Monday, October 25, 2021

Prizewinning Artists Bring Tasty Art to Bread and Salt

By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt. Photos by Maurice Hewitt.

At the October 9th opening, Perry Vasquez, one of the four SD Art Prize 2021 winners, struck a pose with his four flaming palm trees. 

Fifteen years ago, San Diego Visual Arts Network established the San Diego Art Prize an annual award that would encourage collaborations between established and emerging local artists and give them an exhibition at year’s end. Details and venues have changed over time, but the event that SDVAN-founder Patricia Frischer first put in motion in 2006 is still going strong in 2021. 

This year, it takes place at Bread and Salt Gallery in Barrio Logan, the four prizewinners are all well-established, and all lead creative lives on both sides of the border…and beyond.  

Chi Essary, curator of the San Diego Art Prize, welcomed visitors to the opening of the exhibition.

The Four Winners, and a look at some of their art.

Beliz Iristay: Born and raised in Turkey, Beliz Irastay first came to San Diego over 15 years ago, and is now mostly based in Ensenada, where she lives with her husband, Jamex, one of the artful De la Torre Brothers. A mixed-media artist best-known as a ceramicist, she combines influences from the Eastern and Western cultures that shaped her, adding a special point of view to her blend of contemporary and traditional techniques, which has made her a prizewinner at international biennials.  

Cundina. The lips on this piece made of slip-cast porcelain and low-fired Raku were inspired by a Turkish motif. The title refers to a traditional gathering of Mexican women who come together to eat, chat, support each other, and raise money for community charities.  

Tracing Acculturation is a Turkish design on hand-painted glazed tiles made from Mexican red clay.

Hugo Crosthwaite: Born in Tijuana, with a B.A. in applied art from SDSU, Hugo Crosthwaite lives and works on both sides of the border, and his artworks can be seen in museums and private collections in Mexico and the U.S. He works primarily in black and white, his pieces are strongly narrative, and many are large-scale and ephemeral—murals that deal with the human condition and are meant to be experienced but not to last. 

Pasaje Urbano Tijuana, #1-5.  The wall of improvised drawings.

The centerpiece of this impressive wall installation is a video of three stop-motion drawing animations. I was so enthralled by the power of the images that I lost track of where one piece ended and another began, though they had different socio-political themes. The artist, who loves improvisation, has often created drawings before a live audience, accompanied by music and dance performances. The ink-and-acrylic drawings here were gradually improvised over four days, in response to the video’s narratives. In 2019, he was the first Latino artist to receive first prize in the Smithsonian’s triennial National Portrait Competition—with a stop-motion drawing animation. 

A still from one of the stop-motion drawing animations.

Perry Vasquez: A multi-disciplinary artist with degrees in political science, painting, and criticism, Perry Vasquez is also an art professor at Southwestern College who has called the San Diego/Tijuana region home for over three decades. He has an unusual background: his father was born into a family of Mexican migrant workers in Indiana and his mother was a West Virginia coal-miner’s daughter; they met in Los Angeles, where he was born, though he was raised in small-town, evangelical North Carolina—not the most direct route into the art world. Recently obsessed with creating images of burning palm trees, he has now been engaged to create a mural for the new San Diego County Probation Office. 

The Gates of Heck: According to the artist, this eye-catching painting was inspired by “the mythologies of superhero-dom and Rodin’s Porte de l’Enfer.”

PANCA: Born in Chula Vista to Mexican parents, PANCA grew up speaking English at school and Spanish at home, and currently lives in Tijuana. Her work has been shown in museums, magazines, and on the streets, and her most recent artwork is a book, just published by Bread and Salt.

Entering the gallery ahead of the crowds on opening night, I was immediately drawn into the black-and-white room created by this artist who generally works in super-vivid color—witness her 45-foot-high mural on the outside wall of Bread and Salt. I spent many minutes alone in that surreally-cartoony room, enchanted by its walls, floor, and ceiling and mostly overlooking the bright-colored ice cream cone. I would have stayed even longer if there weren’t so much else to see that evening, and so many other visitors arriving. 

The PANCA Room

The PANCA Room: a second look

SD Art Prize 2021 will be on view through December, and it’s definitely worth the drive.  While you’re there, take time to explore the rest of the 45,000-square-foot space, where you’ll find other interesting exhibits.
San Diego Art Prize Exhibition 2021
presented by the San Diego Visual Arts Network
On view through December 31.
Bread and Salt
1955 Julian Ave. San Diego, CA 92113
HOURS: Tuesday-Saturday, 12-4 p.m.

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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