Driving through the fog and along the winding roads of Pacifica just south of San Francisco, amidst the trees and near the ocean lies the Sanchez Art Center. Created in 1996 when a group of artists, volunteers, and local residents leased an abandoned elementary school building, that they later converted into gallery space and studios, the Sanchez Art Center hosts exhibitions by both emerging and establishes California artists as well as leading education and outreach programs “designed to make art accessible to all ages and backgrounds”. It a place for the local art community to come together and share their work, a place that also houses studios for 30 Bay Area artists. And on the 16th of July I was able to visit their current exhibits for the months of July and August.
The Sanchez Art Center is composed of three sections: the East Gallery, West Gallery and main gallery. The West Gallery houses the work of members of the Art Guild of Pacifica and the theme for the current exhibit is Restructured. As described in the press release, “The exhibition includes many interpretations of this theme, such as changing the way something is organized, imagining a new structure, or creating an innovative plan.” This was the first gallery my sister and I visited as our friend Kimberlie Moutoux had a piece on display there, a beautiful piece of quilted art incorporating various fabrics and media into a cohesive and multi-faceted work of art. We greatly enjoyed the creative liberty that the theme Restructured offered the artists and the range of media and techniques we saw displayed within the exhibit.
Connected directly to the West Gallery, the Main Gallery featured the work of Gregory Farrar Scott, a sculptor whose current exhibit, Welcome to My Worcenters round bicycle mask repurposed into modern mask sculptures. Potato and sweet potato printed paper works are also on display amidst the dozens of masks. In telling his history as an artist, the Sanchez Art also described the inspiration for his current project:
“Later on, in art school he left some used bike helmets hanging on the wall, realized they looked like faces, and the mask project was born. Scott now has a collection of over 100 masks. Some became animal faces, some became odd techie visages, possible sci-fi characters, or sly references to how we live—remember hoarding toilet paper in the first weeks of the pandemic? A junior slinky becomes, of course, a baby elephant’s trunk. Simplicity is key. Scott’s work is undeniably fun, but there is serious inquiry as well, into questions of identity, self-knowledge, and self-presentation. As the artist says: ‘A mask can be anything and anything can be a mask.'”
The display is memorable for the whimsical and enchanting aura that many of the masks display. There is a certain charm in seeing items repurposed and combined in ways that one would not have expected and the anthropomorphic features of each mask makes it easy to circle the gallery time and time again and be intrigued by a new mask within each section of the exhibit. There are also masks that bring about moments of serious contemplation such as AIDS Is Not Over, Urban Mask 89 from the 2018 Ghost Series (in gallery below).
Within the East Gallery, the California Society of Printmakers hosts the exhibit EXTRACTION: Response to the Changing World Environment. As CSP describes the purpose of the exhibit, “The California Society of Printmakers (CSP) has taken on the task of commenting artistically on the environmental disasters stemming from the way humans have extracted various ores and metals from the earth. CSP hopes to make a difference in how we collectively view this destruction and participate in it.” Also on display within this wing of the Sanchez Art Center is The Climate Ribbon, a global storytelling ritual for hope and healing. Community members are encouraged to add their own thoughts to the collection of ribbons, answering the question “What do you stand to lose (from) climate chaos and environmental degradation?” The Climate Ribbon is a collaborative piece open to all, “an art ritual to grieve what each of us stands to lose to Climate Chaos and affirm our solidarity as we unite to fight against it,”
If you happen to be in the San Francisco area, be sure to give the Sanchez Art Center a visit. It is a friendly, welcoming space for all artists and a great way to appreciate local art (and buy it if you’re interested!) Gallery hours are from 1-5 Friday through Sunday. With bimonthly exhibitions, the Sanchez Art Center always has something interesting on display!