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Discovering Talented Local Artists Through Silicon Valley Open Studios

The first three weekends of May for 31 years, artists throughout Silicon Valley have opened their home studios to art lovers who want to meet local artists where they work, learn about their creative process and discover and buy original artwork.

In Santa Clara, the Open Studios weekend was May 13 and 14. It featured half a dozen Santa Clara artists in close proximity and, for one-stop shopping, an art open house at Mission College.

“A lot of artists don’t find the opportunity to show their work in galleries and museums. Open Studios is a good way to show your art and get to know other local artists,” said Elizabeth Hansen, a mixed media painter who studied fine art at UC Berkeley and landscape architecture at Cal Poly (www.hansenlandscapearchitect.com).

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“Original art is something so unique to people in this day and age of everything being mass marketed with a label. Original art gives the opportunity to open up to something new, beautiful and maybe a little edgy to you,” said Hansen, born in San Francisco.

Her art, inspired by the natural environment, reflects her love of geometry.

“Even as a child I had a penchant for the abstract,” said Hansen. “The small, repetitive structures of my paintings are like in music, the way things are repeated, yet every repeat is just slightly different.”

“This artist is obviously very accomplished,” said Michael Spear, from Redwood City, at the studio of painter Fongwei Liu (www.fongweiliu.com) on Sunday afternoon. “Usually artists like this are with a gallery.”

Liu does, in fact, exhibit his oil paintings on canvas in galleries in Carmel, Glendale and Santa Barbara. He is an award-winning artist who joined Open Studios for the first time to connect locally.

“To educate yourself, visit museums to see good work and get ideas,” suggested Liu when asked how to recognize good art. Liu has a Fine Arts Education degree from China and an MFA degree from the Academy of Art University, San Francisco, where he also teaches.

“Some people say my style is realistic, but it is more like impressionistic,” said Liu, whose paintings are inspired by his travels. “I want a loose style with beautiful brush stroke and color. For art work, it takes time to put your ideas on canvas. That’s why original art is more valuable than prints.”

Printmaker and painter Kyoko Fischer, from Tokyo, started her art career at six doing chalk drawings on pavement. After coming to the U.S., she earned a BFA degree from San Jose State University, where she is finishing her MFA degree. Her art, inspired by famous artists and everyday living, is abstract and symbolic (www.kyokofischer.com and www.tokuat.com).

“I really like the bubbles!” said Fischer to Aaron Raphel, a repeat customer from Mountain View.

“I especially came here because I love her work. I’m decorating my house, and I’m always looking for interesting things to put on the wall,” said Raphel, who purchased an abstract intaglio print with bubbles. “I work at Apple, and we spend a lot of time thinking about how technology and liberal arts intersect.”

Pragati Sharma Mohanty (www.pragatisharma.com) is a self-taught painter and popular art teacher who studied architecture and industrial design. Her colorful French naif style paintings in oil and acrylic are of animals fused with human bodies, landscapes and figures. All depict the folk narratives and mythology of her native India, where there are more than 25 different Indian art forms–one for each state.

“I’m an artist, but after coming to Pragati to study, I improved at lot. I’m even more creative,” said Fremont resident Rachana Velaga. “I’m learning all the great art from India.”

If your interest in Open Studios is piqued, visit www.svos.org for a complete listing of artists who participated and their contact information.

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