to tell.
   “Over the years, you see people who have always been here and newcomers,” she said. “You see their work, but you say ‘Who are they? Why are they using this particular subject matter?’ So I started posing that question ‘Why do you make art?’”
   Desuyo began emailing local artists with the titular question, and they all responded with their own reasons. Desuyo says she is impressed with the responses she’s gotten.
   “You think you know people, but you don’t know what’s inside with a lot of them,” she said. “For me, that’s one of the most rewarding parts.”
    The featured artists include Sam Morse, Pam Dixon, Manuel Neri, Mernie Buchanan and over 20 other Benicia artists. Desuyo says that the artists represented are very passionate about their work.
   “There are people who see art more as an escape or a hobby, but the people here are all serious about it,” she said.
   The artists took liberties in how they chose to answer the question. Some were only a sentence long, others were longer and one response by Lee Michael Altman was written in the form of a poem. 
   The responses also included some humor. One statement by Anthony Riggs begins “I paint because I am possessed. I hate paint. It’s sticky. It’s difficult to control. I get it in my hair. Paint is colored mud.”
   Riggs’s statement goes on to say how in spite of all this, he loves to paint and will do it again each day.
   “They’re all statements from the heart,” Desuyo said.
    The featured artworks include paintings, sculptures and even more abstract work like a stone hanging by fish hooks from a piece of wood, which was designed by Mike Kendall. 
   Desuyo says she hopes the exhibit gives visitors a chance to see what art making is all about. 
   “To me, every brush stroke is a decision,” she said. “There’s the decision of ‘What color am I putting here?’ or ‘Which direction is the brush going to go?’ I think that’s really fascinating.”
   “Why Make Art” will be on display at  Arts Benicia Suite No. 114, located at 991 Tyler St., until Sunday, Nov. 15. An opening reception will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17. The gallery is open from noon to 5 p.m. on Wednesday through Sunday.


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