Early in the school year, during my first staff meeting as the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Intern for the Sesnon Gallery, we were asked to answer the check-in question “What have you been up to during quarantine?” A lot of the answers included, cooking, watching shows, playing with pets, and making art. During this conversation, my fellow intern, Claire Apana, began to describe her ‘Panic Pillow,’ a velvety sculpture that gave her comfort during isolation.
Hearing Claire describe how her art was able to bring much needed comfort and creativity during isolation inspired the exhibition that has gone on to become At the Present Moment. I was struck by the power of art created in a uniquely turbulent time to sooth, heal, and empower, and I knew that Claire was not the only student who had channeled the frustrations of the present moment into creativity. Therefore, with the help of Shelby Graham and Louise Leong I was able to embark on this project that has brought together over 40 student artists and creatives from UC Santa Cruz.
In addition to Claire’s piece, the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History’s community sourced exhibition In These Uncertain Times, served as a major inspiration for At the Present Moment. The MAH’s locally centered ethos and knack for creating a museum space that is representative of the Santa Cruz County community inspired me to scale the exhibition and make it as inclusive as possible. I was thrilled when the MAH’s Exhibitions and Program Manager, Everett Ó Cillín, agreed to collaborate with us, lending support and guidance to the Underground, and offering us a space in the museum where student’s work could be seen alongside other Santa Cruz County artists. It is my hope that the Underground’s exhibition can act as a bridge between Santa Cruz’s local and student populations, and that our two institutions can continue to work together to bring art and creativity to the Santa Cruz community.
We began the open call for At the Present Moment on December 18, 2020, and from that date until submissions closed on February 2, 2021, we received 35 submissions, with a total of 78 pieces making up the exhibition. I am amazed at the breadth of talent and creativity of my peers, and I’m grateful to every artist who submitted work and allowed us to share in their creativity. Submissions spanned from digital images and film photographs created by Economics and Computer Science majors, paintings by students from Crown and Porter Colleges, handmade books, sculptures, drawings and doodles from Kresge and Cowell students, a collaborative bronze sculpture, and even an experimental poetic sound piece created by an eccentric Literature major. Pieces shaped by isolation, hope, and resistance, that capture a plethora of student experiences during this collective moment of isolation, public health, and political turmoil.
At the Present Moment strives to showcase the unique perspectives of UC Santa Cruz students, and the pieces serve as a testament to the enduring creativity of our campus community.
–Edie Trautwein, Curator
Abbey Carmel (she/her)
Large Red PVC Chain Sculpture, 10 feet long.
Inspired by the confines of quarantine.
Abbey Carmel (she/her)
Large Red PVC Chain Sculpture, 10 feet long.
Inspired by the confines of quarantine.
Brandon Saglam (he/him)
The wings themselves I created from envelopes and stand alone as a piece that creates a parallel between the hope of angels and letters which have been important during the pandemic and during the past election of 2020 for change.
Angelic Is my representation of the biblical light of an angelic form (i.e. I tried to make myself seem to have multiple heads to closer recreate a more true biblical angel) tying into hope.
I hold the position in which Jesus was crucified and the darkness represents the reciprocal to the light.
My work reflects on biblical themes through lighting values and representation. I am reflecting on how the tragedies of 2020 have brought reciprocal suffering, darkness, and hope for change, lightness. These concepts I express through religious motifs of a biblical angel in the eyes of popular culture.
Claire Apana (she/her)
PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS
‘PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS’ was created in response to the lack of PPE available to our essential workers throughout COVID-19. It is a message to our politicians; people over profits. Protect the people against the disease that is Capitalism.
The "Panic Pillow" was created in response to my anxiety throughout the pandemic, and my need to be comforted while in isolation. I longed to hug or be hugged, so I created the "Panic Pillow." It is a massive bean shaped body pillow; one side is super soft faux fur, the other is velvet, and it has a silk fringe. When you hug it, it hugs you back.
As a child, I was obsessed with origami as it was a means of exploring my asian heritage through art. I was mesmerized by the look and feel of origami papers and found it fascinating that I had the ability to create delicate works of art with a conventional material.
My works focus on the concept of Impossible Realities and the paradoxical ways of life that are absolute. This exposure of our human condition results from introspective thought process combined with a dedicated art practice. Through my art I hope to inspire viewers to realize that even small actions can create immense change.
Recent works are performances in which I hand fold massive photographs into sculptures in front of an audience. In manipulating the raw material, I reconstruct the narrative into a new form. These new forms are metaphors for the infinite possibilities each of us contains to change our reality and the world we perceive. Through collective action and solidarity we can contain the chaos around us in order to design stability for all. By dedicating time and energy towards our goals, we can all begin to take control of our realities. My art practice is a way of taking control by means of creation.
The back deck from my window, 2020
These pieces are a part of a series of colored pencil drawings I made between October and December 2020, during this period I kept my sketchbook and pencils on a table in my room and I drew whenever I needed a break from my screens. The drawings began as doodles, I had no plan when I started each of them and I let the colors, and my imagination guide me. They were an exercise in relinquishing control and letting my materials do the work. While drawing I took inspiration from sunlight, the plants in the backyard, and textures in my dreams.
