Friday, April 15, 2022

Behind the scenes of "Meraki"

Throughout April, the University of Redlands Art Gallery is hosting “Meraki,” an exhibition featuring the work of twenty-five graduating student artists. The exhibition was planned by students enrolled in the Studio Art capstone seminar. Earlier this month, I spoke with two of the students, Alicia Lopez and Calvin Originales, to learn more about what went into staging this exhibition.

Where are you from and what have you studied at University of Redlands? How would you describe your art?

Alicia Lopez: My name is Alicia Lopez, born Alicia Ortiz in Southern California. I raised a family before becoming a returning student. I started at Crafton Hills College, then transferred to Redlands, double majoring in Liberal Studies and Studio Art. My goal is to become an elementary school teacher who integrates Art with all other subjects, bringing it back to the elementary school classroom.

Calvin Originales: My name is Calvin Originales, and I have been living in Redlands for most of my life. I studied at Crafton Hills College for two years before transferring here to University of Redlands to study for another three years. My concentration is Graphic Design, but I have been working in many different mediums of art.

Alicia Lopez: My art is abstract, based off emotions I am feeling or struggling with. I work mainly with acrylic paints on canvas, and tend to use my fingers, hands, and arms to apply the paint at times. I am a very tactile person and like to bring texture to my pieces.

Calvin Originales: I believe that the work I create follows a very different idea than a lot of my classmates. As someone who was born with a hearing disability, I always focused on the visual aspects of everyday objects to live a comfortable life. Because of this, I enjoy seeing things that are easy to understand and translate.

Alicia Lopez: For the show, I created four body imprints (two are displayed) where I covered most of my body in paint (still trying to get it all out of my hair!) and lay in different positions on panels of cloth. Faceless Beauty is an acrylic painting displayed where I layered paint on top of paint to bring texture to the piece, using palette knives along with brushes to apply the paint. Torn Serenity, not in the show, is a piece where I took paper clay to create fingers, which I poked through the canvas to create a 3D piece. For myself, many times it is the process of creating, and not necessarily the outcome, that I am looking for.

Calvin Originales: My recent projects have consisted of visual graphics, architecture, landscaping, and sculpture to design an environment that is not only visually appealing, but also easy to navigate and understand. These environments I have been designing include parks, a beach, and even a section of a college campus.

What was involved in setting up the senior art show? 

Calvin Originales: Our 2022 Senior art show has been a class effort when it comes to putting it together. Professor Penny divided our class of 25 students into 4 different committees. We are on the exhibition committee and we have quite a few tasks. We led the discussion in coming up with a title that would represent our work and ourselves as artists. We also communicated with other classmates about the work they wish to present in the show and the space they need to effectively display their work. After we were able to get a better idea of what was being put in the show, a few of us on the committee brainstormed ideas on where we would want to place our classmates’ work, and others took charge in getting artwork labels and artist statements from our class.

Alicia Lopez: There are other committees involved who created a catalog and an online exhibit of the artists and their work, along with fliers, banners, and postcard invitations each of us involved could send out to loved ones. It was a huge group effort, and with everyone so willing to support each other in what they were trying to accomplish, I believe it to be a wonderful success for us all.

Calvin Originales: All this week, our class has been installing their work in the gallery. It was our committee’s job to make sure everything would run smoothly, but it took effort from our whole class to prepare it into how it is now. We all helped each other hang our artworks, adjust lighting, figure out placements of pedestals, and overall, design a space that would allow all our artworks to intrigue people the moment they take a step in the gallery.

What was something you learned about yourself, or other graduating artists, during the process of getting ready for this show?

Alicia Lopez: There is much collaboration and compromise involved with creating a successful group show. Last semester, we did set up an art show at a local pizza place, which gave us a little insight on what to expect for the show for this semester.

Calvin Originales: It is exciting to me to finally be able to see everyone’s work. Because our class has a variety of concentrations, a lot of us have never really shared a class with each other. I have taken intro classes with some but never shared another class with them until now, and it is interesting to see the work that they specialize in.

