2011-09-29 / Community

Local teacher, student participate in traveling DNA art exhibit

By Sylvie Belmond


SIGN OF THE TIMES—Left, Sergio Coronado, a student at Indian Hills High School, and his mentor, teacher Lynn Coleman, are both participating in a traveling art exhibit that opened in Santa Monica on Sept. 27. The exhibit, the Soft Machine UT, is modeled after DNA, a single structure made of a string of parts. It will grow and evolve as it travels and more artists contribute pieces to the whole. 
SYLVIE BELMOND/Acorn Newspapers SIGN OF THE TIMES—Left, Sergio Coronado, a student at Indian Hills High School, and his mentor, teacher Lynn Coleman, are both participating in a traveling art exhibit that opened in Santa Monica on Sept. 27. The exhibit, the Soft Machine UT, is modeled after DNA, a single structure made of a string of parts. It will grow and evolve as it travels and more artists contribute pieces to the whole. SYLVIE BELMOND/Acorn Newspapers Graffiti artist Sergio Coronado creates colorful letters and bold urban illustrations on canvas and paper—instead of on street signs or the walls of public buildings.

The 18-year-old Indian Hills High School senior said his artwork is a reflection of his emotions.

Unlike the defamatory scribbles that some vandals prefer, graffiti is an art form worthy of appreciation, he said.

“I think that people need to separate graffiti from vandalism,” Sergio said.

Sergio’s work will be part of a traveling exhibit that uses the perspective of various artists to create a mythology for today’s society.


BUILDING BLOCKS— Coronado painted several hexagons for the exhibit. These represent aspects of his graffiti art. BUILDING BLOCKS— Coronado painted several hexagons for the exhibit. These represent aspects of his graffiti art. His mentor, Lynn Coleman, will also be a featured artist in the Soft Machine UT exhibit, which opened Sept. 27 at the Bleicher/Golightly Gallery in Santa Monica.

The exhibit was inspired by William S. Burrough’s 1961 science fiction novel “Soft Machine.”

The book explores the concept of undifferentiated tissue, which causes a central character to change forms throughout the story. For the purposes of the exhibit, this is likened to scientific practices that change human DNA.

The project consists of a series of painted hexagons combined to look like DNA compounds. Various artists paint on the individual shapes to create a gallery wide structure depicting current events and lifestyles.

Soft Machine UT will travel to USC’s Institute of Genetic Medicine Gallery in Los Angeles and other institutions. A documentary film of the project will be presented next year at the Society of Arts and Healthcare in Detroit, Mich.

Exhibit curator Mike Saijo, a former graffiti artist from the San Gabriel Valley, said the display is a social experiment.

“I had no idea what the artists were going to produce. It was up to them, depending on what they were driven to do based on their own experience,” Saijo said.

So far, about 40 people have participated in the exhibit, which will continue to grow and evolve in coming months as it travels throughout the county.

“I hope to take it to other countries so it’s always metamorphosing depending on the space it’s going into,” the curator said.

Sergio and Coleman painted eight hexagons for the project.

Sergio’s submissions include two pieces with large purple letters featuring his name, a blackand white image of a hand and spray can, and a surreal landscape with a fl ying saucer.

Coleman’s hexagons reveal surreal yet folksy Southwestern landscapes.

“Most of my work is social commentary poking fun at the Southern California lifestyle,” said Coleman, a professional artist whose brightly colored paintings have been shown in more than 100 national and international exhibitions. She became a teacher at age 49 after her children were grown.

“I wanted to give back, and I thought this would be a great chance to have an endless supply of teenagers,” said Coleman, who has been teaching fine arts at Indian Hills for 12 years.

The alternative school on the Agoura High campus serves 47 students who need extra support due to academic or social challenges.

“ Many students at Indian Hills are turned off about school and they say they can’t draw,” Coleman said. Rather than following a strict curriculum, she seeks to understand her pupils’ strengths in order to nurture their natural talents and help them discover their own passions.

“ Anything that they want to do, pretty much, I facilitate. They’re the artist and my job is to help them,” she said.

Coleman said she chose Sergio for the traveling exhibit because he’s a talented and devoted artist with good potential.

“He’s a very gifted artist with good hand and eye coordination and observational skills,” she said.

“But I think the thing that’s really going to make him successful is that he’s driven. He does art 24/7. Art is his life; it’s not just a hobby.”

Sergio, who grew up in various San Fernando Valley neighborhoods, said he was exposed to graffiti throughout his childhood. He began to use the art style to express his emotions.

“It gave me life and expanded my mind. I found a way to show people who I am, without them knowing who I really am,” Sergio said.

With Coleman’s support, the young artist said he was able to refine his talent, do better in school and develop goals.

“Lynn made me think that I could have a better future with art,” he said, adding that his goal is to start a clothing design company.

Saijo said he’s pleased to have Sergio in his exhibit and that graffiti is being recognized in the art world.

“It’s just the beginning of an expression articulated by the young generation,” he said. “Many older graffiti artists are mentoring younger people to develop this visual language, which is getting more sophisticated.”

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