By Katie Reynolds
From Aug. 4 to Sept. 1, the Athenaeum Music and Arts Library will present its 16th Annual Juried Exhibition.
The Athenaeum, one of only 17 membership libraries in the United States, was founded in 1894 when a group of La Jollans started a Reading Club.
Although the Athenaeum still functions as a library, providing a countless array of music and art periodicals, films and books, they have incorporated many other ways of presenting art to the community. These include lectures about music and arts, concerts, a School of Arts in which a variety of classes are available year round, and exhibitions in their Main Gallery and Rotunda.
The vast range of mediums presented on their walls during exhibitions include artist’s books, site-specific installations, photography, sculpture, mixed media, architecture and calligraphy.
According to Kristina Meek, public relations manager of Athenaeum, the Juried Exhibition is one of its most well-respected exhibitions.
Each year, there is a different judge for the Juried Exhibition. This year, they decided on Arthur Ollman. After 35 years working at the Museum of Photographic Arts, he is now the director of the School of Art, Design and Art History at San Diego State University. He said the judging only took him four hours because he has a visceral response to the pieces he chooses.
“First you go through quickly to see the general level of the artists, and then you look carefully to try to figure out what affects you in some way,” Ollman said. “Art goes directly to my bloodstream. When you see something and you go (gasp), that inhale is called inspiration - not respiration. It takes your breath away. There are images that make you say, ‘this is terrific.’ ”
To enter, the artists had to either live, work or exhibit in San Diego County. Artists could enter up to five pieces of any medium. Ollman will decide who wins the first-, second- and third-place cash prizes.
However, this year the Athenaeum is adding an additional prize. The A-list Members of the Athenaeum include about 150 members of young professionals who pay a membership fee in exchange for discounts on events, concerts, lectures and art classes at the Art School, invitations to art exhibition openings, the ability to borrow books, DVDs, CD’s, and periodicals from the Athenaeum, as well as a subscription to their bi-monthly newsletter. The A-list Member’s Choice award will be presented to the artist who is voted the favorite of members of the A-list, and that artwork will be bought by the Athenaeum for its permanent collection.
One of the artists whose work was chosen for the Juried Exhibition is May-ling Martinez. Born in Puerto Rico, Martinez came here in 1996 after graduating from Sacred Heart University with a degree in Visual Arts and Communications. She does installation art, collages and oftentimes interactive sculpture using a variety of recycled materials.
“I decide the medium that will help me most portray my idea,” Martinez said. " I use images from the ‘40s and ‘60s schoolbooks, wholesome, classic American dream images, like Americana.”
Describing her work as reminiscent of memories in which fantasy and reality blend, she said, “Its kind of like a narrative but the stories are not specific.”
Her inspiration is, “family life and what surrounds me,” she said.
She has a show in the rotunda of the Athenaeum in November as well.
Gustabo Velasquez is another artist who has shown in the rotunda, and has three of his pieces in this year’s Annual Juried Exhibition. After he moved to Tijuana, he went to school at Southwestern College, where he found his love for art, and moved on to graduate from SDSU last year.
“I fell in love with art, it’s consumed everything I’ve done,” he said.
His layered pieces - titled “No place,” “No Confessional,” and “No Sincerity,” - are 3D objects made up of found materials, including a fish tank he found at SDSU, charred wood, lights, a bird cage, a chair and wire mesh.
He tries different combinations until he finds stuff that works, “like a jigsaw puzzle, or a Mr. potato head,” Velasquez said. “I’m influenced by what I see every day in Tijuana. I use natural, found colors. So I’m always looking for color in things that already exist. I use those as paint. Each object in the work feeds off each other, plays off each other.”
Emphasizing the fact his pieces are meant to be interactive, he said, “I want people to touch them, but I doubt that they will.”
The Athenaeum is located at 1008 Wall St. It is open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. On Wednesdays it is open from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and it is closed on Sunday and Monday.
For more information call (858) 454-5872 or visit the Web site at www.ljathenaeum.org.