Current Artist in Residence
Anela Oh is a multidisciplinary artist, currently the resident at Sonoma Ceramics, Sonoma Community Center. She holds a BFA in Studio Art from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University and has recently been invited to serve on the board of Hand Papermaking. Oh is a mixed race artist of Malaysian Chinese descent and utilizes imagery, colors, textures, and smells from her cultural heritage to pay homage to the work of her ancestors and bring marginalized voices to the forefront. Her five-month residency at the Center will culminate with an exhibit in the Center’s Gallery 212 in May of this year.
Oh’s work is deeply grounded in a sense of community and sharing her skills with others through playful experimentation and collaboration. She uses materials that have a life of their own such as clay, paper, and fiber to feed her studio practice and create environments full of color and texture. “The polychrome material play is one of the reasons Anela’s portfolio immediately stood out from the competitive applicant pool” says Kala Stein, Director of Arts and Ceramics. “Her unique cultural perspective fueled with her optimistic spirit is exactly what we need and want to support at this particular moment in time. Furthermore, her multimedia focus will be supported by all three of our dedicated art studios- ceramics, fiber, and print/papermaking.”
The Artist in Residence program is one example of Sonoma Community Center’s programming that supports artists from diverse backgrounds, to share unique perspectives around art, culture, and community. During her residency, Oh will create a new body of work that “…considers the role of culture in shaping environments by developing a complex visual and material language to celebrate diverse cultures as linked to biodiversity within the scale of a landscape.” She will interact with the community virtually and teach online since the Center is still closed for in-person programming due to Covid 19.
“The art I create imagines landscapes of other worlds, other futures, by reclaiming it through materials, colors, and smells of my own culture. I begin an understanding of what natural growth looks like when combined with the variability of color. This beauty, wonder and exploration that comes from it is not only my reclamation of my own presence and experiences in natural space, but the creating and imagining of how nature will expand and vibrate with accessibility to all” writes Oh, in her artist’s statement.
Artist-in-Residence Profile: Anela Oh Discusses Upcoming Exhibition & Shares Sonoma Community Center Experience
“I believe that in breaking there is an opportunity for growth that we couldn’t have imagined otherwise. It reminds us that even in a radical shift you are not working from nothing. We have all the pieces to transform our world. We are the seeds. We have to constantly uproot and break things down to create new systems. These pieces are a mark of resilience and the power of radical imagination.”
Over the past five months, multidisciplinary artist Anela Oh has been developing her most recent body of work inside the walls of our historic community center — a work that the community will get to enjoy when it’s unveiled on June 4th at a Solo Exhibition in Gallery 212 that will be virtually streamed on Facebook and include a live Q&A with the artist.
Having arrived at the Sonoma Community Center on the heels of receiving her BFA in Studio Art from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University, Oh has had the opportunity to combine her incredibly innovative and signature style of using multiple disciplines – ceramics, fiber arts and print/paper making – with inspiration derived from Sonoma itself to create an entirely new body of work that speaks to the power of transformation to support future growth in ourselves and our world.
We had the opportunity to speak with Anela and glean a little bit about what she’s enjoyed most during her time with The Center, as well as what we can expect from her upcoming gallery.
Sonoma Community Center: How was your experience as the Community Center’s artist in residence?
ANELA: My experience as the artist-in-residence at the Center has been extremely fulfilling, supportive and conducive to my growth. It’s been a difficult time for everyone and having arrived amidst a pandemic, it’s been amazing to watch how hard the staff here works to keep things moving during this unprecedented moment. I have gotten to see the heart of the Center at work and feel the energy of the community, despite having very little in-person contact with others. That energy has kept me moving and making throughout my time at the Center.
Additionally, I have been amazed at how much my work has evolved during my time here and I deeply appreciate the team here, especially the ceramics staff, that have provided the support needed to help me bring this body of work to life. The gallery is a beautiful space that has let my imagination run wild and I look forward to being able to share the work I’ve made.
Sonoma Community Center: Did your time at the Center inform the direction of your most recent collection?
