Scene - Week of June 7, 2004
Jaime May, Artist Profile: Discovering Joy in Manila
June 12 and 13 marks the sixth annual North Coast Open Studios. Sponsored by the Ink People Center for the Arts and the Humboldt Arts Council, the event presents an opportunity for one to appreciate the artistic riches Humboldt has to offer through meeting with and viewing the work of over 50 local artists.
Joy Dellas is one of the many talented participating artists. A native of Humboldt County since 1978, Dellas lives and works from her home in Manila. Ever an avid recycler, Dellas employs found industrial house paint and varnishes to such unconventional surfaces as recycled printing plates, door skin, aluminum flashing, building paper, mat board and scrap pieces of wood. The end product is a body of work ranging in size and shape, but unified by the bright, magnetic palette that is trademark to Dellas' work.
Dellas cites the harmonizing color and lyrical line qualities of Matisse and Wassily Kandinkdy as well as the expressive brushwork of Ernst Kirchner as major artistic influences in her life and work. Combined with her interest in age old folk traditions and art, Dellas presents vibrant, two dimensional images of contemporary life specific to her environment, in a manner that is uniquely spiritual.
Despite having earned a Master's degree in painting from Humboldt State University, Dellas feels that she is moving more towards the crude, more amateurish style characteristic of Outsider Art.
"I want to convey an honesty and spontaneity. My art is more about the way things feel on the inside than the way things look on the outside. I try not to be too illusionary," Dellas states.
For Dellas, painting has become "a process of not only telling a story, but of asking a story." Dellas elaborates, "its almost embarrassing, the painting will attract a meaning that is not planned. It's like dreaming." Taking her subject matter from the "small miracles of everyday life," Dellas appreciates the peace found in "listening to birds, watching cats nap and gardens grow."
Strongly believing in the healing power of art, Dellas explains that she ultimately strives to depict "what it is to be human, which includes all the joy and sadness life offers. I want people to see the humor, the mortality and the mystery of life."
Through her personal retablos, Dellas encourages her audience to "count their blessings," stating that one's ability to fully appreciate and acknowledge the minute essences of living is a miracle in itself. Further enriching her art is her incorporation of symbols derived from her studies of Jungian psychology. Such imagery as dogs, cats and fish bear an ironic humor in their disparity of meaning cross culturally.
"It's interesting," Dellas says, "that fish can symbolize Christianity in some cultures and greed in others." Dellas also toys with symbols set forth by artists she cites as influential. Matisse's red and white stripped tablecloth is a favorite subject Dellas experiments with. In one particular series, Dellas replaces Matisse's symbol of whimsy and joy of life with tragedy by transforming his tablecloth into flags serving as coffin shrouds of fallen soldiers in Iraq. In staunch opposition to our current war situation, Dellas feels a responsibility to voice her disdain in her work. "As an artist, it is important to speak up. A picture is worth a thousand words."
On a smaller, more personal political scale, Dellas is incredibly committed to the politics of Manila. Stating that "the personal is political," Dellas feels that her "contribution to society is to set a good example by not being greedy or wasteful, but rather by being practical." Dellas' depictions of "rural blight" focus on the interesting dichotomy between the blight versus quaintness of her environ. She finds a sadness in the fact that Manila is at the same time scenic and impoverished. Dellas has recently experienced a shift in priority, utilizing her artistic talent to do what she can to improve Manila. "Since becoming a mother, it seems more important to paint friendly 'please drive carefully' traffic signs." According to Dellas, "I not only want to make our world a little safer for my son, but I want to make it a little safer for others as well."
Currently Dellas' work is on display at Arcata Artisans and the Gallery Dog in Eureka. For further information on this talented artist, visit her website at www.artstreetgallery.com. As mentioned previously, Dellas is also one of the many artists opening her doors in this year's Open Studios tour. To experience her wide array of work, make certain to visit her studio in Manila.