Artists are often mysterious characters—naturally or, in a lot of cases, purposefully. It's upon a canvas, a piece of paper or wood or the wall of a building that they express who they truly are beneath whatever guises they've created.

In the exhibition Behind Closed Doors, Thumbprint Gallery challenged three local artists to put it all out there on the table through their medium of choice. No frills, no lies and no smoke and mirrors.

Among them is Michelle D. Ferrera, who'll display five new pieces. Originally from New Jersey, Ferrera moved to California in 2010—and then specifically San Diego last July—after losing her corporate job back East. She decided to finally follow through on her degree in fine art from Montclair State University and become a full-time artist. 

"I figured this is completely the best time to do it," she says. "I have no kids, no job, no man. Starting from scratch in my late '20s was scary as hell, but this is the only time I'll have a real opportunity to do this. It's really cool to put my full-time effort and energy to creating. It opened a can of worms, and being able to create freely balances my head."

Ferrera took to the theme of the show with enthusiasm, showcasing nudes on wood that reveal her inner fears and fascinations. Some are self-portraits.

"Michelle's work is pretty intimate," says Thumbprint Gallery owner Johnny Tran. "The way she approaches her subject matter creates an intimate feeling to it, and how she presents her perspective is very unique."

"My work is really emotionally driven—this series in particular," Ferrera adds. "I always struggle with sleep. This series is inspired by a lot of my dreams and nightmares, mixed with the simple beauty of the human body. For me art is completely therapeutic. Once I'm able to release all of this, I can sleep at night."

Though the opportunity to reveal herself through her art is a rush, it's always a little scary putting your innermost self out there, Ferrera says.

Still, she basks in imperfections, choosing wood as her canvas because it's inherently damaged.

"I feel like itís my skin," she says. "I like it flawed."

Behind Closed Doors, which also features artists Matthew Land and Michael Mahaffey, opens with a reception from 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday, April 13, and runs through May 5.

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