Burb's Eye View: Catching the Youth Art Expo's opening

At the gala opening of her show at the Creative Arts Center Gallery, artist Thora Moeller stops a moment to allow her public a quick photo of her with her latest — and possibly most complex — creation.

The paper collage may provide commentary on the effects of corporate greed: A green hand is outstretched on the eggshell canvas reaching toward blood-red hearts just outside the reach of its fingertips — clearly demonstrating the love and affection of one’s peers that remains ever elusive to those who seek money and fortune for their own ends.

It was, as the up-and-coming artist says, a lot of work.

“We always like to do art that people already had done and we like to copy it,” Moeller, 7, explains.

Her father, after taking her photo with her art, adds to the artist’s explanation: “Don’t say you copied it. You were inspired by it.” Thora digests that for a moment and nods, absently toying with the gold medal loosely hanging below her neck.

Dozens of Thora’s contemporaries joined her Friday for the opening of the Youth Art Expo, featuring 229 art pieces culled from an initial entry pool of 1,511 students throughout Burbank. Curator Noah Altman said this was roughly 200 more entries than last year’s show.

Artists throughout the city presented studies in form and color. A series of drawings explored the different ways in which orange could properly convey a leprechaun’s beard. Several collages explored nature and humanity’s relationship within it, as displayed in Taline Kadi’s submission, “Taline’s Favorite Animal.”

Jacob Samontina’s circular abstract painting showed how competing primary colors exist as yin and yang. Each dripping brushstroke crashes into the next, forming a hypnotic dance that carries the mind back and forth between palettes.

Jacob just calls it a monster.

“We had a plate, and a circle inside. And I painted that,” said Jacob, 7.

Also studying the interplay of competing color was landscape painter Penny Kalcoff, whose study of three fir trees immediately is reminiscent of classic impressionism mixed with Warhol-esque pop art.

It speaks to the inherent joy of changing seasons, a subject close to her heart.

“I like sunsets and trees and I like the winter,” she said.

Across the high-ceilinged gallery, three-dimensional works are given space to breathe. Sculptor Owen Southey is sampling the gallery opening’s hors d’ouevres of pretzels and cookies as his fans ready their cameras for this rare glimpse with the artist and his work.

He stands with his interpretation of a certain cat in a certain hat, which began as a pile of turtles a la “Yertle the Turtle” until it proved too difficult to properly shape.

Like many of his fellow artists, Owen was surprised to make the competitive show’s final cut.

“It was so cool. I told my parents that I got this thing that invites me here to where I am,” he said.

Thinking the interview is over, I head toward another gallery wall.

“Are you wondering what materials I made it with?” Owen interjects.

“Yes, yes I am,” I reply.

“It was Sculpey (clay), wire and Sharpie pens. It took me a half hour to do.”

Thank you.

A little farther away in the gallery, a windswept raven-haired woman is depicted beaming to the world. It is the work of Emily Davoodian, who prefers drawing people over drawing animals.

She leads her subject by the hand around the corner and arrives at her collage. Above it in a typed ribbon are the words, “Emily’s Beautiful Mom.”

“Oh my — that’s so pretty,” the woman exclaims, covering her smile with her hand.

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BRYAN MAHONEY is a recent transplant from the East Coast. He can be reached at 818NewGuy@gmail.com and on Twitter: @818NewGuy.

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