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Finding diamonds in the rough

Artists use both materials and people found on the streets to inspire their exhibit.

Studio art major, Daniela Ordaz stops to take a closer look of “Portrait of a Grandmother” by Robert Nehemiah as they walk through the Gatov West gallery.

Zulema Suarez, Staff Writer

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The student art galleries at Cal State Long Beach are home to a collaboration between a student artist painting abstract profiles on canvas, and one who paints portraits on abstract surfaces.

Senior BFA in drawing and painting students Elmer Guevara and Robert Nehemiah present “Immaterial,” an art exhibit focusing on irrelevance of people and objects in today’s society.

Guevara and Nehemiah unveiled their works of art on Sunday in the Gatov West gallery on campus.

The artwork of Guevara consists of five profiles of homeless people: Greg, Carlos, Lala, Nikolai and Anna. He met, interviewed, and photographed them in their comfort zones, then painted them from the many photographs he took.

There are portraits of people, by Nehemiah, that influenced his detachment from superficiality. His paintings are on objects that are normally overlooked, including scraps of wood, metal, cardboard and unprimed tarps.

Guevara, who grew up and lives in South L.A., paints abstract portraits of homeless people from his area.  

“There’s been more cases of homelessness in my area and I took notice of that. I wanted to go out and find subjects I could take portraits of to bring more awareness to the issue,” Guevara said. “I went out and met these people and interviewed them and based on their interviews and photographs that I collected, I put together these compositions. So, it’s based on my experience of what they’re like, their psyche and their environments.”

In his piece, “Greg,” Guevara mentions that Greg was extremely giddy and unable to stand still during his interview.  The portrait portrays Greg with several different motions around his face and legs, making it look as if he were moving.

In “Nickolai,” the same kind of structure is used because Nickolai was a recovering heroin addict, also unable to remain still.

Nehemiah’s portraits are all on unprimed surfaces that are not found useful or beautiful to the public. He focuses more on the object that the artwork is created on because it is generally an overlooked object.

“My artwork is on scrap pieces I found all over L.A.,” Nehemiah said. “I did portraits of people that influenced my detachment from materialism onto objects that are irrelevant and all the pieces are unprimed meaning that they are not meant to last forever. And from this I learned that not only are the surfaces temporary, but the people are temporary, so it was definitely emotional for me in several ways to make this realization.”

Nehemiah also explains how his and Guevara’s work correlates.

“His work focuses on irrelevant people, per se, and mine focuses on irrelevant objects,” Nehemiah said. “Many people, especially in a higher class, nicer area ignore homeless people like they aren’t even people, and in the same way, many people ignore the scraps of these objects because they don’t matter to them.”

Guevara and Nehemiah’s work will remain in the student art gallery until Feb. 16 from 12 – 5 p.m.

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