View a unique take on library cards created by the artists of Creativity Explored, a studio-based collective that partners with developmentally disabled adults to celebrate and nurture the creative potential in all of us. In honor of the San Francisco-based nonprofit's 40th anniversary, the Main Library’s 4th Floor hosts an exhibition featuring 30 reproductions of artworks inspired by the library.
Visitors voted in person or online for their favorite works from February 18 to March 31. The winners are as follows:
Isaias Gomez, b.1996 ∙ CE artist since 2018
Isaias Gomez draws both digitally and with traditional graphite as well. His style is rooted in realism, architectural illustration and with fantasy themes underlying many of his works. Gomez has an expert eye for proportion and perspective as evidenced by his illustrations of the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit and Sutro Tower and many other San Franciscan landmarks. Gomez is happy to draw architectural forms because he says “it helps me develop my skills.”
Gomez is comfortable sliding between mediums: from digital to analog, from pencil on paper to digital pens in Photoshop - he says “because I am an artist.” That flexibility leads to innovation. One particularly satisfying challenge Gomez found was in digitally creating a glowing quality in the lights of the city skyline at night. Through manipulation of digital filters and paint tools Gomez was able to achieve his desired affect and was pleased to bring the warmth of light to a digital re-creation.
Andrew Wong, b. 1992, San Francisco, CA ∙ CE artist since 2015
Andrew Wong is known for his imaginative interpretations of trains, whimsical animals, and anthropomorphic figures made primarily in clay.
Wong enjoys combining objects to create fantastical train creatures such as a dragon train, “J” train or cell phone train. His train car sculptures are complete with functional couplings, allowing interaction and interchangeability between all of his pieces. Wong crafts intricately detailed sculptures that are so delicate that some are too fragile to fire in the kiln.
Wong’s lively subjects are characterized by large expressive eyes and eyebrows. His functional pieces include “face mugs” and animal bowls. While his figures, especially his trains, are reminiscent of toys in picture books, they can often be so detailed and heavy, that “playing” with the sculptures would be dangerous.
Guadalupe Ramos, b. 1952, San Francisco ∙ CE artist since 2017
Guadalupe Ramos is inspired by her memories of San Francisco in the 1960s and her love of punk rock and heavy metal music. Though her favorite color is black, her artwork is colorful, sometimes drawing upon psychedelic imagery.
Ramos is also fascinated with trees, particularly with the dark shapes of branches juxtaposed against the spaces where sunlight shines through them. Her drawings imbue the trees with character - haunting, spindly branches are her favorite.
Ramos excels with colored pencil and pastel. Her desert and mountain-filled landscapes are built upon carefully lined geological features and striations. Ramos’ level-handed and natural shading complement the grandeur of her subjects, be it the hilly facade of her native San Francisco or open spaces of the American West.
Nubia Ortega, b. 1976, El Salvador ∙ CE artist since 2003
Nubia Ortega brings her careful hand and attention to detail to every artwork, no matter the medium. Ortega uses color masterfully, playfully balancing earthy natural tones with bright calculated splashes of pure saturated color.
A focused artist, she spends ample time on each piece, first methodically laying out a composition and then carefully choosing colors to fill in her landscapes and portraits.
Ortega excels at clay hand building, creating stylized human figures and plant forms and firing them with ultra-colorful glazes. Ortega’s ceramic fish, cars, busts, and assorted animals dazzle the sense with texture in both her decorative elements and detailed application of glazes. Her ceramic sculptures begin with hearty and simple forms that come to life as she adds coils, circles, and details.
Hiro Medina, b. 1996 ∙ CE artist since 2022
“If we are going to survive and thrive in this world, we have to think about what AI art cannot do,” he says.
With thick lines, pastel colors and precise shading, CE artist Hiro Medina transports viewers to a fantastical world through his spellbinding depictions of landscapes, characters, and futuristic themes. Hiro’s graphite illustrations call to mind an alternative steampunk universe, often featuring birds (his favorite motif), machines, or strange contraptions.
“I aim to make my art different from a product of AI. I’ve been trying to give more meaning and detail,” he says. “It’s no longer viable for art to simply look good.”
Hiro primarily uses pencils and watercolors to create his otherworldly, sci-fi and fantasy-inspired figures and worlds. His fully fleshed-out characters (Nyota, Amon, Kazu the Avali) recur in different scenes, reflective of the internal logic of his imaginary universe.
Other featured artists in the exhibit include: Ada Chow, Alaina Schlier, Albert Duong, Andrew Lee, Andrew Li, Anne Slater, Christina Marie Fong, Doris Yen, Emma Reyes, Gerald Wiggins, Hanh Chau, James Miles, Kevin Roach, Lance Rivers, Laron Bickerstaff, Loren King, Nita Hicks, Pamela Pianchachi, Paul Gee, Peter Cordova, Peter Delira, Selene Perez, Stella Tse and Yolanda Ramirez.
About Creativity Explored
Creativity Explored is a studio-based collective in San Francisco that partners with people with developmental disabilities to celebrate and nurture the creative potential in all of us. Founded in 1983 by a psychologist and an artist, CE has facilitated the careers of hundreds of neurodiverse artists and serves as a model in the field of art and disability worldwide.
The organization now serves 130 artists with developmental disabilities offering art supplies, training, exhibition and sales opportunities in traditional and digital media. CE artists have seen their work exhibited in museums, galleries, and art fairs in over 14 countries and have earned over $2.2 million from their art. Their life-changing programs continue to open doors of inclusion to center the personhood and creative vision of people with developmental disabilities. Most importantly, Creativity Explored is a source of community, empowerment and dignity.
Image: Art by (clockwise from bottom left) Paul Gee, Guadalupe Ramos, Kevin Roach, Yukari Sakura and Nubia Ortega.