When Gina M. visualizes her childhood, she sees dolls, puppets and old toys. Raised by a family of puppeteers, her weekends were dedicated to hosting birthday parties, producing shows or meeting with the Los Angeles Guild of Puppetry.
“I wasn’t allowed to go inside the studio as a kid … so to keep out of the way, I would sit on the floor and make dolls from scraps I found around the theater like paper clips, rubber bands and carpet fuzz,” said Gina M., whose full name is Gina Fernandez. She prefers to use the initial “M.” for personal and professional reasons.
Reliving her childhood memories, Gina M. continues to create art with materials that are available to her.
Her exhibition, “Through the Toy Shop and Behind the Curtain,” is now open to the public at the Don B. Huntley Gallery, located on the fourth floor of the University Library.
Gina M. holds an associate arts degree in interior design and color theory from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. Her art pays great attention to decorative prints and colors.
She said the exhibition is modeled to replicate the actual room layout of her family-owned theater, featuring a toy shop and a stage room.
The toy shop demonstrates an interesting twist of creating stuffed animals, which are often plushy, with a hard material like ceramics to serve as a metaphor of life to express that things are not always the way that they appear.
The stage room exhibits her assemblage sculptures built with antiques and worn-out toys. Surrounding her audience with games and dolls, the artist intends to lure out the inner child hidden within each individual. At a glance, the toy-like sculptures seem whimsical and almost persuade the audience to yearn for their youthful, happier days.
Just when it begins to feel like the gateway to childhood fantasy, the damaged exterior and the sadness that lingers around the broken dolls becomes more apparent. Emphasizing the imperfections of the assemblages, Gina M. explores the loneliness and trauma that are often embodied within childhood.
Michele Cairella Fillmore, curator of the Kellogg and Huntley University Art Galleries, said the exhibition is beyond an art gallery but more of an experience that allows the audience to connect and feel with the artist.
She believes the exhibition will provide a place for students to separate themselves from academic burdens.
“There’s a bit of fun and creepiness but all in a creative way,” said Kimberly Burnett, a first-year biology student. “I can tell she was speaking from the heart.”
Enriched with emotion, wordplay and metaphoric allusions, this exhibition reminds the audience of the heartaches that are kept hidden beneath our layers which we can all learn to embrace as she has.
The free exhibition will be displayed until May 14 from noon to 4 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, 4-8 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, and noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
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