Drawing It Up
Salinas students spearhead the ambitious and inspired ArtSong event.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
A cat-eyed doll in a gushing red dress lurks at the doorway, clutching a bloodstained butcher knife. Her victim’s legs dangle from the bedroom’s black recliner. The bloody phrase “You’re Next” drips down the lamp-lit wall. This unsettling, acrylic painting hangs above Jesus Jimenez’s bed.
Jimenez, a senior at Everett Alvarez High School, says the painting was inspired by one his friend’s dolls. “I just added a scene for it,” he remarks nonchalantly.
The gloomy piece shares wall space with the bright green head of Count Orlok of Nosferatu, a 1922 classic silent film adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. On the opposite wall hang paintings of Marilyn Manson, Spawn and mystic landscapes.
The dreadlocked teen sits in front of his desktop sporting a black shirt of Mago de Oz, a Spanish folk metal band. He wears a pentagram and a bat ring on his right hand. Black nail polish covers his fingernails. Jimenez’s closet is full of matching T-shirts.
In response to whether he owns a white piece of clothing, he says, “just formal stuff, which I don’t wear.” After thinking about it some more he playfully adds, “My socks are white.” He pulls up his pant leg above his Converses, forgetting that he is actually wearing black socks.
Jimenez points out a paint-splattered office chair, which was his easel. Now he paints mainly at school during his art class. Not too many people have seen his art; later this month, however, he will have his biggest audience.
Jimenez, along with youth across Monterey County, will display their art at this year’s ArtSong Youth Arts Festival, which runs from March 24-29 at the Hartnell College Gallery. The event culminates with music and dance performances Saturday, March 29, on the 100 block of Main Street.
The visual art exhibit typically has 300 to 400 works, from ceramic sculptures to black-and-white photos, says ArtSong mentor Trish Sullivan. But this is the first year that youth from around the county will submit art.
And they’ll do a lot more than that. With Sullivan serving in support as an adult adviser for the festival, Jimenez and 14 other Salinas teens are running the show, which includes everything from gathering art to writing news releases.
“It really gives the kids a sense of ownership of what they are doing,” Sullivan says. “A lot of times kids are going to college and they have no experience in any of the aspects of arts management and the kind of things that they would need to be an artist. This is a chance for them to have some experience.”
As part of the marketing team, Jimenez designed the festival’s colorful logo, which features an orange music note glowing over a yellow palette.
The logo adds to Jimenez’s expanding graphic portfolio; the 17-year-old student already has produced a catalog of polished work. He pulls up a logo he designed for Salinas death metal band Nocturnia. He drew the gothic letters by hand and then embellished it in Photoshop.
Jimenez recently started creating digital designs and has been painting for a year and a half. But he is a natural artist. “Since third grade I remember just drawing, just doodling,” he says.
Born the youngest of 10 children in the Oaxaca state of Mexico, he moved to Salinas when he was 8. His room still bears several early drawings of the cute, blue-haired anime character Rei Ayanami from “Neon Genesis Evangelion.”
“I was kind of obsessed for a while,” he admits.
Later, an art teacher introduced him to watercolors. But he took better to acryclics. “They’re easy to mix,” he says.
On March 7, Jimenez had his first exhibition as part of First Fridays Art Walk; now two of his works are displayed at Artistic Hangups on John Street in Salinas. While most of his fellow Everett Alvarez students painted bright water colors, Jimenez’s pieces are shadowy and mysterious. One painting depicts the clenched face of “The Crow” and the other shows a gray cross leaning against a tree in the foreground with a stark road leading to an eerie chapel in the background.
Jimenez remembers looking on opening night as people checked out his paintings. “Most of the people were digging my stuff,” he says. “That was pretty exciting.”
Jimenez is also understandably amped about the ArtSong exhibition. By showing off young talent, he and his fellow student organizers want to improve Salinas youths’ image. “A lot people think that Salinas is just full of gangsters,” Jimenez says. “One of our goals of ArtSong is to change that.”