Above photo courtesy of Tokotah Ashcraft. All other photos courtesy of Cynthia Luján.
Cynthia Luján is a boon to the Long Beach arts community, as a graduate of Cal State Long Beach’s (CSULB) Fine Arts in Drawing and Painting program and the Arts Council for Long Beach’s Special Projects Assistant. It’s only fitting that this visual artist, whose paintings are rife with vibrancy in color and movement, be given the chance to show her work at The Allery. Her installation will debut this Friday at Bixby Knolls’ First Fridays event.
The work Luján created for the outdoor art space is a continuation of her Ardent series, upon which she laid the first brush strokes last year with Ruminations. The series is a three-faceted concept, where visually, Luján references photographs she takes of public spaces, philosophically, she considers how public space is ephemeral and emotionally, as the artist confronts the inevitable, the fact that nothing lasts forever.
“I try to use a lot of construction or public signage or signifiers in these pieces because I find it ironic that as a society, we constantly want to battle entropy,” she explained. “I kind of see public maintenance as rituals: fixing potholes, repainting old walls, restoring buildings–decay is inevitable. Ultimately, I see the series as an exploration of alter-space using paint.”
Movement, another major characteristic in the series, implies time, says Luján. Her paintings give off an immediate sense of spontaneity, as if they just happened to be that way, sans the time, thought and hours of labor needed to create each one. As far as her process goes, she collects the imagery she plans to reference then lets her gut decide what to do.
Luján’s Alter-Space III.
“I do plan ahead a general composition and I have a tendency to a certain color palette...but I like spontaneity to take over,” she said. “I lose myself and also lose track of time while painting. So, it feels good to let it take its natural course[...].”
While Luján’s educational background may be in fine art, over the past year the artist has been creating a Public Art Archive of all the public art located in Long Beach as part of her duties at the arts council. Meanwhile, growing up, she made connections with a handful of artists who made graffiti and sticker art through Flickr, something she’s always wanted to do despite her inclination to practice traditional painting.
Luján’s Alter-Space II.
“I’d like to think I’m not an art snob [...] and I really hope I never become one–so public art is important to me and one kind of art that I’ve always been pretty passionate about," she said. "[...]So it’s really nice to be able to get my work installed temporarily for three months and out there for people to see.”
As far as how showing her work in an alley is concerned, Luján’s opinion is blatantly for just getting your work out there. A handful of Long Beach artists have used the rotating exhibit that is the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association’s innovative idea to show local artists’ work, especially during First Fridays when Atlantic Avenue is busy with foot traffic.
“Some people think traditional galleries are the only way to go, especially academically speaking—but I think if you have an audience who supports you in your endeavors—anything goes,” she said.