‘Drawing Imagination’ LMC art exhibit meshes two distinct styles

Artists Maria Porges and Diane Abt open a joint show

Nyla Rahimi, Staff Writer

Art is not simply the work you see, it’s the meaning behind the piece — the process of creativity infused with the experiences of the artists themselves. A piece of artwork is a journey into the life of its creator.  

Artists Maria Porges and Diane Abt display the duality of creation in their joint exhibit, Drawing Imagination. The new art show opened March 23 in the Los Medanos College Library. 

Walking through the gallery, you’re shown how two lifelong artists can present their immense knowledge and dedication to their craft in vastly different, yet still comparable ways. Each artist’s work communicates separate meanings in their collection of pieces, but their commonalities still tie the works together where you may think they’re more different than the same. 

Put together by the LMC Art Department, this gallery featured the two artists’ separate collection of works. Porges’s pieces show a dedication to detail, the majority are tied together by the unifying visual theme of hair. Chairs painted as hair, odes to the big 18th century powdered wig, vases painted as hair.

As you get closer to the art you can see that each strand of hair is done individually, whether painted or drawn with graphite. This precision creates a texture that looks almost physical — as if you could reach out and touch one of the art pieces and feel the strands flow through your fingers. 

Abt’s pieces were, on the other hand, a show of fluidity.

Abt’s collection of works reflect a passion for calligraphy, specifically Kanji, which is a system of Japanese writing using Chinese characters. her work also incorporates themes of societal issues, which she’s aware of and passionate about thanks to her prior time as a journalist.

When viewing Abt’s pieces, you can almost see her process as if it were written on the page. There are blotches and splatters of ink dripped on paper, places you can see the drag of a dry brush. Crisp clean lines show the confidence of the brushstroke and the artist making that stroke. It’s a collection of art that tells a story in the fine lines. 

 It wasn’t long before people started crowding in to look around. Soon after opening the two artists were given mics to talk about themselves and their works, explaining the meaning behind the piece, answering questions, and sharing how they came to do this specific craft.

Porges’ hair journey began with an interest in 18th century wigs. It was this interest that culminated in this hair frenzy, in which she collected pieces upon pieces over time of paintings and drawings with hair. The most personal of the pieces, she explained, are the hair chairs.

“They’re stand ins for people…they’re inflexible,” Porges’s said as she elaborated on how she believes chairs are unlike other furniture. “They have to relate to people.”

In her perspective, if a chair doesn’t fit a person, that makes the chair unusable, that’s a bad chair. It’s not the same as a bed or a table — that can come in varying sizes to fit varying needs. Chairs need to be for everyone. 

Abt’s work takes you through her journey with calligraphy. She and her husband moved to Japan because of his job and lived there for seven years. In those years she wanted to learn calligraphy, which she did thanks to a connection her friend had to a calligraphy teacher. After moving back to California, she studied with another Japanese calligrapher for seven years. In these two places she learned the rules of kanji and calligraphy — and how to break them, making her calligraphy her own. Though her calligraphy works are fluid and free, their craftsmanship show years of dedication to the art. 

The non-calligraphy works in Abt’s show reveal another aspect to her passion for societal issues. One piece is about immigration and another about Malala. She explained that she has a whole series of work surrounding Malala not shown in the exhibit. The piece “Fleeing Across Continents: Child” shows a series of images, but the one that sticks out and subsequently ties the piece together is the depiction of a little boy. The image was from a newspaper report about a little boy who washed up on shore, and the black inky figures are bodies around the page. She hopes the piece can portray “both the struggle and the spirit of people trying to find a new place to live.” 

These artists were paired together in the same collection by Gallery Director Carol Ladewig. She said she planne

d something that could be appreciated by everyone who comes to visit.

 “I wanted something that speaks to me and students alike,” Ladewig said. 

She also wanted to show how these two artists with vastly different aesthetics manage to contrast each other yet share common themes. There is commonality in the importance of line work, in their own respective ways. There is also a difference in the focus of their works and execution of their craft. But most importantly, what these two artists share in common is their talent and dedication. Both exhibits show the lifetime of work put into honing their skill. Whether it be a piece that took hours of meticulous work, each hair individually painted, or a single bold brushstroke on paper. Both artists spent years learning and fine tuning their skills and those years amalgamated into each piece of work in the exhibit.

Drawing Imagination will continue through April 18 in the Library. Gallery hours are Monday through Thursday 12-4 p.m. The exhibit is open to the public free of charge.

 To see more of their work you can go to Porges’ instagram @mfporges and Abt’s instagram @diane_abt or visit Abt’s website https://dianeabt.com