Alicia Lopez: I learned to become more forgiving with myself and more confident in the work that I create. Planning a show like this, you learn things about each other that you might not have otherwise. This great group of artists can be very intimidating at first when one sees how talented they all are. I was very intimidated and thought my work wasn’t “up to par” per se. Realizing that we all face the same fears/struggles in life, that we are all human and all could use a little help/support, reminded me to be proud of my own accomplishments and confident enough to attempt things I may have never considered otherwise. Being able to bounce ideas off of each other, especially those from other concentrations, helped in being able to see things from different perspectives and in solving issues where I was able to talk out where/why I was stuck.

The closing reception for “Meraki” is Thursday, April 21, 2022 from 4:30-6:30 pm at the University of Redlands Art Gallery. Selected works are available on the exhibition website:  

Wednesday, March 02, 2022

Reading About Women Who Inspire Us (2022)

Popularly known for many special reasons, March is commonly known for Women's History Month. Looking of the inspiring and beautiful trailblazers who have made equality and rights an agenda item for many years, the collection at the Armacost Library has many titles that can help you explore and learn about some of these women from history all around the world. 

Looking at women in the middle ages, "Gendering the Master Narrative: Women and Power in the Middle Ages" explores how women came to be in and use power. It covers the progress of women toward power during the times and how women used practices and institutions to erode the authority that stood in their way. In the library, the book "Re-envisioning Egypt 1919-1952" captured how women were empowered and how gender roles changed even in the ancient times. There are names of writings by women pioneers who shaped their civilization and watched it thrive. Even "Muslima Theology: the Voices of Muslim Women Theologians" covers the theories and philosophies of Muslim women theologians and scholars discussing their cultures, traditions, and thinkings. Women in history and globally have been working hard to fight for their freedom to think, impart wisdom to their communities, and further help the development of their nations. 

In more of the current times, the gender conversation continues. On our shelves, we have "The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World" which is a book written by Melinda Gates, a pioneering woman of our times. Another title of interest is "Why Women Will Save The Planet" which covers the environmental deeds and activism going on that helps the world recover from the devastation of having its resources mindlessly plundered and how gender equality affects this. Digitally, you can discover "The Most Powerful Women You've Never Heard Of" and read more about them. Names from all around the world and the works they have done are summarized for you to think about. Of course, reading more about them is possible after you know their names, right?

Of course, many good reading lists are out there about women and empowerment, as well as inspiration. Goodreads has a list of over a thousand books you can sink your reading teeth into. Our collection has a wide range of books, all very inspiring, female centered, and beautifully illustrated.  

Tuesday, February 01, 2022

Celebrating Black History Month 2022

While we should celebrate, commemorate, and learn more about Black history all year round, February in the U.S. is set aside for highlighting the lived experiences, culture, history, social movements, individual and community achievements, and more, of Black Americans. 

While looking into our collection as well as lists mentioned by others, a few titles come to mind.

"Killing Rage: Ending Racism," by bell hooks talks about the connection between racism and sexism and the public discourse on it. Brittney Cooper's "Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower," explores powerful Black women whose power comes from how they handle themselves when they face adversity. In the collection of stories in "This Bridge Called My Back: Writings By Radical Women Of Color," a "complex confluence of identities" is explored in greater detail when it comes to race, class gender, and sexuality (as written by the coeditor Cherríe Moraga). And Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres brings forward a new way to talk about race in the 21st century in "The Miner's Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy".  

From the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, Bryan Stevenson writes about stories from the early days in history in "Just Mercy: A Story Of Justice And Redemption". Zora Neale Hurston writes about the life of Cudjo Lewis, one of the last people alive who was on the last transport from Africa to America in "Barracoon: The Story Of The Last "Black Cargo". Or, to read more about the Civil Rights Movement as it emerges, "The Fire Next Time" covers many historical events that are both detailed and alarming as to how relevant it is to today. 

Jumping into a more current title, in "The Hate U Give", Angie Thomas writes about the complex feelings and situations Starr Carter faces in life. Adapting the Octavia E. Butler novel into a graphic novel, "Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation" draws out the journey of Dana across time and space, into history to meet one of her ancestors. 

There are many  more titles in the Armacost Library and available through InterLibrary Loan. Search through our collection in person or online and you can always ask a Librarian for more recommendations and locations. 