ANELA: I came to the Center a year and a half after having graduated from my BFA program; I had been without studio access during that time and was making as much as I could without facilities to support my work. The time and space of the Center residency allowed all of the work I dreamt up throughout that period to come to fruition in unexpected ways. I had a lot of energy and plans coming in but a lot of that shifted based on other inspirations I found in Sonoma. For instance: I became obsessed with a large cactus that had a bark-like texture, walking distance from the Center, and started investigating what caused it to grow the way that it did. It turns out the bark texture was part of an adaptation called ‘corking’ where the cactus transforms its base into thicker, harder flesh to support new growth. This understanding of how nature transforms to support future growth became a guiding metaphor for how I consider this body of work.
Sonoma Community Center: Do you have a favorite piece in the collection and why?
ANELA: I’m particularly excited by my hybrid ceramic, fiber, and 3D plastic pieces. These works began as larger ceramic pieces that fractured. From those fragments I built new structures using a 3D pen that allows me to extrude plastic material in neon colors to create sculptural objects. Once the fragment of ceramic felt whole again I would drag the piece through a vat of paper fiber called kozo. The softness of the kozo fiber juxtaposed with the ceramic and plastic is both exciting to me aesthetically but also conceptually. I believe that in breaking there is opportunity for growth that we couldn’t have imagined otherwise. It reminds us that even in a radical shift you are not working from nothing–this is comforting. We have all the pieces to transform our world. We are the seeds. We have to constantly uproot and break things down to create new systems. These pieces are a mark of resilience and the power of radical imagination.
Sonoma Community Center: Are there any organizations or movements you’re passionate about that helped inspire your recent collection?
ANELA: During my duration as a resident at the Community Center, there has been a rise in Anti-Asian attacks throughout the country fueled by rhetoric tying the Asian-American community to the COVID-19 crisis. This began to shift how I frame my work, as my heart was weighed down by the intensity of these attacks, both between the Bay Area and the mass shooting in Atlanta, I felt the urgency to find ways to express how my work is impacted by the otherness I have felt as an Asian American woman.
In the words of Grace Lee Boggs: “The time has come for us to reimagine everything. We have to reimagine work and go away from labor. We have to reimagine revolution and get beyond protest. We have to think not only about change in our institutions, but changes in ourselves.” I see my personal role as an artist in a moment of revolution is to not provide solutions but to provide possible futures that we can look to with hope. To unveil the shortcomings of our world by positing alternatives. To make work that becomes a site of resilience and healing.
To enjoy Oh’s work and see the culmination of her time with Sonoma Community Center, please join us at any/all of the coming events featuring her expertise. You will also find Oh at our Self-Expression Art Camp.
Friday, June 4 | 5:30 – 7:30pm: Solo Exhibition Opening
Join a virtual streamed gallery talk on Facebook at 5:45pm with a live Q&A with Anela Oh. We will have visiting hours by appointment in the days following the gallery opening and will be available for scheduling on the website. https://sonomacommunitycenter.org/state-changes-show/
Past Artist List
- Owen Nelsen, 2008: Fall / Winter
- Jules Stout, 2009: Fall / Winter
- Jill Oberman, 2010: Fall / Winter
- Lauren Henriksen, 2011: Fall / Winter
- Bobby Free, 2012: Fall / Winter
- Jessica Fong, 2013: Fall / Winter
- Tony Wise, 2014: Fall / Winter
- Xia Zhang, 2015: Fall / Winter
- Austyn Taylor, 2016: Fall / Winter
- Karl Schwiesow, 2017: Fall / Winter
- Claire Thibodeau, 2018: Fall / Winter
- Seong Weon Joanne Lee, 2019: Fall / Winter
Past Artist List
- K.C. Welch, 2009: Spring / Summer
- Katie Morris, 2010: Spring / Summer
- Sunshine Cobb, 2011: Spring / Summer
- Tyler Nansen, 2012: Spring / Summer
- Julia Feld, 2013: Spring / Summer
- Miles Votek, 2014: Spring / Summer
- Chris Allen, 2015: Spring / Summer
- Brittany Rea, 2016: Spring / Summer
- Colby Charpentier, 2017: Spring / Summer
- Naomi Clement, 2018 Spring / Summer
- Jared Peterson, 2019 Spring / Summer
- Maxwell Mustardo, 2020 Spring / Summer