Elijah Solow-Ohashi (he/him)
Sketches that used photos from the 2000s as reference.
Cardboard wearable sculpture
Blue Skies Above
Lost in Thought
Oil on canvas
Fiona Donovan (she/her)
This piece has eight sections, one per student, each with its own subtitle.
Students were asked to submit a small bas-relief on the theme of "Pandemic." While the overall piece resembles a Corona Virus, the theme may be widely interpreted, as in the pandemic of global warming, etc. Sean M. Monaghan, course instructor, UCSC Art 189-02, F'20
Isaac England-Asplund (he/him)
This is a recording of the sounds that a spittlebug makes.
“The icing on top” is a series of three pieces I created while experimenting with different sculptural materials and processes. The pieces serve to remind us that some years we ache with growing pains and experience more than what feels like a single trip around the sun.
Autopsy of a Mexican American was meant to be a personal and statement piece describing how Latinos are perceived in America and how I perceive myself as a Chicana. The book mimics the standard autopsy diagram used in coronary reports, seeing front, back, and internal views of the body. This was also meant to be a comment on the horrible and unauthorized hysterectomies being performed on women at the ICE detention centers. When the book is opened and the Latina is "cut open" we see each internal organ representing common traits found among Latinos in America. Latin America has been a mixing pot of races ever since colonial times, and "race" can sometimes be a confusing way to identify ourselves. We identify our ethnicity as Hispanic/Latino and our nationality as the country we have roots in, but I myself have never been able to identify with a specific race. Thus the quote from Kendi's How to Be an Antiracist is painted in harsh strokes with torn excerpts from the book to show my frustration. The back of the book shows a different side of being Mexican American: an explosion of color and pride. The designs are influenced by the famous Talavera pottery designs which remain a staple decoration in my family's home. I allowed this side to be joyous and fun, while contrasting heavily to the almost gory autopsy table.
I am very interested in exploring the human condition, specifically concepts of vulnerability and mental health.
This is our campus void of life. Void of everything that makes it ours.
It started, taped to the walls of an alien environment, when I was evacuated over the summer to San Jose State University as well as hotels. My peers, and the people at SJSU tried not to talk about the situation, but it showed all over their faces. This was a theme that I found throughout the year, where people didn't want to show their vulnerabilities but could not hide their sadness.
Matilda Krulder (she/her)
This piece is inspired by a saying my mother told me every fire season when the cliffs of my childhood home appeared burnt and barren: “after every fire, the wildflowers will grow more plentiful.” In California, many grow up experiencing the destruction of wildfires, which grow increasingly common due to climate change. I aim to convey beauty in each stage of transformation and to illuminate the resilience of California.
Based on a photographic image I took on a rock in Croatia, I recreated the grasshopper to bring out the colorful, intricate, and unique nature of the insect and then reintroduced the illustration to the grasshopper’s original background in order to create a contrast. I want to convey to the viewer a sense of wonder for natural beauty.
I am a second year student at UCSC double majoring in Art and Politics. I strongly believe that the arts are a crucial tool for spreading communication, collaboration, and understanding between individuals, self, communities, and nations. My goal is to find and experiment with as many ways to create and communicate as possible.
Micah Mahelona (she/her)
Field guide to the Monsters of Quarantine is a bestiary filled with personified representations of different issues students have dealt with through lockdown. I have transformed these hardships into physical illustrations to creatively express and represent how I see them.
At just about a year old, my premature baby was finally strong enough to be out in the world... However at the same time we went into a countrywide quarantine. The world within the safety of our fences became the only places they could roam. Since I could not bring my child into the world, we brought the world into our home. We explored the garden, planting and watching everything grow. I wanted to blanket my child in soft leaves, swaddle them in succulents until the storm passed and it was safe again to emerge from our green cocoon.
There is an old Zapotec Mexican legend about a magical woman named Lucia Zenteno who was so loved by nature that whenever she would bathe in the river, all of the river animals as well as the river itself would flow into her long black hair and she would sing while combing them all out to get them to return. This diptych follow the story of a woman who must let go in order to receive. To release that which no longer serves her so that she may welcome in that which is good in the world.
Because of Covid, the model and I worked together virtually, sending photos back and forth to each other. This unique communication created a stronger bond and collaboration between myself and the model, both new mothers, both survivors.
Omar Matias (he/him)
This image was taken in Santa Cruz during the CZU Lightning Complex fires. I woke up that day to a dark red sky and a thick layer of ash covering everything outside. Many people were already facing hardships due to Covid-19 and the fires only contributed to that.
During the Summer of 2020, the United States faced a steady increase of Covid-19 cases. Measures were implemented which included maintaining a distance of six feet from other people when going outdoors. This image was taken during that time at a beach in San Diego.
Pichy J (she/her)
Without the Lofi girl how could I be productive and get it together. I decided to create my version and add small elements of my personal work too such as my own drawings and some Marvel.