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Journeying to "Dreamland"


Title image for "Dreamland"

This month, the University of Redlands department of Studio Art presents Dreamland, an exhibition of prints and video works by Penny McElroy.

A mixed media artist, graphic designer and Professor of Studio Art at University of Redlands, McElroy developed the exhibition during her recent sabbatical.

Many of the pieces are machine-produced through risography, a decades-old printing technique enjoying a resurgence among contemporary artists. Popularized by the Japanese company Riso in the 1980s, risographs are known for their vibrant, sustainable inks and economical production value. Many printers, churches and schools came to rely on risography in the era before affordable desktop printing; in the digital era, the method has evolved into "an equally modern and nostalgic experience." [1, 2]

Other pieces involve paintings on translucent rice paper pressed over a video background to produce a composite, continuously shifting image. Like the risographs, these works immerse the viewer in a drama of light and shadows. As bold colors intermingle, McElroy's evocative titles invite viewers to contemplate multiple layers of meaning.  

In her exhibition statement, McElroy relates her use of light and shadow to the many journeys that await her viewers - travel across time and space, or perhaps deep within oneself. "Shadow and light, inextricably linked - each necessary for the other to be. In dreamland, these are not opposite concepts, but rather more like the front and back covers of that favorite novel. When we enter it, we are immediately elsewhere..." [3]

Dreamland runs January 18 to February 6, 2022 at the University Art Gallery. The opening reception will be held Wednesday, January 26 from 4:30-6:30 pm. Face coverings and proof of vaccination are required in keeping with University of Redlands health and safety protocols. 


[1] Brown, Evan Nicole. "The Vintage Japanese Copy Machine Enjoying an Artistic Renaissance." Atlas Obscura, August 21, 2018,

[2] "Hi, My Name's Riso, I'm Here to Help You!" Creative Review 32, no. 10, October 2012, 38-48. Art Full Text. 

[3] McElroy, Penny. Personal correspondence, January 17, 2022.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Martin Luther King, Jr. Week Events @UofR

Image of Martin Luther King Jr., head and shoulders, hands  with fingers laced in front of face, face turned to left. Also includes image of book cover for Where do we go from here? Chaos or community?

Where do we go from here? Chaos or community? Participate in University of Redlands community events during Martin Luther King, Jr. Week: 

Interested in continuing the conversation, find recently published books on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s teachings at Armacost Library:

book coverbook coverbook cover   

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Raúl Acero's "Colecciones": Gathering Inspiration, Once Again



This week "Colecciones" by Studio Art Professor Emeritus Raúl Acero opens at the University of Redlands Art Gallery. Acero is a mixed-media artist who explores themes of time, identity and culture through simple techniques that embody centuries of tradition and innovation.

"Colecciones" draws together work from across Acero's career, including a series of sculpted clay heads, paintings evoking the history of indigenous people and works inspired by his own family. The concept for the show developed out of Acero's response to the pandemic, which struck while he was on sabbatical and has persisted beyond his retirement. Unable to access supplies and equipment needed to work in three-dimensional sculpture, he turned to drawing and painting and held his most recent exhibition, "A Maker's Life," as an online retrospective.

With the campus open again, "Colecciones" fully exploits Acero's ability to physically juxtapose his work in a gallery. Grouping his work into categories helped Acero articulate the coherence of his art and its relationship to current issues, such as the movements for social justice that gained momentum during the pandemic summer. In choosing to work with (relatively) inexpensive materials, to create practical objects, and to execute his concepts himself, Acero stands against dominant value systems of Western art, aligning himself instead with traditions of craft and figurative sculpture found around the world.

"Colecciones" runs November 16-December 12 at the University Art Gallery. The opening reception is Wednesday, November 17 from 4:30-6:30 pm. You can also view "Colecciones" online at

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Probing the Boundary Lines of Home with Karen Zacarías

Border wall between USA and Mexico

 "Border wall between USA and Mexico" by Kenneth Gill is published on Wikimedia Commons with a CC-BY-SA license.

September 15, 2017 was a momentous day for Karen Zacarías.

