Every year, UC San Diego grad-student artists open up their studios to show off what they've been working on for the past year. The Open Studios 2016 showcase has consistently been a unique opportunity to view up-and-coming talents that often go on to become respected and prolific presences in the local art scene. In the past, I've discovered artists such as Stefani Byrd (who I profiled recently in a story on local video artists) and Morgan Mandalay, who's been making waves with his site-specific SPF15 exhibitions. What's more, the artists are often present at the UCSD Open Studios to offer attendees a rare window into the artistic process. Of the dozens showcasing this year, here are just a few we'll be keeping on our radar.
Gabi Schaffzin: Already a well-respected artist, Schaffzin is actually a Ph.D. student at UCSD whose work emphasizes how, in his words, "forces acting upon our technologically mediated world shape our subjectivity, especially in the contexts of algorithmic inference." That is, his work attempts to deconstruct and make sense of the codes and algorithms that humankind has become increasingly more dependent on. His "Whisper" installation inside his studio proved intriguing to anyone who stumbled in. Essentially a plastic box with an ominous red button, viewers were invited to tell it "how they felt" by speaking into an attached microphone. The "Whisper" machine then takes the one-word adjective, feeds you synonyms, and works to find you books on the subject on Amazon. It was a fun little trick, but the piece itself was an impressive statement on our relationships with and trustfulness of technology.
Erika Ostrander: There was an eerie minimalism to Ostrander's studio that was accented by the organic sculptures she crafts out of salvaged print materials and animal tissue. But it's hard not to be bowled over by "Hair," an ongoing piece made with human hair that she collects from friends and hair salons and then weaves together on a vintage spinning wheel. When I visited, it was hanging from the ceiling as if waiting to be climbed, a la Rapunzel. She was inspired to do the piece after working at both a hair and waxing salon. "I became very interested in people and how they deal with their bodies and their relationships with their bodies," Ostrander said. "It's constantly growing so hopefully, if it gets installed enough, it will end up being very huge."
Joshua Saunders: As I entered Saunders' studio, a child was getting a little too familiar with one of the artist's paintings. I can't say that I blame the kid. The works incorporate the bright and shimmering enamel paint you often find on new cars along with molds that resemble the handles and equipment you see in wall-climbing facilities. The results were vibrantly affecting and often mesmerizing. "They have this secret quality to them," said Saunders. "If the light hits them a certain way, they have these other elements. Not so much a secret, but a duality. Like if you hung them in natural light, they'd play tricks on you all day."
Quickie Dingler: Not a person, but rather a showcase of several of the Open Studios artists using a room that artist Audrey Hope had painted pink and had used to showcase her collage-style sculptures made from found and everyday materials. Rather than take down her work, she invited artists such as Mandalay, Saunders and sculptor Corey Dunlap to showcase some of their works in what was a fun and invigorating setting. While Dunlap's piece seemed slightly out of place, Mandalay's fantastical oil and spray paintings fit the room perfectly. Along with Tanya Brodsky's sculptural work, I left hoping that this was a group of friends that would work together again in the future.