Art exhibit shows off Roski seniors’ works

For the past two weeks, students in the USC Roski School of Fine Arts have been showcasing their work at the Pacific Design Center in Hollywood. The Senior Seminar Exhibition, titled “Four Legs on the Floor,” is an eclectic culmination of art that engages all five senses.

Bear-y nice · Chuck Hohng’s “Family” (2009), made of fabric and stuffing, is on display at the exhibition. - Photo courtesy of Chuck Hohng

Upon walking into the showroom, I was promptly asked by one of the artists, Chris O’Hurley, if I would like to climb into his womb.

The question made more sense after seeing a girl crawl out of a big wooden box lined with red blankets and pillows that looked as if it had a heartbeat.

O’Hurley says his piece, which took three days to build, was inspired by a crawl space that he used to have in his house.

“I liked the idea of taking away some of your senses in order to enhance others, which is what I tried to achieve by creating this womb,” O’Hurley said. “You’re constricted in the space and it’s dark [inside], so the sound of the heartbeat becomes very intense and relaxing.”

In the end, O’Hurley acheived his goal, at least according to Rachel Brady. “It was really intense, yet comfortable,” Brady said of her experience lying inside the padded box. “I felt swaddled like a little baby, and the heartbeat noise was actually really relaxing. If you shut that door, I’d probably fall asleep.”

After experiencing the womb, I continued through the exhibition and observed a beautiful snow scene created by Clover Oak. The piece included snow coming from the ceiling, a white chair and snowballs — meticulously hand-crafted from hundreds of plastic bag strips — all reminiscent of Oak’s home.

Having grown up on the East Coast, Oak said it was interesting to learn about the West Coast’s fascination with snow and how this half of the country goes out of its way to recreate snow themes in art and songs like “White Christmas.”

“In this piece, I was trying to capture that love I have for snow along with the West Coast’s fascination with it,” Oak said.

Another artist who drew inspiration from an idea that has become commoditized was Chuck Hohng. His piece was a comment on the social clichés our society uses to embody happiness.

Hohng used teddy bears to epitomize childhood in his piece, but pointed out that not everyone has the luxury of a happy childhood and that objects like the iconic teddy bear create facades that paint pretty pictures but mask reality.

In Hohng’s work, a teddy bear hangs under a painting that represents the hypocrisies Hohng believes society is based upon. Each bear represents a member of his family through a physical trait; he explained that his father could be stubborn, for instance, so the bear that represents him literally has a harder head than the rest of the bears.

“I tried to take something personal and make it universal,” Hohng said. “I’ve always felt a calling to do this, to kind of break free from my very strict and traditional Korean upbringing.”

Hohng has hit roadblocks on some of his past efforts to create these sorts of universal claims.

“I tried to express myself through creative writing, but there was the language barrier, which is how I discovered art as a way to voice myself.”

Photographers Michelle San Agustin and Chelsea Jeheber used their cameras to capture the essence of human nature so poignantly that their images literally jump out at you, creating an almost 3-D effect.

San Agustin’s subject is Krys Fox, a performance artist, who’s eye-popping, eccentrically decorated home is almost no match to his flamboyantly colorful appearance. From fake lashes to fringe and a sassy house cat, the photo gives the observer a peek into Fox’s fascinating world, and believe me, it can take a while to soak it all in.

Jeheber also invites us into the homes of strangers, but after talking to her I learned that she too did not know the subjects in the pictures.

For her sequence of photos, Jeheber posted an ad on Craigslist requesting interesting people who would like to be photographed, and interesting people she found. From a quirky man donning a suite at noon while drinking tea in his mother’s florally decorated living room to a shirtless, long-haired, tattooed hunk lounging on his disheveled bed, Jeheber captures such private moments that the viewer feels almost shameful and inappropriate for staring, which makes the series a captivating peep show.

“Four Legs on the Floor” runs until April 8, so if you’re interested in engaging all senses and experiencing a variety of truly impressive work, get to the Pacific Design Center and check it out before it’s too late.