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‘A revelation’: Athenaeum’s 30th Juried Exhibition opens this weekend in La Jolla

The Athenaeum Music & Arts Library's 30th annual Juried Exhibition will kick off with a reception July 29 in La Jolla.
The Athenaeum Music & Arts Library’s 30th annual Juried Exhibition will kick off with a reception Friday, July 29, in La Jolla. Pictured are works from the 28th show.
(Courtesy of Athenaeum Music & Arts Library)

The Athenaeum Music & Arts Library Juried Exhibition, the La Jolla landmark’s annual showcase of local creativity, will kick off its 30th edition with a public reception on Friday, July 29.

The exhibition, which will run through Saturday, Sept. 3, also marks the first event for the Athenaeum overseen by its new executive director, Christie Mitchell, whose first full day on the job was July 20.

A record 316 artists submitted nearly 900 works for consideration. Jurors Anita Feldman, deputy director for curatorial affairs and education for the San Diego Museum of Art, and visual artist Marianela de la Hoz then selected 41 works by 40 artists for the show.

At the reception from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., artists and art lovers will mingle and first-, second- and third-place awards will be announced, as well as honorable mentions and the Leslie Von Kolb Memorial Award.

Feldman, who has organized exhibits in 28 countries, said she’s most excited for the chance to showcase the artists, many of whom are unknown.

“That’s really interesting for me as a curator in San Diego,” she said. “Discovering these artists in San Diego right here where we live is a revelation.”

Though there were no parameters for submissions or judging, Feldman said some of the selected works portray a certain delicateness.

One, by Morey Asato, is “just the most incredible photograph of a group of nasturtiums,” Feldman said. “I honestly don’t know how this photograph is taken. … There’s a fragility and a kind of poetry to it.”

A work by Elizabeth Burger is made of a shell and copper nails. “There’s something about these little tiny nails going into this piece of shell that just makes you think of things like destruction and sacrifice but also fragility of our world,” Feldman said. “It’s very poignant.”

Another group of artists submitted works “that seem to have this kind of slightly surrealist, darker, mysterious side to them,” Feldman said.

The Athenaeum Music & Arts Library's Juried Exhibition will feature 41 works by 40 artists.
(Courtesy of Athenaeum Music & Arts Library)

To be considered for the juried exhibit, artists must live or work in San Diego County or Tijuana and submit digital images of up to three pieces created within the past five years.

De la Hoz, who has exhibited her egg tempera paintings globally and had never served as a juror, said she was originally intimidated to judge the works of other artists.

“It was strange to me,” she said.

Nonetheless, she used her artist’s eye to look for originality and message in each work, along with composition.

Having only seen images of the pieces, de la Hoz said she’s excited to see the works in person.

“I know it’s a completely different experience to see a work of art on a screen and to see the actual piece,” she said. “I’m waiting for the surprises.”

Feldman, who had been a juror for other institutions but not the Athenaeum, said “it’s always really interesting to see the range and what the interests are. … There’s a lot of diversity in the artists and in the subjects.”

La Jolla photographer and marine scientist Oriana Poindexter — whose cyanotype, a photographic work created without a camera using sunlight, was selected for the show — said the reception is her favorite part of the exhibit (she was selected once before).

“Getting to meet the other art makers that are going through sort of similar challenges that I am in getting work out into the world” is a boon, she said.

Poindexter, who creates her work from algae and seaweed she collects in La Jolla’s waters, said the Athenaeum is “an incredible institution in La Jolla, super unique.”

“It’s always wonderful to see your own work outside of your house on a wall,” she said. “I’m excited to see the other work that’s selected.”

A juried exhibit is a common concept for community-based arts organizations, and Feldman said shows like the Athenaeum’s are important because “it’s really very hard for struggling local artists to get their work seen. There isn’t a lot of gallery representation in San Diego. Most of the galleries are in Los Angeles, and I think that’s a big problem for the city.”

For emerging artists, a juried exhibit is “a very good exercise to grow as an artist, to be able to be brave enough to show your work,” de la Hoz said.

Mitchell said the Athenaeum show is “an amazing thing for me to oversee as my first [event] as executive director,” though she didn’t take part in its planning.

“It’s an important thing for a lot of the local arts community,” she said.

Mitchell, who has taken over for longtime Athenaeum fixture Erika Torri, who becomes executive director emerita, said the Juried Exhibition is “such a great way to showcase local talent. We are an institution that historically has dug deep into local artists and been a real venue and resource for them. This is a really special way to celebrate that and our own legacy as well.”

The exhibit and reception are free. The Athenaeum, at 1008 Wall St., is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. For more information, visit ljathenaeum.org/juried-exhibition.