CalArts students open their doors to visitors at Open Studios Day

Diego Barrientos stands between two mirroring works, both reflecting "The Myth of Sisypus," during the Open Studios Day at CalArts on Sunday. Ryan Mancini/The Signal
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Visitors to California Institute of the Arts walked from room to room outside the John Baldessari Building to look at works put on display by the school’s graduating students during the Open Studios Day on Sunday. 

Spread out with their own standard art, photo media and art and tech, 67 masters of fine arts, or MFA, students sat in their studios or walked over to each other’s studios to look at their art. CalArts opened the free event to the public, with refreshments available. 

MFA student Kelly Wall sits at her desk in her studio, surrounded by works-in-progress, during Open Studios Day on Sunday. Ryan Mancini/The Signal

“I feel like it’s such an experience for us because I don’t get to walk into a lot of people’s studios,” said Kelly Wall, an MFA student who displayed her art. “You see so much in-progress work when you get to see their shows, but I think it’s really nice to see each other’s work in this kind of setting.”

Much of Wall’s work was made of porcelain, with the purpose of resembling paper. Wall also made use of screenshots of plastic acorns and dispensers, and translated those screenshots into porcelain impressions. Her latest technique has been experimenting with colors on porcelain.

Husband and wife Collin and Beck Stafford sit with their work on display at Open Studios Day at CalArts on Sunday. Ryan Mancini/The Signal

MFA student Diego Barrientos’ work was also on display in his studio. His work used muted colors and parachute rope on canvases, which addressed the topic of suicide and reflected author Albert Camus’ philosophical book, “The Myth of Sisyphus.”

“I was definitely thinking about ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’ and Camus’ version,” Barrientos said. “He talks about suicide a lot, not like in a self-help way but that all the answers are in that idea of it. Suicide is a big issue for me that I talk about all the time because I was in the Army and fought in the Iraq War in 2006.”

Two works mirrored each other, one with a stick figure lifting a large rock up a hill, the other with a man’s circular profile with parachute rope tangled around his neck. Both works were part of a recent show called “Alienation.” Barrientos said he could draw a parallel with the concept of alienation and his own life, having been born in Guatemala. 

“Basically, (Camus’) saying the meaning of life is whatever you’re doing right now that’s keeping you from killing yourself,” he said. “So thought that’s really fascinating. If it’s your family that’s keeping you from doing that, then that’s pretty important. That’s the meaning of your life right now.”

“Senseless Deception,” left, and an unnamed work both by MFA student Casey Baden were on display at Open Studios Day at CalArts on Sunday. Ryan Mancini/The Signal

Santa Clarita residents Lori Litel and Cheryl Cogan visited Open Studios Day together. They walked through and enjoyed what the students had on display, and Litel noted how it was great to see each work’s own uniqueness based on each individual artist’s perspective. 

“This particular school of art,” said Cogan, “is a real freedom of expression.”

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