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It is very early in my interview with regional artist Anna O’Cain when I comprehend that I’m doubtful how to adequately classify her artwork.
In my notes are a collection of inquiries about her get the job done and follow cleverly worded queries that provide as cheat codes for an arts writer. The hopeful intent is that it will prompt the artist herself to categorize it herself. Immediately after all, who better to succinctly describe the artwork than the artist who produced it?
“It’s so hard,” O’Cain says, laughing. “I wrote a sentence down a person time. It’s possible it is still on my wall someplace. It explained a little something like I assume what I’m seeking to do is learn more issues about the earth and I’m attempting to dispel the mythological photo of the entire world that was painted for me by my mom about how good you have to be and how you gain from being very good.”
This respond to seems insufficient at initially, but when additional prompted, O’Cain admits it is a “very superior question” before quickly transitioning into a tale about her mother encouraging a guy place out a fire with soaked towels on their way again from a swimming pool when O’Cain was in elementary school. This story segues into a discourse about identifying online video artwork at Oklahoma College in the early 1970s. Then this tale bleeds back again into reflections of her mother and how these recollections impressed “nighttime,” a 2014 installation at Art Generate in North Park.
So, I’ll just remark here that O’Cain’s artwork is conceptual in spirit — eloquently mixing in collage, sculpture and even functionality-based mostly elements — and but it nonetheless defies pigeon-holing. A lot like the artist herself, her operate is charmingly tangential, equal pieces bewildering and bewitching.
“I am a storyteller,” O’Cain suggests, matter of factly, from her dwelling and studio in Lemon Grove. “I’m not expressing I’m a wonderful one particular, but I’m from the South. And I like to explain to stories.”
So, sure, Anna O’Cain is a storyteller and her artwork is but a manifestation of the internal machinations of her interminably motivated intellect. A single of the greatest inventive sins is disregarding an instinct and O’Cain never dismisses a muse. She writes notes to herself on a pad constantly, accomplishing so during our job interview. She does this mainly because, properly, a person hardly ever understands what may happen.. A uncomplicated plan, even so inconsequential it looks at the time, can quickly morph, completely transform and then cascade into an solely distinctive artistic assertion completely.
“When I start out to get seriously engaged and then start out to truly feel seriously passionate about something, I just have to have confidence in it,” O’Cain claims.
These types of is the circumstance with “There’s Under no circumstances Just 1,” a new exhibition at the Athenaeum Art Centre in Logan Heights.
Designed up of seemingly diverse areas, a everyday visitor might straight away feel it was a group show showcasing several artists. In 1 spot there are soap packing containers mysteriously put underneath stacked, fragmented pictures hung on the wall. Towards the center of the room, there is a table, finish with a sitting chair, with a deluge of keys and keyrings spilling from the ceiling and onto the desk. In yet another location, there is a bookshelf, considerably domestic wanting at very first glance, until closer inspection reveals a wide range of random aspects in the cabinets (crops, floating publications, installations inside of installations).
“I believe my function now is a lot more disparate now than it is ever been,” O’Cain states. “It’s scary to me in some cases.”
Going for walks inside the exhibition, the viewer is grasped with a looky-loo sensation of seeking to take it all in, not quite greedy how it all adds up, but realizing they are all connected in some ethereal way. “There’s Never ever Just A person,” which is up as a result of November 25, is like O’Cain herself: intriguing in its obscurity.
“I realized it was going to be a genuine hardcore installation the place it all had to operate alongside one another, while it seriously does truly feel like a group clearly show but from 1 particular person,” claims O’Cain. “‘There’s Never Just One’ definitely is about that truth, that one strategy can lead to another and that we’re all integrated. It’s corny and it’s hokey, but it is also truthful and representative of the way I perform.”
And with that explanation, O’Cain is onto another tale about how a compact fascination with plankton soon morphed into an overarching, all-encompassing, almost everything-almost everywhere-all-at-when tidal wave of ideas that finished up producing up “There’s Under no circumstances Just Just one.”
