South Bay Contemporary Sets the Course with “Dear President” and “The Faces Within”



The South Bay Contemporary’s powerful Dear President opened last Saturday, offering creative dialog on American issues, policies, and values – challenged with the new presidency. Hard topics such as homelessness, gun control, immigrant rights, big oil lobbying are addressed as well as giving voice to those feeling marginalized. With nearly 50 local and regional, the show buzzes with fervor and commitment.


South Bay Contemporary gallery director Peggy Sivert Zask and Ben Zask had an idea at the beginning of the 2016 election season to curate artists to give voice to the diverse views of Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

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Sivert Zask was inspired by “clashing disputes on American policy” that “brought out the passions of a large number of citizens who had once been politically apathetic.”

“Hillary was poised to break the glass ceiling, but represented the establishment,” according to Sivert Zask. “Outsiders Trump and Sanders appealed to the disenfranchised while attempting to turn the establishment upside down. The issues that were brought to the surface started a forceful national dialogue.”

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The show’s artists voice their heartfelt concerns through their works and written letters to be compiled into a catalog sent directly to the president and other influential representatives in Washington D.C.
Cie Gumucio’s mixed media installation, Letters, clearly reveals both the frustration and grasping towards hope so many are feeling.
The piece was created using various failed letter drafts written to try and communicate with a strong male ego such as that of the new president, according to the artist. The piece includes letters using approaches of fear, hard scientific facts, and appealing to a family man, but all end up in a cascading waste basket full of pleas for “our shared existence.”
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As a member of the Moms Demand Gun Control and an advocate for Gun Sense, artist Ellen November works in fabric with her piece, House of Guns. She recreates the Capitol building as a tapestry made up of hand guns and automatic weapons. Her work creates a visually striking contrast between the American tradition of quilting and collage collage – she’s evokes a modern day Betsy Ross documenting a new kind of patriotic act.

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The assemblage piece by Michael Chomick, Cipher was started during the Bush administration as a statement against the Iraq war, and has since been reworked to address the concerns of what he calls “military quagmires,” and the messiness of war, and the loss of children.

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Citia Alejandra Segovia, A Big Beautiful Wall is a video work that addresses issues of immigration with clarity and humor. The artist, whose work has been influenced by Mexican culture, uses photography and video to explore cultural stereotypes, identity and bilingualism. She views herself as both an outsider and insider to American culture, one who tries to “look at its machinations with a fresh eye.”

On Sunday February 19th from 3-5 p.m., an artists talk will present artists’ concerns, process, and feelings about their work and the incoming administration.

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One of the planned speakers is John Kiriakou, a former CIA agent imprisoned for allegedly leaking classified information about waterboarding. His image can be seen placed on American currency in artist John Dingler’s digital media piece Whistleblower, John Kiriakou. Kiriakou will be sharing his past experience and future views.

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Dear President opens up a proactive dialogue designed to create lasting changes. Seeing that diversity and solidarity can co-exist in beautiful ways is both empowering and inspiring. The show’s catalog is available for purchase and the proceeds will help to support the South Bay Contemporary and local artists.

Participating artists include:

Claudia Bear, Marconi Calindas, Kate Carvellas, Darice Chang, Michael Chomick, Annie Clavel, Preston Craig, Gina Cunningham, Rick Dallago, John Dingler, Edem Elesh, Paige Emery , Luis Favela, Kathi Flood, Scott Froschauer, Steve Fujimoto, Richelle Gribble, Elwing Gonzalez, Cie Gumucio, Benjamin Jancewicz, Julian Kehle, Janet Le, Sheri Leigh O’Conner, Eva Kolosvary-Stupler, Mona-Lisa Lind, Ann Mann Lynch, Gina M., Zachary Mendoza, Narsiso Martinez, Karena Massingil, Mary Milelzcik, Tom Miller,
Johnny Naked, Ellen November, Michelle Nunes, Toni Reinis, Michelle Rozic, Kuniko Ruch, Mati Russo, Tatiana Savchenko, Cintia Alejandra Segovia, Peggy Sivert, Micheal Swank, Curtis Taylor, Daggi Wallace, Tammy West, Bill Zeldis.

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According to Sivert-Zask, “Some of the artists were invited and we also included an open call for artists to enter. After the election we decided to extend the deadline since there were so many artists had deep need to express their feelings. We ended up wanting to include as many artists as we could because of the intensity of the times. We felt everyone needed to be included if they were addressing a political issue.”

 And in the adjoining gallery…
Adjoining Dear President, is the separate exhibition The Faces Within, in which artists express their personal responses to their mental/physical/emotional state during this election past year.
Sivert-Zask notes “We invited artist and curator Karrie Ross to curate a related show in the smaller project room. Her work is a departure from specific political issues and focuses on the face of emotion resulting from the chaos of the election process.”
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According to  Ross, “The question the artists were posed with is ‘What Does YOUR emotional FACE Look Like?’ Each Artist was assigned a left or right side of face to create. Some started their projects before November 8th and others after. The results are amazing, I hope you’ll be able to relate to, and find a connection to their feelings. There will also be some small pieces reflecting a full face and one emotion.”
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“I was moved by each of the artists’ statements regarding their art piece and the 2016 experience that inspired it, with each enhanced by the powerful statement the pairing of images presented…simple, clean, to the point, for me The Faces Within caused a reflection on my own experiences. Each final piece was selected by degrees of angst, paired with care to best reflect the two sides of any decision,” Ross says.
Participating Southern California based artists: Nancy Larrew, Sarah Stone, Ben Zask, Steve Shriver, Scott Meskill, Anna Stump, Vicki Barkley, Raymond Logan, Randi Matushevitz, Malka Nedivi, Leonard D Greco Jr., Beanie Karmen, Lore Elkelberry, Cansu Bulgu.

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Sivert-Zask and Ross expect these shows to release, according to Sivert-Zask, “a lot of the intense emotional feelings that we all feel, by bringing us together and allowing a safe place to feel together. I think it will release feelings but hopefully spark and inspire continued activism as well. We believe that art can continue to be an important vehicle of social and political expression.”


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Dear President and The Faces Within run through February 19th.  South Bay Contemporary is located at 401 S. Mesa St., third floor, San Pedro. The gallery is open Thursday, Feb. 2 from 6-9 p.m. during the First Thursday Art Walk, Saturdays from 1 to 5, and by appointment. The show concludes with the Artists’ Talk from 3-5 p.m. on Sunday Feb. 19. To make an appointment, call (310) 429-0973 or visit
Ellen Riingen, Genie Davis; Photos: Ellen Riingen