After a yearlong slumber, a fantastical exhibit awakens

Shirley P. Olin

Over a year ago, Alessandra Moctezuma began to refer to the exhibition as “sleeping beauty.” The exhibition she’s speaking about is certainly as fantastical as the classic fairy tale, but it’s more that “Ludicrous Tales,” which is on view at the Mesa College Art Gallery through Sept. 23, has simply been a long time coming.

“Yes, I’m really happy right now,” says Moctezuma, who works as a professor and gallery director at Mesa College. “The artists were so generous because we literally shutdown the Monday before the reception for the show.”

Moctezuma, with help from the four artists, has spent the last few weeks cleaning up the works displayed in “Ludicrous Tales: A Topsy Turvy Quartet,” which have sat dormant in the gallery for over a year. Originally scheduled to open in March of 2020, the San Diego Community College District closed the campus the same week the exhibition was scheduled to be unveiled.

“Even a couple weeks ago, I wasn’t sure if we were going to be OK to open it,” says Moctezuma.

On the surface, the four artists on display at “Ludicrous Tales” don’t seem to have a lot in common, but their respective works work surprisingly well together within the campus space. The mediums are varied — paintings from Gloria Muriel, mosaic sculptures from Aida Valencia and a collaborative ceramic installation from Irène de Watteville and Beliz Iristay — but taken in all at once, they create a surrealistic fantasy world.

In the foreground, a detail from Beliz Iristay and Irene de Watteville's "Mavi, Ma Vie"

In the foreground, a detail from Beliz Iristay and Irene de Watteville’s “Mavi, Ma Vie,” with “Nature Response 1 & 2″ by Aida Valencia and Gloria Muriel’s “Talavera Series” paintings in the background.

(Courtesy photo by Jenny Armer)

“It totally became crazy and wonderful,” says de Watteville of “Ludicrous Festum” (“Ludicrous Feast”), her collaboration with Iristay. “We had so much fun. The word works: ludicrous. It’s not ridiculous, but it’s a little off the wall.”

“Ludicrous Festum” works as a reimagined dinner table and includes ceramics from both artists, each working in their signature French and Turkish styles, respectively. These include bizarre food and surrealistic centerpieces.

Just to the sides of “Ludicrous Festum” are six large-scale mosaic tree sculptures courtesy of artist Valencia, each of them at various stages of life and decay.

“The trees represent life and death, how the climate change and all the things we’re dealing with,” says Valencia, who custom installs each of her pieces. “It will be great to finally see it open and see if it’s still alive.”

Enveloping the entire exhibition are the paintings of local artist Muriel, who is probably best known for her murals throughout San Diego. Inspired by the four elements and nature, Muriel says she created a series of custom paintings for the show that were meant to have a almost porcelain-like affect and which blends seamlessly with the other artists’ works.

“It’s going to be super bizarre to see them again, because I thought it was never going to happen. It feels like it’s been forever,” says Muriel., who will be creating and selling live drawings at the exhibition’s open house on Thursday, Aug. 26, from noon to 4 p.m. She will also be selling copies of “Tools for Introspection,” a coloring book she worked on during the COVID-19 crisis.

Moctezuma says she and the campus will be taking every precautionary step to ensure safety. This includes mandatory mask-wearing and a limited amount of guests at a time. The official opening of the exhibition on Aug. 26 will be an open house format from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., so viewers won’t all come at once.

“The main goal is to keep the most vulnerable people safe. Everybody has different levels of concern, but I think for the college and our district, we wanted to make sure that those vulnerable people are safe, whether it’s people who are immunocompromised or children.”

‘Ludicrous Tales: A Topsy Turvy Quartet’

When: On view through Sept. 23

Where: Mesa College Art Gallery, San Diego Mesa College, Fine Arts Building first floor, 7250 Mesa College Drive, San Diego

Admission: Free, but reservations are required

Phone: (619) 388-2829


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