Many of the art works included in the Brea Gallery's multi-ethnic exhibit "We Are Orange County" speak of dark memories and bright prospects, a yearning for home and adjustment to a new life.
But it is the artists' own stories that perhaps best express the spirit that gallery director Marie Sofi said is behind an exhibit designed to "showcase the work of the county's ethnic artists and demonstrate their contribution to our rich cultural diversity."
Stories like those of Esther Preston, a black quilt-maker, who, at 100 years old, spends her days creating vivid and intricate designs with bits of castoff fabric.
Or painter Said Abdelsayed, a disabled Egyptian immigrant who found emotional and artistic release working with shag carpeting and acrylic paint.
Featuring a variety of artistic mediums ranging from abstracts to homespun quilts, "We Are Orange County," which continues through Aug. 12, is a multimedia exhibit with works by 27 ethnic artists.
Viewers will see Chinese brush paintings by Taiwanese artist Dr. Ning Yeh, gouache watercolors by Indian artist Subodh Maheshwari, Vicki Feldon's block prints of Jewish home life and black-and-white scenes by Vietnamese photographer Tran Quang Tri.
The diverse perspectives brought to Orange County by numerous international transplants, as well as by a few longtime residents, are at the heart of the show.
Abdelsayed, for instance, was a native of Cairo who came to Orange County as a young student. While driving a catering truck in 1976, he was in a traffic accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Adjusting to life in a wheelchair was tough for Abdelsayed and was made even tougher by a houseful of American shag carpeting.
Frustrated, he took his anger out on the family's floor coverings and literally shaved the carpet to a more manageable height. Already accomplished in acrylic and oil painting, the artist soon integrated the shavings into his canvases, lending unusual texture to his large abstracts.
Abdelsayed's "Looking for a New Head," "Falling Down" and "Carrying My Love" are among the more dramatic pieces in the show. Other striking works include Carol Miura McCormack's "Where Are We Going Mommy? Why?"--a brooding remembrance of her Japanese-American family's experiences in internment camps during World War II.
Everyday life in the county is reflected by works by Emigdio Vasquez and Henry Godines. Vasquez, an artist-in-residence at Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, offers snapshots of life in that city's barrios in "Saturday Afternoon on 4th Street" and "Vatos Veteranos del Barrio." Godines captures the easygoing spirit of Orange County surfers in "Surfer Sandy" and the tough-as-nails camaraderie of motorcycle clubs in "The Hinano Boys."
In conjunction with Orange County centennial events, on Friday, the Brea Civic and Cultural Center will be the site of "An Evening of Multi-Cultural Art" on the center plaza. From 7 to 9 p.m., entertainment will include performances by the De la Playa Mexican musicians, African percussionist Francis Awe, Japanese and Middle Eastern dancers, a Chinese dragon as well as demonstrations by local ethnic artists. The Brea Gallery will be open for extended hours, and international food and drink will be available on the plaza. Admission is free.
"We Are Orange County" continues through Aug. 12 at the Brea Gallery, in the Brea Civic and Cultural Center next to Brea Mall. Gallery hours: Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from noon to 5 p.m., Thursday from noon to 8 p.m. Closed Sunday through Tuesday. Admission is free. Guided tours are available by appointment. For information, call (714) 990-7730.