By Rhea Mahbubani
3:53 PM PST, January 9, 2013
Broken surfboards, packaging material, styrofoam, paints, thinners and resin.
These are just a few ingredients in Janessa Bookout's "green" sculptures.
Although the 31-year-old Huntington Beach resident has a background in traditional fine art, she is currently waist-deep in a series of projects involving materials obtained from a local recycling program. Her paraphernalia also comes from her boyfriend's local surfboard-shaping factory, fondly nicknamed her "playpen."
Bookout has contributed two pieces — a painting and a wall-mountable sculpture — to the Huntington Beach Art Center's nearly 300-strong roster for "Centered on the Center."
"So far, people in Huntington Beach's surfing community have been really welcoming," she said. "This is an earth-friendly crowd that gets in the water and really connects with the environment. The surfboards are made of resin and styrofoam, which, once broken, are going to end up in a landfill. So they like the fact that I'm making something beautiful out of what would have just been trash."
Counting down to her first appearance in "Centered on the Center," Bookout is eagerly awaiting the opportunity to meet other like-minded, artistically inclined locals.
More than 150 artists' handiwork will be displayed from Jan. 18 through Feb. 23 at the Huntington Beach Art Center. Spread through three galleries at the 11,000-square-foot, 17-year-old municipal center, this exhibition is a non-juried open call that attracts artists from across Orange and Los Angeles counties.
"This is a community show, the biggest one we do all year long, and we are proud that in opening it up to the community, we make it a truly democratic process," Executive Director Kate Hoffman said. "Anyone who claims to be an artist is welcome to enter — hobbyists and professionals alike."
Artists can submit up to two pieces, which must be framed and ready for professional installation, for a nominal fee: $15 for one work and $25 for two. Hoffman then works closely with the center's installer, Andre Woodward, to construct a salon-style floor-to-ceiling exhibition. Their primary goal is to create an aesthetically pleasing show that does justice to the immense range of submitted subject matter.
"We see the range fully from beginning level to experienced artists, and it is that eclectic approach that makes this show so interesting," Hoffman said. "Everything under the sun comes in for 'Centered on the Center.' The celebration is that of effort, attempt and inspiration."
The exhibition, which also showcases video, sculpture, photography and other media, will launch with an opening reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Jan. 18. Last year, the reception had a turnout of nearly 1,500 guests, according to Hoffman.
The center will also host an Art for Lunch program between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Feb. 14. Guests are welcome to bring a brown bag lunch and sit among the art while they eat, and artists will be on site to discuss their work with attendees.
"What's really nice is that often we see work that reflects the spirit of Huntington Beach in beautiful ways — photographers capturing the sunset at the pier or surfing paintings, stuff that's iconic," Hoffman said. "You get the flavor of this area and see what locals are doing that you might never guess otherwise."
"Centered on the Center" began in the mid-1990s as a community arts show and has been around ever since. While other programs might showcase masters or depict a particular theme, this is a venue for work that might not otherwise be easily within reach, locally or regionally.
Stan Blackwell draws strength from the white, winged horse Pegasus — a stalwart of Greek mythology.
The Anaheim resident, whose oil-on-canvas works are displayed in Riverside, San Pedro and Huntington Beach, creates surreal art in which both landscapes and people reveal horses in the construction and detailing.
"I've always had an affection for and been inspired to put horses in my paintings," Blackwell, 57, said. "Even when I write in birthday cards, I draw a Pegasus. It's my trademark."