The Mexican-born playwright took the oath of allegiance to the United States and became a naturalized American citizen alongside twenty-nine other applicants at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two actresses from her latest play in the audience. Zacarías had called the United States home since childhood and used her plays to raise awareness of the experiences of immigrants. She was a proud supporter of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy and vocally opposed the candidacy of Donald Trump. However, being unable to actually vote in the 2016 election left her feeling voiceless; her frustration over the election's outcome drove her to finally apply for citizenship.

After taking the oath, it was President Trump's face that filled the screen next, exhorting Zacarías and the other participants to teach American values to other immigrants and "help them to assimilate to our way of life" in a pre-recorded message that several of the new citizens found disconcerting. As Juliet Sanchez, the Colombian-born schoolteacher who stood next to Zacarías during the ceremony, explained, "We can and should respect, celebrate, and embrace our new culture, but you shouldn't tell us to assimilate" [2].

The complexities of home and identity are familiar themes for Zacarías, who is the daughter of an accomplished Mexican epidemiologist and a Danish nurse and speaks four languages. She recalls, "I grew up in an extended family where it was not uncommon for someone to stop eating to write a poem on a napkin. I always knew I wanted to be a writer". [7] She titled her first two poems "I wake up with love" and "I am sick and tired of the moon." Whe she was six years old, she decided she needed a typewriter, like any serious writer, and saved up her allowance to buy one. Every Christmas she and her cousins entertained the family with a talent show featuring poetry, music, and skits. [1]

Growing up around ambitious artists inspired Zacarías' dreams, but also dispelled any illusions she may have had about what these dreams could cost her. "I have seen people become bitter because they had made big sacrifices and given everything to their art, and art (or any profession, no matter how passionate) will never give you everything back," she reflects. "I saw how artistic expression could be misused as a justification for self-indulgent, self-important and destructive behavior," she explained. "Consequently I resisted being an artist for many years." [7] 

Zacarías recalls her grandmother as "an early feminist who fell madly in love with the wrong man," the renowned "Golden Age" director and screenwriter Miguel Zacarías. "She struggled with her conflicting feelings for my traditional grandfather and her need for expression in a world that did not deem her worthy ... She was the true brilliant writer in the family, difficult and charismatic and contradictory, who was silenced in so many ways and died in her room alone..." Zacarías would later draw upon these memories in her play The Sins of Sor Juana, with its vivid portrayal of seventeenth-century nun-turned-proto-feminist-poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. [7]

Zacarías experienced her first major change in life circumstances at age ten, when her father received a scholarship to study at Harvard and moved the whole family to Brookline, Massachussets, where they unexpectedly decided to stay. Her father survived a deportation scare and eventually moved to Washington, D.C. to oversee the the Pan American Health Organization's AIDS program. [1][7]

 Meanwhile, Zacarías majored in International Relations at Stanford University and took a job at a Latin American policy think tank to pay off her student loans. She started writing plays by night and took classes in playwriting at Georgetown. Her classmates recognized her prodigious talent and encouraged her to apply to graduate school, but she was reluctant, insisting she wouldn't apply until she "knew I could support myself without betraying others." [7] Finally, another student promised to pay Zacarías' tuition so that she could use her training to help others. Zacarías enrolled at Boston University and, upon graduating with an MA in playwriting, founded the Young Playwrights' Theater, a nonprofit that teaches playwriting as a way to empower urban youth with literacy and conflict resolution skills. [1]

As Zacarias' nonprofit work immersed her in D.C. public schools, she became increasingly concerned with reaching young audiences through theatre. Her plays Chasing George Washington and Einstein is a Dummy introduced historical figures with disarming humor, while Cinderella Eats Rice and Beans retold a traditional fairy tale through a less Eurocentric lens. Her documentary-style play Just Like Us followed four Latina girls - two of whom are "Dreamers" - through the transition from girlhood to young adulthood. The play premiered in Denver in 2013 and was rapidly taken up across the country. [8] When Donald Trump announced he would seek to end DACA if he was elected President, Zacarías renounced royalties on her script and offered it to any organization that was interested. Requests flooded in from middle schools, high schools, universities and even a group of immigration lawyers. [4] Her most recent play, The Copper Children, tells of "orphan trains" taking Irish immigrants westward, a largely forgotten chapter of American history that produced a notorious custody case billed as the twentieth century's first "Trial of the Century" - some ninety years before the O.J. Simpson trial. [5]

