Wide spectrum of Merced County artists make up show

07/31/2014 5:09 PM

07/31/2014 5:10 PM

Merced County’s wide array of art-makers are the centerpiece of the latest exhibit at the Merced Multicultural Arts Center.

“Range: County Artists Across the Spectrum” is the theme of the exhibit now open at the 645 W. Main St. gallery, which features four collections of art from artists of all kinds – amateur to professional.

Joey Essig, the Merced County Arts Council operations director, said the more than 60 pieces from dozens of artists mark an effort by the arts council to have clear themes for shows. “It’s new in the sense that we’re trying to give the overall show a concept,” he said. “I think we’re just trying to mature as a gallery.”

The works on display include drawings, paintings, sculpture and other media.

Natalie Porter of Merced contributed several pieces to the show. The 28-year-old has graced galleries before, but this will be her first showing at the center, she said. “It’s nice because a lot of family or people I’ve grown up with are able to come and see it,” she said.

Her works have elements of surrealism, pop art and low-brow illustration. She said she was inspired by Disney and other cartoons she watched growing up in Merced.

Her pieces in the gallery primarily deal in the duality of feminism, she said.

“I like to combine two different things and kind of walk the line,” she said. “That way, I feel like the viewer can get more of what they want out of (it).”

Porter said she hopes to build a portfolio on her way to graduate school.

While Porter works here way to one end of the spectrum – to be a professional artist – amateurs also make up a portion of the show.

Entries from the Merced County Fair, which holds many art competitions during its five-day run each summer, adorn the walls as well. Museum staff said the entries picked from the fair are an attempt to gain some “added value” from fair art.

Still more art comes from the Enrichment Center, an arts-based program offered by the arts council that works with developmentally disabled adults. The program contributed 18 pieces, some two-dimensional and others three-dimensional, from 14 artists, said Shannon Essig, program director for Enrichment Center.

Essig, who is sister to the arts council operations director, said the program works with 27 artists who are from the Central Valley Regional Center. They come from around Merced County.

The goal of the program, Essig said, is to get the artists to express themselves through art, much like anyone else would do through art.

There is an added element in that many of the artists with the Enrichment Center have some limitations related to communication. “They need to challenge themselves to explore their art and explore the world,” she said.

The Enrichment Program offers classes in visual and performing arts.

The fourth source of artwork is Contemporary Humanitarian Artists Association, a collection of central San Joaquin Valley artists.

The Multicultural Arts Center is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free. The newest exhibit is scheduled to remain up through Sept. 23.

For more, call the center at (209) 388-1090, or go to www.artmerced.org.

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