An 'unpredictable' art show

An unthinking person might say that Kurt Weston can barely see.

The Huntington Beach resident has limited vision in one eye and none at all in the other, and he uses a monocular to make out details.

But for precisely those reasons, Weston may be the most astute observer during opening night of "Centered on the Center," the Huntington Beach Art Center's annual non-juried public exhibition.

"Because I've been doing it for so long, I'm quite adept at scanning rather quickly," Weston said. "And I pick up things with the monocular because I'm scanning and seeing very specific bits. I see things sometimes that none of the students pick up on.

"I'll point out this lighting situation over here or this tone over there or this interesting thing off in the distance in this part of the picture, and the class will say, 'Oh, I didn't even see that!'"

Speaking of that class: Weston will do more than exhibit his own work at "Centered on the Center." His intermediate and advanced students, whom Weston teaches in quarterly photography classes at the art center, plan to submit work for the exhibit, and Executive Director Kate Hoffman has arranged a space for them at the front of the venue.

It may seem like a tribute to an unlikely master, but it's far from the first honor Weston has racked up in recent years. In 2010, he won an Annual Achievement Award from Arts Orange County, and OC Metro recently named him one of the Hottest 25 People of Orange County.

Since 2009, Weston has taught six-week classes at the art center for beginning, intermediate and advanced students. With students submitting digital camera work, the instructor projects it on a large screen and scans it, a bit at a time, to offer his critique.

Dan Meylor, who has taken Weston's classes for three years, is among the students who will submit this year. The most recent session he took was particularly useful: Weston drilled the class in how to prepare works for an exhibit, from selecting the image to choosing printing material to creating a frame.

"I think his biggest strength is that he has a real sense of humanity and enthusiasm about students improving," Meylor said.

Not all the pieces in "Centered on the Center" may be as professional as those from Weston's class. The exhibit, the first of which was held at the center in 1995, invites members of the public to drop off a maximum of two artworks each and displays their pieces in floor-to-ceiling salon style. (Times Community News reporter Rhea Mahbubani is among those planning to contribute works this year.)

So far, the art center hasn't run out of wall space for "Centered on the Center," although it's had as many as 506 works submitted by 292 artists, according to Hoffman.

One thing the show has never skimped on is offbeat contributions. Past offerings have included an oversized driver's license, a mosaic tile-decorated toilet and an image of Jesus wearing Mickey Mouse ears.

For Hoffman, that eccentricity is most of the fun.

"We, the staff, have an incredible amount of joy with the show because it is totally unpredictable," she said. "The reaches of imagination by any of these artists is tremendous. So to be able to see some works as unique and witty and playful as these, that's what makes it fun."

Drop-off times this year for "Centered on the Center" are from 2 to 4 p.m. Jan. 11 and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 12; art center members can bring their works from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 11. For more information about cost and size specifications, call (714) 374-1650.

If You Go

What: "Centered on the Center"

Where: Huntington Beach Art Center, 538 Main St., Huntington Beach

When: Noon to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, noon to 6 p.m. Fridays, noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays, Feb. 1 through March 22. Opening reception is from 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 1.

Cost: Free

Information: (714) 374-1650 or http://www.huntingtonbeachartcenter.org

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