As Zacarías' star has risen, she has had to work even harder to balance work and home, profession and family. "The truth is, I am an uncool artist hoping to buy a used minivan. I have diapers to change, grants to write, classes to teach, so I spend months writing in my head until I can sit down and pour it out on paper ... [Plays] are like children. No matter how many you've had or known in the past, each play needs to gestate and grow and be nurtured and molded by time, attention, inspiration and humor". [7]

Native Gardens, the play Zacarías had in production at the time she became an American citizen, was thus a product of its time. The play displays Zacarías' penchant for humorous dialogue and complex, vibrant characters, but anxieties about the future lurk just beneath the surface. Zararías says she was inspired to write the play after hearing friends trade stories of their disputes with next-door neighbors, squabbles that struck the playwright as "absurd in some ways, but the consequences were really real and emotionally upsetting. I kept thinking, 'Wow, it's almost like every single battle between nations or tribes boils down to this fight between property and culture.'" [3]

As Zacarías revised the script, she wove in references to President Trump's border wall and his demand that Mexico pay the costs. "There's been something in the atmosphere for much longer that made this comedy about gardening and planting and building a fence have a much deeper resonance," she observed. Indeed, only hours before the play's New York premiere, President Trump declared a national emergency to divert funds to border wall construction. [3]

Around this time, Zacarías gave birth to her third child and her odyssey took another twist. The Washington, D.C. townhouse where she had raised two children with her husband, lawyer Rett Snotherly, was feeling cramped and her go-to writing space - the kitchen table - was causing problems for everyone. Zacarías and Snotherly fell in love with an abandoned group home in D.C.'s Mount Pleasant neighborhood and put in an offer, but were outbid by a development company. When the wealthy developer backed out, the property owner offered Zacarías and Snotherly a chance to match the high bid of $975,000 before putting the property back on the market. Given only five hours to decide, they said yes. "Our parents came to see what we bought, and they all cried," recalled Zacarías. "They thought we had ruined our lives." "You bought a shell," agreed the first designer that they spoke to about renovating the run-down property. [6]

Undaunted, Zacarías and Snotherly pressed ahead with a redesign. They sold their old townhouse and cashed in their retirement plans. Snotherly even sold his beloved comic book collection. He had been collecting comics since he was eight, and his collection, amassing over 4,000 titles, had consumed the family's closet space. Zacarías and Snotherly hired local designers and builders and proceeded with the work in gradual stages over a five-year period to save money. In an interview with the Washington Post, Zacarías said she was pleased with the results: for the first time, she had a dedicated writing space at home and a large walk-in closet - with nary a comic book in sight. Her thoughts then turned to deeper reflections on home and belonging: "If we had started this [remodel] when COVID started, it would have been abandoned again. But we were lucky to live through it in this house. We had no idea how much this house would give back to us in a time when we really needed it." [6]

The University of Redlands production of Native Voices is directed by Gabriel Rodriguez. Three performances will take place at the Frederick Loewe Theatre on October 15, 16, and 17. All attendees must wear masks and show proof of COVID-19 vaccination in accordance with University policy. Click here to buy tickets.

Works Cited

[1] Brown, DeNeen. "Playwright Karen Zacarías finds inspiration in Arena Stage's Residency Program." Washington Post, October 14, 2021. 
[2] Chason, Rachel and Maria Sacchetti. "'Nobody is Going to Take This Away.'" Washington Post, September 16, 2017. 
[3] Gilroy, Maggie. "Gardens Versus Walls." American Theatre, vol. 36, no. 5, May 2019, pp. 32-36. 
[4] O'Quinn, Jim. "Speaking Truth to Trumpism." American Theatre, vol. 34, no. 9, November 2017, pp. 20-24. 
[5] Piantadosi, Francesca. "Portland." Dramatist, vol. 23, no. 2, November 2020, p. 58. 
[6] Sowers, Scott. "Vintage Comics Aid a Modern Renovation." Washington Post, March 4, 2021. 
[7] Svich, Caridad. "Karen Zacarías: A Writer's Tightrope." American Theatre, vol. 23, no. 1, January 2006, pp. 54-59.

[8] Zacarías, Karen. "Home." Karen Zacarías.