Tuesday, October 23, 2007

History Happens At OVN Museum Exhibit

Ojai Valley Museum celebrates century-plus of news-making

By Sondra Murphy
The Ojai Valley Museum is throwing a reception and party for the Ojai Valley News Oct. 28 from 3 to 6 p.m. The museum is celebrating this newspaper’s coverage of the local scene since 1891 with an exhibit titled “History Happens.” Besides news stories selected from over the decades, the exhibit features trade equipment and art.
Several museum workers contributed to the project. Fred Kidder, director of creative services, worked with volunteer Roger Conrad to design and set up the displays of printing equipment, OVN archived pages and newsroom gear of bygone days. Richard Hoye and former museum director Jane McClenahan spent weeks on research for the exhibit before Kidder and Conrad took about five, seven-day workweeks to assemble the exhibit.
A graphic designer, Kidder especially appreciates some of the old, first edition issues on display. “The typography is beautiful,” he said. “What a valuable resource those newspapers were.”
Three local artists contributed original sculptures inspired by news racks and commissioned specifically for the exhibit. Steve Grumette, Doug Lochner and Sylvia Raz each created works they hope convey the many facets of news and its importance in keeping people connected to their individual communities, as well as to society at large.
Grumette chose to convert a news rack into a television set, but much had to happen first for his “News & Views” sculpture to take shape. The rack Grumette received was a little beat up. He spent one day taking it apart and realized that he would need some help in order to make the surface as clean as he wanted it. He found a man named Bill Driggs of Custom Industrial Finishes in Port Hueneme to sandblast the parts down to bare metal and repaint the surfaces.
Then came reassembly of hundreds of pieces, after which “It reminded me of a television set on a little table,” said Grumette. He proceeded to convert the frame into a television, complete with screen images, doilies, a piggy bank and rabbit ears. The result is a departure from the photo mosaics and digital giclĂ©e Grumette has been creating for about 10 years.
Grumette has lived in the Ojai Valley about 21 years is also known for his work in local theaters and has several projects coming up. He will take part in the Lux Radio Theater version of “The Lady Eve” being performed at The Gables in November with OVN columnist Mel Bloom, among others. Grumette will also perform in a radio play version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” at the Ojai Art Center in December.
In his museum contribution titled “Isis,” Lochner bypassed the news rack to create a sculpture from a variety of metal to resemble a human form. “My goal in the piece was to somehow tie the newspaper to the community and I kept coming to the idea that the newspaper reflects the community in which it serves,” said Lochner. “The female is holding a double-sided mirror, so she sees herself and her surroundings.”
“Isis” consists almost entirely of metal. Lochner dressed the body in a diamond plate steel metal jacket with a skirt of patina acid finish metal that uses a process that accelerates the natural weathering in metal. The mirror represents the newspaper and three commemorative quarters serve as jacket buttons denoting the 75-cent cost of the OVN. The figure is topped with the only non-metal component: a very Ojai-esque straw hat.
Lochner has lived in the Ojai Valley for about 10 years and been producing art all his life. He works with glass and metal a lot in his craft and has lately produced large monoliths. Metal work involves forging, welding, cutting, bending, grinding and polishing the material and he often uses tractors to move the heavy pieces. “This has been a fabulous distraction from doing real work and hopefully the community will appreciate it,” said Lochner.
Raz converted her news rack into a robotic form called “Extra! Extra!” The glass head is made of an old lamp while the creature holds a battery charger in one hand and an electrical calibrator in another. This self-professed queen of ecology wanted to make her rack into a person selling newspapers, and intends the lamp to symbolize enlightenment, while the other parts charge the reader with calibrated news.
“They are all recycled parts,” she said. “I feel incredible satisfaction when I find something old and give it new life.” Raz has lived in the Ojai Valley for about 10 years and has been an artist for 30. She works in a variety of media, but enjoys making found objects into art, as she did in the museum piece.
“I just feel the Ojai Valley News does quite a job here in town. Since I get excited about events in the community, I was excited when I got invited to participate in the exhibition.” She also creates works from old Barbie dolls and has lately been experimenting with zippers in her work, one of which can currently be viewed at the Ojai Art Center.
The Oct. 28 “History Happens” reception costs $20 and will feature speakers and offer prizes, food and drink. For tickets or more information, call the museum at 640-1390.

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