Wednesday, November 18, 2020

A Covid-Time Exhibition: How to View Art Without Leaving Your Car

 By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt. Photos by Maurice Hewitt. 

Wow! An outdoor art-show opening reception on Friday the 13th, just as we sank into the purple tier of social restrictions after newly-soaring Covid-test positives.  It took a combination of nerve and imagination for Mesa College’s Gallery Director/Fine Art Professor Alessandra Moctezuma to come up with an idea like that in times like these. 

An artist and curator herself, Moctezuma supervises the Museum Studies program at Mesa, which traditionally has the class present a gallery exhibition as its final project. But this year, with everything gone virtual, she decided that staging an outdoor drive-through exhibit would give students the same opportunity to develop their curatorial, promotional and installation skills. 

The exhibition was imagined as “a visual time capsule capturing the dramatic events of the last eight months—plague, social unrest and fires.” After posting a Call for Artists on social media, students chose 36 emerging and established artists whose works would be painted or printed on 3’x5’ banners and displayed on a fence along the perimeter of one of the college’s parking lots.

My photographer/husband Maurice and I attended the afternoon reception, which consisted of a masked student welcoming us with a printed catalog, complete with photos of the artworks and artist bios, and an even warmer welcome from Alessandra herself, a bit further along. Her smile shone through her mask as we sat in our Prius, waiting in the social-distanced lineup of cars, with the art just beyond.

“We’ve had so much virtual activity here, I really wanted to do this today, to greet visitors in person and chat with everyone, if only for a few minutes,” she said. “The event’s all outside and everyone’s in their cars, so we were allowed!”

Did she have any concerns about opening a show on Friday the 13th? “Not at all,” she said. “13 is my lucky number!  It’s my grandmother’s lucky number too!”

Over 150 cars showed up for the three-hour-long opening—not all at once, happily. We came around 2 p.m., the line of cars in front of us moved along at a comfortable pace, and we took our time viewing the banners. Here are some of our favorites, those we found particularly eye-catching, with selected quotes from the catalog.



These fanciful drawings are very different from what we usually see by this award-winning artist, who’s best known for her intricate paper-cutting and embroidery. The two figures are, she writes, “about perception and imagination…What do we see when there is chaos and despair in our world? I want to play with the ideas of relocating how we see.”


JUDITH PARENIO: The Place That Was

Referring to herself as “a sculptor who paints” and obviously influenced by Southwestern culture, the artist presents “a visual dialog about the earth’s frailty and beauty,” imagining ancient people returning to their abandoned pueblo and giving it new life by reviving their old ways.


GAIL SCHNEIDER: Hercules Beetle

A drawing from a children’s book the artist created for her grandkids to brighten up pandemic-time.



A still from a short animation that was part of a live projection on the side of a building in Little Italy during San Diego Design Week. “It is about hope for unity, with this fist bump as one of the gestures.”


SHEENA RAE DOWLING: The Answers Aren’t Down There: I Already Looked

and The Loneliest Place on Earth

A pair of striking pieces that are actually about the horror of addictions—alcohol and drugs—by an artist who has done extensive work with people in recovery.



“I feel the passage of time like an hour-glass these past months during Covid-19. Seems as if there are limits to how much each of us feel we can handle. This shape is my exploration of what it means to be human and particularly female.’’  A two-dimensional banner like all the others, this one seemed seriously textured;  I really wanted to reach out and touch it, but I was on the far side of our car!


MICHAEL CHAVEZ: Build Community

“This piece is to show how we can create community by cooperation on tasks that benefit us as a whole in the long run.” A fine poster for handling life in Covid-time—or any time.


Mesa Drive-In: November 13-December 9, 2020.

Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Closed for Thanksgiving 11/23-11/27.

Parking Lot 1; enter through Mesa College Drive and follow directions. Stay in your car. Photos can be taken through the driver’s open window. San Diego Mesa College, 7250 Mesa College Dr., San Diego, CA 92111

Participating Artists: Kirsten Aaboe - Victor Angelo - Jenny Armer - Lucy Boyd-Wilson - John Calavitta -  Katie Carrion -Michael Chavez - Remi Dalton - Joseph DeLaunay - Sheena Rae Dowling - Christopher Ferreria - Katie Flores - Kirsten Francis - Sarah Frey - Sora Gallagher - Scott Gengelbach - Sofia Gonzalez - Janice Grinsell - Steve Harlow -Kathleen Kane-Murrell - Ginger Lou - Don Masse - Bhavna Mehta - Lourans Mikhail - Michelle Montjoy - John Oleinik –Judith Parenio - Johanna Poethig - Yvette Roman - Elizabeth Salaam - T. Jay Santa Ana - Gail Schneider –Andrew Sena - Jennifer Steffey – Christopher Tucker – Cindy Zimmerman

For more information, including a link to an Audio Tour of the exhibit, see


Lonnie Burstein Hewitt is an award-winning author/lyricist/playwright who has written about arts and lifestyle for the La Jolla Light and other local media for over a dozen years. You can reach her at



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