Local artist ‘Embracing Uncertainty’

Students visit new mixed media exhibit

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Local artist ‘Embracing Uncertainty’

Benjamin Castro

Benjamin Castro

Benjamin Castro

Tammy Do, Times Staff

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Students marveled up close and personal at the new exhibition at the San Jose City College’s Art Gallery by a local artist Lucy Ghelfi, at a reception held on Sept. 14.

“Embracing Uncertainty (Abrazando la Incertidumbre),” which remains open until Oct. 19, consists of ceramic sculptures and mixed media paintings that often evoke the theme of the wonder of nature, including the centerpiece of the exhibition, a quartet of paintings titled after the four elements: “Earth,” “Air,” “Fire” and “Water.”

“I’ve always been drawn to mountains, the sea,” Ghelfi said. “Being out in nature, seeing the beauty, all the trees and meadows — I could remember thinking, ‘It’s been untouched by man.'”

Revae Jensen, a web design major, enthused about the mixed media works: “The detail and the wave and the motion in her paintings; I can really relate to it. And the patterns in the paint, it’s unique! The colors can be soft and then loud. It all blends together so well.”

Ghelfi incorporates acrylic paint, colored pigment, and found materials, both natural (eggshells, dirt, sand) and manmade (fabric, packing material, spackle), in her compositions. She said her process is focused on the different textures she creates on the canvas, and on showing depth and movement within the layers of paint.

Also showcased were four sculptures. One, a bust named “Gaia Mother Earth,” drew the interest of media arts student Ally Quetal, who was among a throng who waited to speak with the artist.

“(I like) the platform where it’s made: wood, and moss, then the birds all around her, nesting,” Quetal said. “She’s peaceful. You see her face’s expression; it’s very relaxed. It’s something we should take care of.”

The name of the exhibit, “Embracing Uncertainly” refers to Ghelfi’s feelings about moving into abstract work. Ghelfi said she found motivation in the uncertainty she felt and experience of “walking through fear.”

Ghelfi knows about the power of embracing new experiences and stepping into the unknown. After getting her master’s degree and a career in special education, she returned to school to explore her interest in studio art.

The curator of the gallery, art professor Eve Mathias, has been watching Ghelfi’s work develop since.

“Lucy took all the art classes [we had] at SJCC,” Mathias said.

Mathias offered to help bring about this exhibition, after she saw the new abstract direction Ghelfi was taking.

“Work began to erupt at her studio … Lucy has worked very hard these last two years,” said Mathias.

Ghelfi took this philosophy of improvisation and hard work into the process of creating the mixed media pieces on display as well.

“When I start the compositions using paper and different fabrics and stuff, I concentrate on the balance of the different elements. When I start applying the paint, I see the highs and lows of the piece … There is no pre-determined image or outcome.”

She often works with several paintings at once because she has to wait for the layers to dry.

“Each layer of paint is a new dialogue … trying to figure out what a painting wants to become,” Ghelfi said.

Mathias said she hopes the exhibit will introduce the students to non-objective art and open their horizons.

Nursing student Ariana Hernandez wondered over the meaning of a pair of paintings named “Skyline 1” and “Skyline 2.”

“To me it looks like the pier, and there’s even dark shapes where the seals would be. It can look like different things to different people,” Hernandez said.

Mathias is planning an upcoming student exhibit for the Day of the Dead in early November, and is excited about “Plastic Madness,” which will feature pieces by Mexican artists that repurpose trash into “found objects.”

Ghelfi is still an educator; she has private students and is always open to helping people who approach her.

For aspiring artists, her advice is to find mentors and allies, and to not be shy about asking:

“Pursue your interests, your passions – and if you don’t know what it is, explore.”

In the artist’s own words:

  • On “Gaia Earth Other”

The inspiration was the birth of my grandchildren. At the time, my older grandson was a year and a half old, and my son was having his first child. I knew I wanted to do another bust and I’m all for the seasons and the earth renewing itself. So the inspiration for that was all of that together. Rebirth, continuation of the human race, of the world, of the earth. And I wanted it just to have it come together in a way that is not just a personal narrative, that it’s a story.

  • On “Air”

Some of my favorites are the ones that just came together so quickly. I had put the composition on, I knew what I wanted. I put on the colors, and I said, oh no, this is not going to work. And then I started to cover it up and to redo the composition, actually. And then when I was laying it out, and it worked, I said OK, I don’t think I have to do anything else, just touch up the edges. The ones I don’t struggle too much with, I think those are my favorite.

  • On teaching

I like to share what I know. It’s not about jealousy; I’m not in competition with anyone. (I’m) happy with your success. It’s my success.

  • On her inspiration

The beauty of the elements. The beauty of the earth. Year after year the flowers bloom again. They come back. We grow vegetables and feed ourselves. The earth heals itself, even after (disaster). People survive. And so does the earth.