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Feeding the Muse

'Marks Expanded' artists turn unique inspirations into personal expressions.


Liliana Stravitz gets her inspiration from sand, sawdust and old computers she finds in the trash. Manuel Torosyan relies on his biorhythms and the alignment of the planets.

The two artists, who live in Encino and Glendale, respectively, may have different ways of approaching art, but their work appears together at the "Marks Expanded" exhibit under way through Nov. 4 in the Century Gallery in Sylmar. They will be part of a four-artist show that includes Karen Ross of Mar Vista and Vera Armand of West Los Angeles. Admission is free.

The theme of the exhibit focuses on the personal "marks" that artists create, either intentionally or subconsciously, to express their feelings or views of the world. This may be in the form of blue squiggly lines on a black background, the sweep of a paintbrush with watercolors or the mixture of sand with old computer equipment.

The artists in the upcoming show are as diverse as their work.

Stravitz, 38, is an architect who emigrated from Argentina with her husband five years ago--around the time she decided to put her pencils and slide rule away to focus on a career as an artist. Stravitz sees beauty where others don't. She sees it in a rusty old railroad spike, copper wiring that she pulled from a friend's broken computer, and a knobby piece of wood found on a forest floor.

Stravitz incorporates many of these treasures into her work. But her favorite material is sand, which she mixes with glue and earth-toned pigments before spreading the concoction onto a canvas with a kitchen spatula. Stravitz sometimes adds pine needles, tree bark, even a computer mouse and keyboard that she found in the garbage.

Her message, she says, is simple: "You can be happy with less. Happiness is not only material things. It comes from deeper emotions, deeper contact with others."

Torosyan, 41, an Armenian immigrant, is a construction engineer with a degree in fine arts. He decided to focus on his artwork after he almost died in a car accident 20 years ago.

Torosyan doesn't just sit down and paint on a whim. He chooses the moment for his creation carefully, preferring to paint only on days when his biorhythms are in check and the sun, moon and stars are in the right place. He figures out when those days will be by using a computer, and then prepares by fasting, turning off the TV and not speaking on the phone.

His goal is to produce art that is in harmony with creation. If he doesn't, he destroys what he painted that day.

"For me, art is like a bridge," Torosyan said. "It is a bridge from humanity to God."

Armand's work is inspired by music, said museum director John Cantley. One piece, called "Fluid Blue," features blue figures that appear to be dancing on a black background.

Ross, 50, was a graphic designer for 30 years before she decided to throw herself into the fine arts, she said. She prefers to work with watercolors, creating pieces inspired by everything from falling in love to images of the free-flowing Japanese kimonos that hang in her home.

"I just want people to open to a spot in their life that they might have closed, or might not have opened yet," she said, "something ignored, something to remember, something to wonder about."


"Marks Expanded," through Nov. 4 at the Century Gallery, 13000 Sayre St., Sylmar. Gallery hours: Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturdays noon-4 p.m. (818) 362-3220. Free.

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