by Aaron Collins
“Our hope is that our San Joaquin Valley contemporary fine art showcase will inspire more area homebuyers to acquire original art by Central Valley artists,” San Diego-based McMillin Homes Marketing Vice President Carrie Williams says. According to Williams, McMillin believes the company’s arts support is a great way to foster thriving, more livable communities by creating an even stronger arts scene. “Living with real art enriches everyone’s lives and sustains our local professional artists, as well.”
The San Diego-based McMillin is supporting the arts in the Valley in a variety of innovative ways.First, the company is allotting space within its model homes for displays by regionally-known contemporary artists. These loft spaces are considered “flex spaces” – for use however a homeowner likes. But rather than suggest how a pool table or hobby room might look, McMillin is giving the space over to local fine artists’ painting, printmaking, sculpture and photography talents. “This will show how an art lover might adapt the space for display of their personal art collection,” Williams says. “We’ve installed special gallery lighting. And by availing the art work for sale, McMillin is encouraging art acquisition with good timing and logistics; new home buyers are often looking for art for their new homes, but few commercial galleries venues exist in the Valley.”
This past weekend McMillin opened its new Visalia community called 292. Art admirers had a chance to see the fine work of Fresno, Visalia, Three Rivers and other area artists who showed in the loft.
But just as importantly, McMillin is supporting the arts more broadly through philanthropic means: The Arts Consortium, Tulare County’s partner with the California Arts Council, received a tidy donation. Local musicians were hired to play for the Grand Opening ceremonies. And two additional future exhibitions are being organized in the Visalia space, with preparations and scheduling currently underway. Once again, local artists will be featured.
If Valley art lovers support their own and the innovative model arts program proves successful, McMillin may consider adapting it to its other developments around the western U.S.
Central California landscape realism figures prominently in the show. Abstract, human figuration and sculptural works also appear in the eclectic show. Many of the artists in the show also happen to be faculty members at area colleges.
The plein air landscape realism of Fresno painter Adam Longatti, who teaches at Reedley College and California State University, Fresno, might anchor an austere end of the show’s spectrum, while Matthew Hopson-Walker’s emotionally charged landscapes of the mind anchor the far opposite end. Hopson-Walker teaches at both College of the Sequoias and Fresno State.
The so-called Pop Surrealism of Visalia painter Bryan Pickens pairs with ceramics artist Antonio Evaristo Cuellar, whose fellow Visalia ceramics master Mark Ahlstrand finds a kindred spirit with qualities in Longatti’s work: earthy characteristics that are both lush and barren at the same time.
Longatti also shares some sensibilities with Sultana photographer James Stark, who, like Longatti, captures the stresses on our region’s natural resources. Stark effectively uses colorization of his black-and-white photos to create a subtle sense of unease.
Arts Visalia curator and COS art instructor Kevin Bowman also shows his contemporary printmaking skill in the show.
Antonio Evaristo Cuellar