Every day I try to create something new, big, or small. Practice does make perfect and I hope that with my art I will see big improvement. During COVID I found myself creating more art because it made me feel better and when it comes to anything, if it makes you happy, just do it! I've learned to allow myself to create art because it is one of the few things that make me smile.
This set was day-dreamt while in quarantine, and is a first jab at digital "drawing", although I have a background in photography. These feature a character that roams a fictional, digital world, in a blade-runner sort of style. However, while creating these, the Black Lives Matter movement regained traction following you-know-what, and the thought of any weapon, or any individual with the intention to harm, made me sick to my stomach. This is why this character holds a device with a heart at the end of it. Weapons would be obsolete in a world where compassion is present. The heart and love theme represent themselves as the weapon to end all weapons.
My art has always focused on the internal & since quarantine I’ve reflected more on my inner experiences more than ever. Actualizing my past experiences with romantic relationships & the relationships I’ve seen growing up. The anxiety and pressure that this pandemic has put on all of my relationships with both friends & family has led me to really sit with myself & the thoughts I’ve pushed away. I’ve come to realize that we unintentionally express our trauma with the way we handle life and the people in our lives. The more able we are to sit with these feelings and grow to accept them, the closer we can become to those around us when we break down the barriers we hold.
Sarah Niles (she/her)
This is an environmental sculpture I created on campus during fall quarter 2020. The materials I used were white rope, and the Redwood trees. I tied the rope around the natural curvatures of this particular cluster of Redwood trees.
I wanted to exemplify the natural beauty of these Redwood trees but letting the trees guide how and where I tied the rope. I used a white rope to show the innate connection between these trees, as their close proximity to each other reminded me of a family. This symbolism was especially evocative to me because I'm currently living far away from my family, and I haven't really been able to see them since the Pandemic started. I feel as though the rope just makes visible the connections that are already innately present. This gives me comfort because it reminds me that just because I'm not physically close to those I love, the innate connections between us are still there- even if those connections can't be physically seen right now.
The illustration intends to depict a mind map that informs the viewer of the creative process. Using digital tools, the layers and varying textures are present in a sublime mind-scape. Looking into the artist's mind, the audience can have a visual dialogue of the interactions with light and color in their own experiences.
The present body of work is a collection of ideas and experimental art research. The bridge from manual painting practices to photography allowed the transformation of image-making into digital design. Research has been a newfound tool in art studies that helps inform the audience of complex thinking and producing artwork. Themes in color perception, infrared photography aesthetics, and digital design confront new mixed-media exploration methods and artistic representation. In the digital age of smartphones and computers capable of displaying high-resolution pictorials, the pressure of producing artwork with sharp and saturated hues becomes an additional challenge. By combining painting techniques that inform the audience of a human perspective and presence and manipulating these images, the work transcends into a virtual medium. The blurring of fine art and digital design boundaries creates an alternative perspective and encounter to the art experience by using various spatial relationships in photography. Art becomes a way of seeing the sublime response to these digital devices and experiences we have altered in our everyday lives, and most importantly, in the recent global pandemic. Creating a present alternative shifts a person’s paradigm and invites them to connect with a perceived collective unconscious. Manipulating images becomes an action to a portal to participate in posthumanism concepts and our role in them.
Where does the line between the past, present, and future blur? How can we create a moment to alter our understanding of a subject based on contextualized imagery? Thinking beyond our visual field requires imagination, speculation of how and why someone’s environment creates alternative paradigms. The present series Deep-Sea Coral II reimagines the deep sea dives as an opportunity to visualize the abstract nature of the ocean. Utilizing the archives from submersible equipment and photography recreates scenes that are vibrant and bioluminescent. Digitally enhancing the imagery allows the viewer to experience those opportunities of coming into close contact with creatures of the sea. Coral and their varied environments tell us a story through chemicals accumulated through time in their protein-based branches. What can these findings tell us? Access to these archives presented a way to look into a future environment not yet explored. We could begin to think of our oceans’ vastness as a parallel to the subconscious and the infinite possibilities coexisting in alternative perspectives.
I use locally foraged earth pigments from stones, ochres, clays and botanicals found throughout what was originally the land of the Awaswas People, now known as Santa Cruz County, to make abstract and representational paintings. They come from wild, windy cliffsides, serene creeksides deep in the forest, and 500 feet deep under the ground, unearthed by the digging of water wells. After the intimate process of foraging these pigments from our nearby environment, I grind, levigate and mull them into paints, using the traditional tempera technique with egg yolk as binder or handmade watercolors with foraged binder of acacia or plum tree gum. When using the handmade mixtures, I try to let the expression of the paintings embody the nature of the pigments themselves, as what they are made of is a part of what they are about.
Uriel Herszage (he/him)
Leave a Message
This is a noise track somewhat influenced by the musical stylings of such artists as Sachiko M and Steve Roden.
Will Bortin (he/him)
My goal with most of my photo-composites (besides just making something I think looks cool) is to try and make something interpretive: ambiguous enough to have no obvious definitive meaning, but with enough striking elements to be able to be interpreted as something meaningful. In any case, it's certainly been a way to pass the time.