Artist: Vanessa Olivarez
Exhibition: Don’t Be Careful, Be Gentle
Media: Acrylic, Plastic, Film
Gallery: Dennis W. Dutzi Gallery
Vanessa Olivarez is working towards her BFA degree from the CSULB School of Art’s Sculpture Program. This is a non-degree show that Vanessa was simply inspired to create due to her fascination with acrylic. It began with acrylic, and then evolved into something much deeper as she decided the theme of the gallery.
When you first walk into the gallery, it resembles a fantasy-like setting. The room is completely covered in pink lighting, which initially made me check out the gallery in the first place. The eerie lighting works well for the entire display, because without the added atmosphere it wouldn’t blend together as seamlessly. The lights create a sort of other-worldly effect, and the doorway is the one-way entrance. In the middle of the room, an acrylic seesaw tips back and forth electronically. Vanessa stated that the seesaw took two weeks to code and finish programming. In addition to movement, a creaking sound has been added to the seesaw rivaling horror movies in its ominous tone. Opposing film images on the walls show two drawn girls in front of a ring structure in pink and purple. They are the same image, but are designed in opposing colors to create a mirror effect. Lastly, a small, old-fashioned television sits on the floor surrounded by acrylic. It quickly transitions between several scenes, with the most memorable being a pair of clown dolls. This furthers the eerie horror movie vibe.
Vanessa Olivarez began this project with acrylic, thinking about how it was transparent, reflective, and could work with the theme of identities. I asked about the clowns, because they were so odd as a creative choice for a gallery. She said that they represented identity as well, since their expressions were painted and anyone could feasibly be behind the mask. She also stated that the gallery focused on “fluidity” and “balance”. The seesaw used this in its creation, literally tipping back and forth between the different versions of the little girl on the walls.
I liked this gallery because it really attempted to create an immersive atmosphere for the viewer. Instead of simply providing images for an audience to judge or make sense out of, it gave audiences something to be a part of, turning the Dutzi gallery into an entire experience. It really worked in its display, since the fantasy-like horror theme was felt as soon as you walked past the blinders. I wondered what kind of identity every viewer would place onto the blank face of the wall, knowing each would be different.