When Luz Lua Foster was asked to put together a women’s art show at the Mexican Heritage Center, she immediately turned to fellow art teacher Allison Atas for input.

“Allison is so active here, so involved. I noticed her at every art show and I said, ‘We need to get her energy into this group show,” said Foster, who has taught art for 24 years, the last 14 at Weber Institute. 

The two brainstormed and came up with an eight-woman show called “Voices,” which opens Wednesday and runs through April 1. A reception for the artists is 5:30-7:30 p.m. on March 16.

“We didn’t want a large group, but a significant group that had a sense of what it was and what it is to be a woman artist right now,” Foster said. “The difficulties we have, the struggles we deal with of being a mother, a wife, a sister and trying to be an artist. We all wear a lot of hats.”

Finding women who are able to devote themselves to art was a challenge, but among those they found were two of their former students, painter Leila Valencia, now an art major at University of the Pacific, and painter Celina Gonzalez, who is attending Calfornia State University, Sacramento, where she’s earning her credential to become an art teacher.

Also in the show is Isabel Ramirez, a photographer who hasn’t shown her work as much as Atas and Foster would like; painter/jeweler Carmencita Oliva; Alexis Ortega, an art teacher at Franklin High School; and painter Susan Bod, who was still deciding Thursday which of her pieces to show. But Bod knew that her sculpture made of bottle caps called “The Wishing Tree” would be a centerpiece of the show.

“She created a tree all made out of bottle caps, all intertwined together that form the roots to the tops of the branches,” Foster said. “When I saw the tree I could not believe the work that would entail. I don’t know how many bottle caps, probably thousands, forming a beautiful organic shape of a tree. Even though it’s called ‘Voices,’ and is about women’s voices through our art, we’re the base, the root that can develop. The tree can be a symbol, be a sculpture in the middle of the exhibit.”

Bod said, "I think they’re going to let people leave messages on the tree. Initially it was called ‘The Wishing Tree,’ and I had thought of beer because it’s made of thousands of caps and I had a (tub) of beer underneath it and people could get a beer and throw the cap into it and make a wish, like a wishing well.”

This time around, Foster has other ideas for “The Wishing Tree.”

“We’re probably going to have ribbons and have people use the ribbons to tie messages, be a part of the exhibit,” Foster said. “They can write their reaction, experience, we want it to be interactive using the sculpture.

“This is not so much about showing what we have to show, but it’s about sharing what we have to say. What we want is for people to share with us, be more of a collaborative show.”

Foster has three pieces to show, including two abstract paintings she's been working on and a portrait of her two sons, 14 and 12.

“We went to Mexico recently and got to enjoy a lot of experiences, where my kids were in a difference country and didn’t understand the language. I did not know how to paint their experience," Foster said. "I took a picture of them on a bench that their great grandfather had (once) sat on. It was after a hike and they just embraced. I took a picture and said, ‘This has to be a painting.’ It’s a portrait of my children showing emotion you don’t always see, because siblings don’t always know how to get along. When you see something like that, it’s breathtaking as a mother. It’s from a mother’s point of view.”

Other pieces in the show include two mixed media paintings by Atas, who teaches visual and performing arts at Pittman and Nightengale schools.

“Each is representative of the style of painting I do,” Atas said. “I work in expressing, in an abstract figurative way, mostly with the female body as my theme: the female experience, the female body, perceptions in the human experience.”

A show by women, though, doesn’t necessarily mean art limited to images of women. In that way, men and women artists are the same.

“If you walk into a gallery if you don’t read the name, you wouldn’t know if it was a woman or man,” Foster said.

It’s just that finding art by women is more difficult. This month at the Mexican Heritage Center, it won’t be.

The gallery is located at 111 Sutter St., Sockton. It is open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.


Contact reporter Lori Gilbert at (209) 546-8284 or lgilbert@recordnet.com. Follow her on Twitter @lorigrecord