Arts & Life, Features

CSULB graduates strive to advance women in the arts

Handwoven cotton and vinyl thread work created by Annette Heully and Dawn Ertl drape across the Huntington Beach Art Center gallery.

Artists and Cal State Long Beach alumnae, Heully and Ertl are currently featured in the “Looming Spaces” exhibition at the art center. Both contemporary fiber artists use the skill of weaving to address cultural and environmental issues.

This exhibit is the third and final of the year featured in the center’s series dedicated to celebrating women in the arts.

“I want this community art center to address issues,” Executive Director Kate Hoffman said. “Not just present beauty to the viewers.”

Responding to the historical struggle for recognition and representation women have faced in the arts, the Huntington Beach Art Center has dedicated all three of this year’s exhibits to showcasing female artists.

“Last year was a heavy year for women, politically,”  Hoffman said. “It was the notion of potentially having our first female president that caused me to reflect on women in the arts.”

Heully and Ertl are 2015 graduates of the university’s weaving, fibers, and textiles master of fine arts program.

Suggested by Long Beach art professor Karen Kleinfelder, Heully and Ertl approached Hoffman with the idea of utilizing the entire space of the gallery to display ceiling to floor installations.

“Not a lot of galleries can accommodate that kind of height and length,” Hoffman said.

One of Ertl’s pieces, “The Warmth of Your Embrace,” focuses heavily on addressing environmental issues by incorporating the issue of climate change and the science behind it by weaving the fabric to mimic weather patterns.

Listening to non-believers [of climate change,] saying things like the weather is fine here, or that it’s cold here so global warming isn’t real, that stance seems very personal,” said Ertl. “As if they aren’t looking beyond their own backyard to see how clearly the temperature is changing around the world and affecting everyone.”

Ertl’s largest installation, “One Nation Under God,” is a set of 12 pieces woven together to form one cohesive pattern, made up of wool and single-use plastics based off of music notation.

While the art is meant to initially invoke beauty, closer examination reveals the hidden layers of her work through the specific material choice.

Heully’s main installation, “Body + Landscape,” occupies an entire room with thick black fiber weavings stretched across the room like a spider’s web.

“I wanted this piece to expand beyond itself,” Heully said. “Viewers could be above, below, inside or outside of it.”

Aiming to make full use of the large space, Heully placed lights in the room so shadows cast would not only create an expanding illusions, but cast the viewers’ shadows as well, as if they are an essential part of the piece.

Ertl is unsure of where her art will take her next, but is eager to begin working with her loom and skills.

Heully is looking to collaborate with dance and performing arts with her “Body + Landscape” installation. She is also being featured in the CSULB Public Urban Multisensory Presentations exhibit.

While the women are excited to be given the spotlight this year, both artists feel that there is a long road ahead for women to receive the recognition in the arts that they deserve.

“It’s Gillian Welch song, ‘we’re gonna do it anyway even if it doesn’t pay,” said Heully said. “I love creating and even if it didn’t pay I’d still be doing it.”

Ertl’s and Heully’s installations will be available for viewing from noon to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, noon to 6 p.m. Fridays and noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays through Oct. 21.

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