Art Seen

By Patricia B. Dwyer / Photos by Jeff “Turbo” Corrigan

Thanks to local nonprofit Sezio, San Diego’s starving artists aren’t starved for attention.

“There are ample organizations focusing on youth education, and probably too many institutions focusing on high-brow art,” says Sezio’s business director Zack Nielsen. “But how are the working artists and musicians supposed to survive in a city?”

Nielsen answers his own question, in part, by producing high-visibility events like “Parachute Factory,” which transformed a onetime parachute factory into an immersive multimedia art experience comprising paintings, installations, cinematic projects and more. The downtown hubbub drew a crowd of 1,300 people, many of whom waited in a block-long line to get in.

Sezio was born in 2000 in Ocean Beach. Today, it has made a big name for itself by propelling boundary-pushing artists and musicians across the city.

From all the creative people to whom Nielsen is linked, PacificSD asked him to pick just one that’s been making his artistic bones vibrate of late. Next, we put it to his pick to pay the favor forward to another, and so on, creating a chain of 10 San Diego artists giving nods to the peers they admire most.

Artist No. 1 - Lee Lavy

Zack Nielsen picks Lee Lavy and says: “If you ask me, ‘Whose work are you really excited about right now in San Diego?’ I’d answer, ‘Lee Lavy.’ I appreciate Lee’s exploratory process and obviously the end result as well.”

Lee Lavy says: “The work operates within a set of strict guidelines, generally measurements of space, time or systems of application. I then apply chance to the system and see what comes of that. It is often experimental, with no real understanding of the process’s aesthetic outcome.”

Artist No. 2 - Ron Moya

Lee Lavy picks Ron Moya and says: “I met an artist from the Grad program at SDSU whose work impressed me greatly. He was working with materials like dirt and found objects he had found within the ground, and making very nice wall sculptures. He also was doing some interesting things with public land that I found fascinating. It was explorative, subversive and curious.”

Ron Moya says: “I see patches of earth within the urban setting distorted, as a result of misuse or misguided vision. It activates my civic indignation to defend what is becoming less accessible to each one of us: the right to see and touch nature, interact and respond to its verbalizations, and slow this process before it’s gone - and what’s left is a metallic taste in our mouths. Pure and simple, I am driven by activity. Any high-minded existential crap will only make you roll your eyes back into your head.”

Artist No. 3- Brian Principato

Ron Moya picks Brian Principato and says: “This guy can take the most mundane ordinary crap and turn it into a horrifying prop from some cartoon hell. He is terribly disturbed, and my hope is he’ll respond to this query - and we can finally get him off the streets.”

Brian Principato says: “I make art out of anything I can get my hands on. I try to work with as many mediums as possible. [I’m inspired by] industrial buildings, hobos, pizza, David Bowie, unicorns, Mexico, my crazy vato neighbor, women, colors, unicorns, Indians - both kinds, road trips, animals, plants, religious kitsch.”

Artist No. 4 - Sergio “Surge” Hernandez

Brian Principato picks Sergio Hernandez and says: “I discovered him many, many years ago, when I would see his murals in the city. He has since evolved into a top-notch fine artist and tattooer. He also goes by ‘Surge’ and is prolific in many forms of art, from drawing, painting, graffiti, tattooing, et cetera - kind of a modern-day Renaissance man or a Jack of all trades.”

Sergio Hernandez says: “Being an artist means dedicating your life to using your creativity. Anything that you can put a bit of your personality into, you can consider an art. Or you can consider nothing art. Either way is fine. I love being an artist, selling paintings or tattoos or designs... My goal is to motivate or inspire other people to do cool stuff and to be good people and be fair to everyone.”

Artist No. 5 - Jason Sherry

Sergio Hernandez picks Jason Sherry and says: “His craftsmanship is great, and you can see that his concepts are multidimensional. I went to San Diego State with him, and he was way advanced at the time. I knew that he had so much more knowledge than me. His work is what I wanted my stuff to be one day, in the sense that he is able to hold back on his colors, good control of his palette, and it just looks so classy. I’m still working towards that.”

Jason Sherry says: “As far as I know, I’ve always been making stuff. I would like to make the art objects I want to see materialized that nobody else will make. I employ processes and techniques that are tedious and obsolete. I just want to see how far I can push my ability to pull off something ridiculous. I don’t really have a choice. It’s a compulsion.”

Artist No. 6 - Richard Keely

Jason Sherry picks Richard Keely and says: “He was one of my professors at SDSU. His sculptures are what really clicked for me when I first saw them. He makes abstracted objects from mundane things, like soccer balls. I learned the most important things about art-making from him. The incredible, tiny details - even down to how something is just fastened or how it hangs from the wall with some fascinating handcrafted piece of hardware - is now fundamental to how I approach art-making.”

Richard Keely says: “In some ways, the manmade world is so orderly and categorized. You know what I mean? The food is in the grocery store, the test tubes are in the lab, the knives and forks are in the kitchen drawer. There’s something really exciting to me about tampering with this kind of order. I like to see what happens when I combine things that you don’t usually see together.”

Artist No. 7 - Jim Skalman

Richard Keely picks Jim Skalman and says: “He’s just the best. His work evokes a feeling of place. It’s not a place that you are at right now, but rather a place of memory or displaced experience - things are missing, colors have changed, and the light is weird. The works are distilled to an essence that is at once contemplative and disorienting.”

Jim Skalman says: “I make large, site-specific, multimedia installations. Lately, these have been three-dimensional representations of paintings or photographs of overtly heroic-slash-romantic landscapes. I also make discrete sculptures. [My goal is] to make and exhibit pieces that provide the viewer with an opportunity to be enveloped in an environment conducive to contemplation, rather than with something to just look at.”

Artist No. 8 - David Hewitt

Jim Skalman picks David Hewitt and says: “David’s pieces are self-effacing, quiet, subtle and poetic, existing physically in the real world but somewhere near the edges or echoes of things seen in dreams. His work is always entirely, adamantly handmade. It seems to arise intuitively and asks to be apprehended intuitively.”

David Hewitt says: “I am interested in making work that involves the viewer on a physical level while engaging visual memory, even if in a fragmentary sense. The great Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray observed, ‘And more often than not, [moments of purely visual significance] prove to be the moments that stay in the mind longest.’ This is the essence of what I’m after in my work.”

Artist No. 9 - Siobhan Arnold

David Hewitt picks Siobhan Arnold and says: “Much of her work has this dreamlike, almost magical quality. I admire her ability to dedicate herself as an artist and still be able to teach and have a rich family life. Some of her earlier work has a reflective quality in relationship to the work of her father, Walter Cotten, who was also an important photographer.”

Siobhan Arnold says: “The work in my studio is inspired by Baroque-era paintings of female characters from biblical and mythological narratives. I reconstructed the compositions using only the fabric as subject matter. I love the tactile and textural qualities of certain kinds of fabric as well as the rich color possibilities. I guess I’ve always been attracted to it, now that I think about it. I love drawing and painting fabric as well. It’s so topographical.”

Artist No. 10 - Rizzhel Mae Javier

Siobhan Arnold picks Rizzhel Mae Javier and says: “I admire Rizzhel’s work, because she uses photography in a nontraditional manner, often making sculptural pieces with her images. She takes on the human experience of interaction and emotion in a visually compelling and poetic way.”

Rizzhel Mae Javier says: “I like to think that I am a product of an image generation and I am obsessed with learning about the image and how it is used... And with growing technology, I feel as though there is a certain obligation for everyone to understand the visual language. This is why I love to teach photography as well as use it in my own life.”