With personal, heartfelt stories and a night filled with emotions that occasionally manifested in tears, six of the artists featured in the Studio Bongiorno show, Resilience,participated in an art talk and discussion on May 16.
Bob Knight opened the evening by sharing one of his sculptures – a raw wooden heart with spiky dowels protruding from the splintery symbol of love. Knight explained the unfinished nature of the piece was derived from the pain he was feeling after his son died, and the jagged borders, which often caused Knight to shed his own blood, are a reminder of the agony he experienced during that time.
Also experiencing trauma caused by the death of a close family member, a young Miguel Machuca watched his father get crushed by a car. While going through that experience required resilience,Machuca’s piece focused on his cancer battle. A bird’s nest sits atop a pedestal in a glass dome. Inside the nest, a broken eggshell rests on a lock of Machuca’s hair that was saved after he shaved his head when he began going through chemotherapy. A thick piece rope dangles from the top of the dome and wraps around two additional cracked shells at the bottom of the glass enclosure. Around the base of the piece’s stem, even more broken shells have been glued. It’s about the fragility of life.
Another cancer survivor, Brande Barrett, chose not to talk about one of the works in the show, but instead share a chalk piece she had been working on specifically for Machuca. Barrett also discussed her battle with cancer and how she coped with the doctor’s appointments and chemotherapy (tons of photos, video and laughter) all while going through a divorce.
Brandon Anderton also knows all too well how daunting it can be to visit multiple doctors. Anderton, who lives in constant pain due to an accident that nearly left him paralyzed, talked about how he wasn’t much of an artist until he was assigned to art therapy after his injury. It was there he began enjoying artistic endeavors. In addition to the piece he shared with a mandala painted on top of an abstract background, complete with tire markings to reference Anderton’s life changing event, he also discussed the giant mandalas he creates in the sand, only to experience a release when the sea washes away his hard work.
Likewise, Masha Schultz talked about the cathartic experience of building a structure at Burning Man through the painting she created once she returned home. Schultz, in recovery at the time, focused her energy on helping to put together a hut-like building where, directly onto the walls, she wrote down feelings she had been harboring. When the shack burned to the ground at the end of the festival, Schultz was able to release her anguish; and because of the experience, she has returned each year to participate in the process — all while remaining sober.
William Halleck, whose relationship with sobriety is still new but part of his resilience,closed the discussion. Halleck, who curated the show, discussed a piece that’s about the celebration of nature and life. According to Halleck, who is also gay and has HIV, nature is particularly important to him throughout his life’s journey, and he wanted to express that through a burst of bamboo pieces meeting in the center of a frame.
I love that people got emotional tonight because that’s art,said gallery owner Phil Bongiorno. Art is emotion and this place gives you permission to do that, and it’s safe enough to do that.
Studio Bongiorno is at 500 Lincoln St. in Santa Clara. Resilienceis on display until the end of the month.