Figures of Social Consciousness Take Form With Found Objects

Adrian, Barbara and Tina may not be beautiful, but people react to them, and that's what their creators, Michele Chapin and Mary Beth Hanrahan, intended.

The three larger-than-life wire sculptures loosely based on mythological subjects are at the Momentum Gallery in Ventura through April 5 as part of an exhibit called "A Convocation of Spirits." The exhibit combines mythology, nostalgia and social consciousness through a conglomeration of recycled appliances, plants, live goldfish and trash.

"Adrian is a stereotype of a woman that doesn't exist anymore," Chapin said. She stays home all day and cooks and cleans and takes care of her husband.

"This is stuff everyone can relate to, things we all grew up with, that were part of our lives," she added, adjusting the dangling hair curlers on Adrian's coffee-percolator head.

Some of Adrian's parts were collected at a Salvation Army depot in Carpinteria, salvaged from the forklift at the end of the day, Hanrahan said. Other pieces were found along the highway or were donated by friends.

Barbara, a topiary sculpture suggesting Demeter, the Greek goddess of agriculture, contains drought-resistant plants and herbs.

"Some people comment that it's not all filled in, but that's not the point," Hanrahan said. "It's like an educational project. We have to start gearing ourselves to these types of plants."

Tina is also ecology-conscious. Non-biodegradable refuse collected on the beach at Surfers' Point fills the mermaid's tail. She rests against a rock splattered with oil as goldfish swim in fishbowls resting in her beeswax breasts.

Although their lives have paralleled for years, the two artists met only recently at Art City, a sculpture workshop and supply outlet.

"We were at UC Santa Cruz at the same time," Hanrahan said. "Later we worked in the same building and even knew some of the same people, but never met until we came here."

Their backgrounds are as eclectic as their art. Both trained as sculptors in college, but Chapin dropped out to help build the Santa Cruz Art Center. She has worked as a pipe fitter, display carpenter and has designed and knitted sweaters. She now is apprenticing in rock sculpture with Paul Lindhard at Art City.

"I wait tables six days a week so I can do this," she said.

Hanrahan earned a master's degree in bronze casting at Humboldt State. She also trained as a welder but now works as a display artist, designing retail windows and props for the television industry.

"I work to buy time to spend on that which is not going to turn over right away," she said.

They heard about the exhibit and, encouraged by Maureen Davidson, executive director of the Ventura Arts Council, decided to put together some ideas for their entry.

"This is pure communication, not art for art's sake," Hanrahan said. "We are entering people's lives in a scope they might not have expected."

"Art is in the eye of the beholder," Chapin added. "Everyone has a personal view of reality based on things we experience."

Momentum Gallery is at 34 N. Palm St. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.


The gallery is at 34 N. Palm St. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

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