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Two artists, two different perspectives at The Nave

By Natassia Bonyanpour
Aug. 26, 2014 at 5:42 p.m.
Updated Aug. 26, 2014 at 10:46 p.m.

"Portrait of La Mari" by Carlo Donjuan at the "Conversations" exhibit at the Nave Museum.

Exhibit schedule

"Conversations" runs through Aug. 31. Then, the Nave Museum will be closed until its Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead exhibit, which opens on Oct. 2. This display will show artistic alters and include a silent auction.

Step into the Nave Museum, and you'll be greeted by hanging sculptures among abstract oil work. Walk a bit further past the gift shop, and large, mixed media pieces surround carved, wooden figures.

The two exhibits, "Conversations" by artists Marilyn Jolly and Carlos Donjuan have been on display since mid-July and will run through the end of the week. One exhibit incorporates the Japanese concept of "Wabi Sabi" - that beauty can be found in imperfection. The other explores the term "Illegal Aliens" through an imaginative perspective.

Although they touch on unrelated ideas, the artists do have a connection - Jolly was Donjuan's teacher.

"The exhibits are very different," Jolly said. "But the similarity is that both our bodies of work deal with life experiences."

Jolly, an artist in the Dallas area for more than 30 years, is head of painting at the University of Texas at Arlington, where she instructed Donjuan.

Her current exhibit encompasses large oil paintings and various sculptures. Several of her works incorporate repetitive marks and shapes - something she attributes to her daily mediation routine.

"There is a relationship between my art and watching breath in meditation," Jolly said. "Just like breathing, we do things with repetitiveness in our lives."

During recent years, Jolly has also ventured into the world of sculpture, using assorted natural elements.

"My 3-D work has allowed me to play with different kinds of material and create a sense of time," she said. "I include it a lot from the natural world and my love for gardening."

The two Nave Museum exhibits, which were put together on Donjuan's request, embodies the close bond the two share. Jolly describes her relationship with Donjuan as supportive and encouraging.

"We both didn't know people in our lives that were successful artists," she said. "Our work doesn't look much alike, but we both influence another."

Donjuan, who currently teaches with Jolly and has had his art featured in the U.S. and Europe, reflected the same sentiment.

"Marilyn was one of my educators that inspired me," he said. "It is an honor to be featured with such an amazing artist; she is very talented."

Donjuan's art explores his imagination as young boy, making his way to a new country, he said.

"I was born in Mexico," he said. "My parents, brothers and I came (to the U.S.) when I was 3 years old."

Donjuan remembered the negativity he felt about being an undocumented immigrant. Nonetheless, his parents' strength guided him to strive for better.

"It pushed me to create something positive out of negative," he said. "A lot of people thought they could get to me. But this issue isn't going away; we need to create a positive out of it."

Donjuan said many of his paintings represent creatures he envisioned when hearing the phrase "illegal alien" as a child. His figures wear vibrant scales, and many have their eyes covered.

With all the controversy of securing borders in the nation, Donjuan said that it is important to reflect on the humanistic aspect of the issue.

"I think people should put their political issues aside and remember we're all human beings," he said. "We should not get caught in anger or opinion; we're all people."

Curator Sharon Steen said the response in Victoria has been favorable and sparked great interest.

"I think the combination (of exhibits) worked really well, and people were engaged, asking questions," she said. "Our aim is to bring more interesting art, so our people won't have to travel - we can have art in our own backyards."

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