California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks hosts first virtual artist talk for ‘Defining Beauty’ exhibition


‘Curtain After Intermission’ by artist Zara Monet Feeney was featured in the exhibition “Defining Beauty” on March 18, 2021.

By Ali Wire

On March 18, the California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks (CMATO) held its first virtual artist talk session with Visual Artist Zara Monet Feeney, and Moorpark College Visual Arts Department Chair Erika Lizée.

Feeney is one of the three artists featured in the exhibition “Defining Beauty” and was selected out of nearly 1,000 visual media submissions. Lizée was one of four jurors for the exhibition. The two discussed their work, inspirations and the trials they’ve faced as artists in a pandemic.

“Defining Beauty,” the third annual international juried art exhibition at CMATO, dives deep into the complexity and diversity of how beauty is perceived.

Feeney utilizes theatrical features such as fabric, curtains, dramatic costumes and spotlights to draw the viewer to her work. Her paintings display layered imagery and saturated neon and pastel tones alongside dull, dark colors.

“In this series I’m using things such as fabric, dramatic costumes, or specific color relationships and compositional tropes. I specifically want to control how the viewer is looking at the painting, and seduce them into looking; and I even play with that idea of being seduced into something that is a facade,” explained Feeney.

When responding to the museum’s open call, Feeney selected her pieces by not only their aesthetic presentation, but also by their relation to feminism. Her paintings feature many feminine aspects, especially fragments of female frames. Feeney often remasters traditional paintings; removing the patriarchal gaze and giving them a different representation through a new composition or frame.

Feeney has many different feminist artists she draws inspiration from, including her own mother, who she credits towards much of her strong work ethic and determination.

“She is an amazing painter, and she’s always been very strong,” Feeney remarked.

During the discussion, Lizée described her own artwork as well as the challenges she has faced as an artist in a pandemic. Lizée creates large, site-specific installations that give the illusion of looking inside the walls at different biomorphic shapes. Since many establishments were closed during the pandemic, she was unable to create her work as she lacked the space.

“Being a creative person, you just don’t feel like yourself; like something’s wrong if I don’t have a project,” Lizée said.

While this is the first virtual artists talk that CMATO has hosted, they have been offering monthly artist workshops and virtual family art days since last year.

“Most of our online programs have been filled to capacity with participants joining us remotely from the Conejo Valley, to Canada and even the United Kingdom,” said CMATO Director Roya Alt.

“Defining Beauty” can be viewed online, and will be able to view in person when the gallery reopens to the public on April 9.