FAIRFIELD — In 2004, three longtime members of the Fairfield Visual Arts Association, Ann Jacobs, Anna Maria Sablan and Brigitte Sukeforth, got together and decided to stretch their artistic muscles beyond painting and push the boundaries of what art could be.
Thus the ArtDivas were born.
Later that year a few other women embraced their vision.
“We started out with three members, then went to eight and people dropped out and new ones joined. Now there are seven of us,” Jacobs said.
The seven current ArtDivas – Sukeforth, Sablan, Jacobs plus Ramona VanDeberg, Robin Rossi, Janet Manalo and Annie Johnson – continue to create works in the Solano County-based art collective’s chosen medium: mixed media collage and assemblage.
“Collage is very old and assemblage (pronounced “ah·sem·blahj”) is construction or high-relief work. It is art that comes out away from the background or canvas,” Jacobs said. “Oftentimes, people will walk up at one of our exhibits, point to a piece and ask, ‘Is that art?’ You can use hammers, nails, power tools – it’s pretty exciting. We let artists realize they can reuse pieces, tear things up and make other art out of it. We create art that tells a story.”
The ArtDivas meet every third Monday and take field trips to visit each other’s studios. Each member has a specific task in the loose organization, but creating and exhibiting their works is the primary goal.
Over the years the ArtDivas have installed exhibits all over Solano County and surrounding counties, including the former Fairfield Center Gallery, Oliver’s Wall at the Fairfield Center for Creative Arts, the Lawler House Art Gallery in Suisun City, the Vacaville Art Museum and the Davis Art Center, among others.
Often they will choose a theme and each will create a piece or pieces inspired by it. A particularly memorable exhibit was “eARTh” in September 2008 at the former Fairfield Center Gallery. It featured 30 pieces inspired by Earth’s beauty, the ecology and the problems that plague the planet. They later took the show on the road, so to speak, and displayed it at other venues.
One aspect of the group is their practice of working on collaborative pieces – a process that really appeals to Manalo.
“We get together and come up with a piece that we have brainstormed and worked on and it becomes one we all literally have our fingerprints on,” Manalo said. “That doesn’t happen very often in the world of art anymore, but we embraced the idea that we can do things together and have come up with spectacular pieces. With so many personalities, we sometimes have clashes and don’t always agree, but that has also led to the most rewarding times when we come up with something beautiful, stunning or different.”
In addition to creating and exhibiting their art, the ArtDivas pass on knowledge and know-how of their chosen craft.
“One thing that we all agree on is the value of teaching. We have had groups come and visit and ask how we do it,” Manalo said. “We share what we know about creating mixed-media art to anyone – be it children or adults. I think anyone can have an eye for art and if you want to fine-tune it, you can take classes.”
The name “diva” has come to have negative connotations beyond its original meaning. That is not what is intended at all by the ArtDivas’s chosen name, Manalo said.
“It has nothing to do with being snotty or elite or any of the connotations that now go with premier singers. We wanted to emphasis that we are women and make it recognizable,” Manalo said. “Speaking in terms of our group, a diva is someone who loves doing art and enjoys the diversity that a group brings. That has been our healthy cornerstone since we have been together. We are intense, but happy. We take what we do seriously, but have a fun time doing it.”
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at [email protected].
ArtDivas website: www.artdivasart.com/index.html
ArtDivas on Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Artdivas-Art/631895686825485