By Lucia Viti
Uptown residents Greg Bada, Stephanie Clair, Monica Hui Hekman, Amy Paul and Kelly Paige Standard will be among 32 area artists featured in “Animalia/A Group Show,” opening Nov. 12 at Sparks Gallery.
The eclectic array of Southern California talent will exhibit oil and watercolor paintings, iron and marble works, and photography and archival prints that synergize the real and imaginary world of animals.
“‘Animalia’ celebrates the elegance of nature in the animal kingdom through our local artists’ eyes,” said Sonya Sparks, owner of Sparks Gallery. “‘Animalia/A Group Show’ will bring together artists and collectors who share a mutual passion for supporting animals in their own way.”
The dimension of each North Park artist is to say the least, impressive.
Amy Paul works as an artist and a teacher touting a 15-year tenure at Mesa College while owning and running Pigment, a “unique, design-driven gift store” in North Park. Paul’s piece, a pastel-white, acrylic-on-wood tiger, is square-framed with a textured matting. Inspired by the animal’s symbolism — fierce and passionate — the piece serves as a totem. Paul tapped into animal totems after the death of her grandmother. Heartbroken by her loss, birds came to symbolize guardians. “I imagined birds as couriers helping to negotiate the transition from this world to the next,” she said. “For me, ‘Animalia’ is an exercise in portraiture that channeled my interest in animals as spiritual guides for my loved ones.”
“Amy’s work is interesting,” Sparks said. “Like so many of our artists, Amy’s half-artist, half-business woman. Most of our artists have day jobs or they’re entrepreneurs.”
Paul praised Sparks for her vision, describing “Animalia” as a show that serves to inspire artists while affording the local community an opportunity to engage with each other. “Sonya is a pioneer,” she said.
Greg Bada, a printmaker, engraves and etches on copper or zinc plates. Bada’s collection of limited edition “antiquated” prints “walk in the footsteps of printmakers of centuries ago” because the process has barely changed. The self-described vivid dreamer will exhibit a print inspired by his young son while enjoying the flamingos at the San Diego Zoo.
“My son remarked that it would be cool to ride a flamingo,” Bada said. “Inspired by the childlike-dream of riding an exotic bird, I drew a vague interpretation of my wife in a feathered outfit riding a bird through a dreamlike world. I meticulously focused on the details of every feather on her garment as well the bird.”
Stephanie Clair’s portrait painting of a family of giraffes is titled “A Circle of Love.”
“I chose giraffes because my daughter is obsessed with them,” she said. “The family circle represents me, my husband, my son and daughter but relates to all human and animal families. Families are the most important bond between all creatures. I connect the similarities between animals and people so that humans can relate to animals in a compassionate way to make sure they don’t become endangered.”
Clair noted that the painting displays a hidden love message within the giraffe spots.
Monica Hui Heckman will display a fabric collage of polar bears rolling in the snow — a behavior she found “interesting and fun.”
“Polar bears are great fun!” she said. “My illustration depicts them rolling in the snow — an interesting behavior that cleans their fur. My love for polar bears is part of my love for all animals.”
Hui Hekman’s process begins with researching the subject, sketching and forming a ceramic sculpture used as a reference for a computer illustration that’s patterned as a collage, printed out in pieces, attached to fabrics, cut accordingly and sewn together on a sewing machine. The multimedia artist learned to sew from her grandmother, who was a seamstress.
Kelly Paige Standard is a portrait painter inspired by “mood and emotion.” Drawn to a “full spectrum of ideas” that she “smashes” into a visually appealing narrative, Standard is driven by hope.
“Inspirations are emotions that are too hard to express in any other way,” she said. “People call my paintings lonely, but I always have hope.”
Standard’s painting harmonizes elements of the artistic masters. “The pose is reminiscent of a John Singer Sargent piece,” she continued. “The contrast between the light and dark is a feature that Giorgio de Chirico played with; the background is inspired by Richard Stein greeting cards and his book of fun doodles, but mostly the piece stems from Kahlil Gibran, the author of ‘The Prophet’ who wrote, ‘For thought is a bird of space, that in a cage of words may indeed unfold its wings but it cannot fly.’”
Standard said she wanted the portrait’s subject to look like she was toiling over something while holding the key to the cage and the ability to “let it go.”
“Kelly Page has been in the art world for a long time,” Sparks said. “Kelly’s art has gorgeous craftsmanship, is rich with intense colors and beautiful color schemes with strong pinks that define her style. Her show piece has an interesting green pallet.”
Sparks chose artistic pieces based on visual aesthetics, craftsmanship and the ability of each piece to work well together. “When curating a show, we line up pieces to see how well they work with each other,” she said. “We look for energy, technique, flow, shape and movement plus quality craftsmanship and aesthetic appeal.”
Sparks noted that while excited about the overwhelming talent of each artist, her driving force is to “promote the local art community and their vision of how they see the animal kingdom.”
—Contact Lucia Viti at email@example.com.