“It’s this concept that this could be as essential as anything else,” suggests O’Cain. “The equalization of matters and that there’s never just a person way to seem at points.”
The daughter of an architect father and a theater-loving mom from the “backwoods of Mississippi,” O’Cain grew up in the South for the duration of the Civil Legal rights period, to start with in Jackson, Miss out on., and later transferring to the Gulf Coast. She went on to review art at both of those Oklahoma College and the Art Institute of Chicago, right before moving to San Diego in 1983 to get her master’s diploma in visible artwork from the College of California, San Diego. After a temporary sojourn in Montana, she arrived back again to San Diego, began instructing artwork at group schools (she formally retired in 2020), even though also keeping up with her own practice. This has resulted in myriad solo and collaborative exhibitions all through the decades.
“I arrived again and just reported ‘yes’ to almost everything, all the exhibits I was asked to be in,” O’Cain suggests. “I’ve under no circumstances been tremendous bold, but I just went for it.”
Despite a Southern accent that longs to completely surface when she speaks, O’Cain maintains that it was in San Diego exactly where her apply actually took condition, but also turns contemplative when requested if her distinctive Southern upbringing assisted shape her creative outlook.
“I didn’t really increase up in a visual artwork environment, but I did mature up with some men and women executing intriguing items,” O’Cain recalls. “ My dad would bring his operate residence, so I was accomplishing my own ground strategies from the 2nd grade. I would layout these fanciful properties in my head.”
When that last sentence is sent casually, this “fanciful” strategy does converse volumes about O’Cain’s tactic to her art now.
Although her dwelling was filled with artistic folks, she does also recall the in some cases everyday racism amongst her neighbors and even the elder members of her loved ones. She resolved some of these formative recollections in “There Are No Snakes in the Backyard,” a 1992 solo exhibit at the Galería de Arte de la Ciudad in Tijuana, and later on revisited at Cal Condition San Marcos. The set up, which resembled an altar, noticed O’Cain navigating the dualities of race and loved ones, the good and the negative, by means of stories, paintings and audio installations centering on her maternal grandparents.
And while “There’s Hardly ever Just One” doesn’t declaratively discuss to this one of a kind knowledge in the very same methods as “There Are No Snakes in the Backyard,” a single just cannot aid but marvel no matter if her early activities, on the other hand subconsciously, did aid to condition her tactic through her career.
“It’s a wonderful dilemma to assume about,” O’Cain admits although jotting down a take note. “The soapbox factors that are floating all over the space at the new present, it is not spelled out that you can stand on those people and recite a poem. The notion is that it is an open invitation that you don’t have to be anything in buy to stand up.”
With that, O’Cain begins to tell one more story about training at Miracosta College or university in Oceanside. This segues into an additional tale about her mother listening to Martin Luther King Jr. speeches, which then segues into a story about how she lived in a church when she initial moved to San Diego, which then transitions again into a story about a conversation she experienced with her mom afterwards in everyday living where her mother quoted that very same King speech, and on it goes from there.
It’s like she claimed at the commencing: she’s a storyteller, and whilst the stage could seem elusive at 1st, choose a minute to just take it all in and the dots commence to join.
“You’ve questioned me some excellent issues and I recognize it,” O’Cain tells me as we say goodbye, but then details to her notebook. “But now I have some new work to do.”
Anna O’Cain: There is Under no circumstances Just One/Nunca hay sólo uno
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. As a result of Nov. 25
Exactly where: Catherine and Robert Palmer Gallery, Athenaeum Art Center, 1955 Julian Ave., Logan Heights
Phone: (619) 269-1981
On the internet: ljathenaeum.org/latest-exhibitions/#artwork-center
Born: Pascagoula, Miss out on.
Enjoyable Fact: In addition to her conceptual installations, O’Cain has also collaborated on several community art jobs. Most a short while ago, she was a person-3rd of “To Do • A Mending Venture,” a fiber artwork collaboration with Michelle Montjoy and Siobhán Arnold that resulted in a sequence of community workshops and art installations.
Combs is a freelance writer.