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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

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Alumna Evelyn Contreras presents her art at Atkinson Gallery exhibit

Artist Evelyn Contreras displays a recently created stitched print at her artist demonstration on Oct. 19 at the Atkinson Gallery in Santa Barbara, Calif. A focal point of Contreras’ talk was her use of a variety of different printing mediums to enhance her artwork.

As students and faculty filtered into the Atkinson Gallery, Director John Connelly introduced Evelyn Contreras to the crowd. On Wednesday, Oct. 26, Contreras was hosted for an “artist talk” where she discussed her art and conducted a screen printing demonstration.

Contreras is a City College alumna and artist. She describes herself as an “expansive printmaker” and combines her traditional screen printing education with new, creative ways to use ink and alternative materials. Wednesday was the last day of her stunning exhibition in Atkinson Gallery with Tamar Siegfried Rosa Halpern. It was incredible to hear Contreras speak about her art while simultaneously being able to see and interact with it in the gallery.

Much of her work challenges the traditional nature of art galleries by inviting viewers to get close and touch exhibits like custom bedazzled viewfinders and flipbooks. In her artist talk, she explained how she combines digital concepts like GIFs and internet culture with tangible space-dependent objects and processes. 

As she paced the gallery and pointed out different pieces to the attentive audience, she explained how surreal it was to be showing her art there, years after she was a student at City College. As a Santa Barbara local, she creates her artwork without a studio and hoped that art students listening wouldn’t be held back by a lack of space or materials. She emphasized her role as a sight-responsive artist and described the difficult shift into digital spaces during the pandemic. Shifting out of the pandemic has allowed her back into these sights, but the inspiration she drew from those digital spaces remains in her artwork.

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Contreras explained how exciting it was to see people interacting with her artwork and discovering what works and what doesn’t. Audience member and City College art professor Stephanie Dotson described watching a group of “non-art” professors see the exhibit for the first time and how awestruck they were. 

“I think you reached a lot of people across campus,” Dotson said.

Contreras’s down-to-earth nature and comfortability in the gallery created an engaging and fun atmosphere, and it seemed like every audience member took something away from the talk. As she welcomed all questions and recommended materials like thermochromatic ink and mica powder, it was clear that she wanted everyone to leave the gallery feeling inspired. 

When she brought the audience onto the gallery balcony for her screenprinting demonstration, she encouraged people to pick up and examine various art pieces she had laid on a folding table. Talking through her process and periodically walking around to show off her ink mixture, she eventually pulled the squeegee across her screen and lifted it to reveal a sparkly turquoise print on neon orange construction paper. 

Contreras attributed her success to the printmaking class at City College, explaining that the DIY culture was a springboard for her expansive work. 

“I don’t think craft is respected as much as it should be,” Contreras said.

She worked hard to get where she is now but made sure that the audience knew they too could create like she does.

This art talk was one of many to be hosted at the Atkinson Gallery this semester. For more information on upcoming artists, check the gallery’s website.

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