Michelle D. Ferrera's artwork mirrors her emotional state. Whether she's happy or miserable, she'll take a series of self-portraits and use one as a frame of reference to begin drawing on wood that she buys from the scrap bin at Home Depot.
Ferrera doesn't come right out and say that all of the women in the drawings are based on her form, because she doesn't want to sway viewers' interpretations. Instead, she hopes they'll relate to the universal gestures and expressions in the emotion-packed works, like in "Push n Pull," in which Ferrera depicts herself in the throes of a passionate struggle with her own heart.
"The most important thing is to be honest," Ferrera says. "Our lives are hard; people feel really alone. I like to put the flaws out there—the wood is flawed—and I like it in its natural form, so I keep it that way. That's the message: Just be who you are and own the flaws."
Two years ago this month, Ferrera moved to San Diego looking for a new start. She'd been laid off from a corporate job in New Jersey, went through a nasty breakup and then packed her car and drove to Southern California, where both of her sisters live. After stints in Pacific Beach, Oceanside and Temecula, Ferrera finally calls Downtown San Diego her home, where she's living out her dream by working full-time as an artist.
The fine art and design major, whose concentration at Montclair State University was in life drawing, does whatever she can to get by, whether it's tattoo or logo designs or pet portraits, but her passion is people, she says.
Pieces from Ferrera's Alive series will be on view at Assorted Flavors, a group exhibition happening from 6 to 11 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30, at Subterranean Coffee Boutique (3764 30th St. in North Park).
When Ferrera moved here, she didn't know anything about the scene. She credits the arts organization RAW and Thumbprint Gallery for representing her and working her into a mix of shows.
"Artists need exposure," she says. "It's how we stay alive and continue to create."