Greenly Art Space in Signal Hill hosts “Running in Place” exhibit by Juan Gomez


Courtesy Greenly Art Space

Greenly Art Space in Signal Hill has received the California Arts Council’s Artists in Communities grant to host the first solo exhibition of the mixed- media artist Juan Gomez. Gomez's exhibition, titled "Running in Place", will hold its opening reception on Oct. 19 from 6pm to 9pm and will feature a collection of paintings and ink drawings.

With help from the California Arts Council’s Artists in Communities grant, the Signal Hill nonprofit art gallery, Greenly Art Space, was able to host the first solo exhibit by Mexican- American artist Juan Gomez, titled “Running in Place.”

According to the California Arts Council’s website the grant is meant to support “sustained artistic residencies in community settings.”

The grant highlights artists’ contributions as being vital and significant to their communities by partnering with art nonprofits willing to showcase their work in a community setting.

“It’s an Artists in Communities grant from the California Arts Council, so its working with local artists. We applied for it and it basically runs for a year, and through that we’re able to offer an artist residency to Juan and help pay for some of his supplies, help him to get a studio space, to pay for some of that,” said Kimberly Hocking, Director and Curator of Greenly Art Space. “Then also mentoring him through the process, working with him through the process of [an] initial solo exhibition. And then we’re going to have a talk at the end and have other ways, like through a blog, to be able to share with the community about what he’s doing. So its really a way to be able to connect the community with up and coming artists, and for us as an organization to work and support them.”

Grants such as the Artists in Communities grant allow Greenly Art Space to hold more solo exhibitions for individual artists rather then its usual group shows.

“We’re trying to do more, and this sort of grant allows us to do more solo exhibitions, because a lot of the time that is more extensive for us. But with a grant like this it allows us to be able to do that. So we’re hoping to be able to showcase more artists in solo exhibitions here as well,” Hocking told the Signal Tribune.

Gomez uses mixed media and combines rope, ink, wax, oil and acrylic paint in his works. He also uses his experiences with mental illness as a source of inspiration for his artwork and community outreach. Plans are in place for Gomez to give a presentation on his art at a local mental health clinic.

“Because of my background, I’ve experienced mental illness before, a lot of this work has to do with my reaction to going through that experience of mental illness. Its still something I’m working with,” Gomez told the Signal Tribune. “I’ve gotten a lot of assistance from really supportive people within therapy, or just friends, and I felt it was my responsibility as an artist to share my experience and to also be of assistance to other people who are going through similar things, or social issues or dilemmas. Its a way of giving back and I’m using some symbols within my work to instill strength within these people and to try to make it [as] relatable as possible.”

Gomez feels that Latin Americans often have a difficult time being open about their mental health struggles.

“Culturally, its very difficult for you to come out and to say that you have mental illness or disorder. It wasn’t easy for me to come out to my family, a lot of them didn’t understand, a lot of them still don’t understand what therapy is,” Gomez told the Signal Tribune.

His paintings often utilize the imagery of horses and scorpions to deal with the influence of both interior and external struggles as well as the artist’s cultural roots.

“I call it the interior forces, going through mental distress or mental illness. The other part of the work has to do with exterior forces, thats kind of what I call it. You know, the sign of the times. The way things are going right now, media wise, television wise, politically, socially, economically. Things are kind of in reverse. There’s not a straight path, theres kind of a wavy path,” Gomez told the Signal Tribune about the opposing forces present in his work. “And I feel when things like this go array its really easy for you to kind of remember your own roots, basically. So the second aspect, along with these exterior forces, are your roots, because I feel like your roots are your strength. So the horses are a symbol of motion and its also a symbol for people within my own ancestry that were working class, farmers, raised cattle, rode horses. It was always like a symbol of motion towards a barrier, to surpass a barrier. Thats kind of what thats about.”

“Running in Place” will be on display at Greenly Art Space until January 11, 2020. The exhibit is free to attend and is open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 11am to 2pm.