Cal Poly English major turned glass master and artist, inspired by the Art Nouveau movement, is a slightly bizarre and unlikely picture.

Regardless, that is exactly what Cal Poly alumnus Evan Chambers is. Chambers is the motivation behind the January documentary special at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art (SLOMA).

The San Luis Obispo Museum of Art (SLOMA) will feature two documentaries on Jan. 17 surrounding the art style Art Nouveau.

Muara Johnston, assistant director of SLOMA, is the brains behind the documentary installment and chooses the content and movies to be featured. Johnston decides on the subject of the films, which are based on exhibits featured at SLOMA during each month.

“Evan is the inspiration behind the Art Nouveau choice for this month — the influence is apparent in his work,” Johnston said.

Although Chambers does not classify himself as Art Nouveau, the concepts have certainly impacted his work.

“The Art Nouveau style moved me to pursue glass work in the first place,” Chambers said. “It’s unique, different from everything else you see. The iridescence, the heavy silver content, the feathering in my glass — that’s Art Nouveau influence.”

Art Nouveau, or new art, is a style of art that emerged around the turn of the 20th Century as an effort to combat the mass production and manufacturing characteristic of the time. Art Nouveau is typified by floral, organic design and winding, curvilinear lines. With its inception, Art Nouveau altered every creative avenue at the time — typography, illustration, architecture, home decorating, applied art and fashion.

Cal Poly art and design alumnus Adam Wirdak believes Art Nouveau is peaking in popularity again. Although Wirdak said Art Nouveau isn’t his style, he can see its inspiration all around.

“Everyone is into refurbishing furniture and such,” Wirdak said. “The shabby chic, retro-vintage look that you see — really trendy and cool — is inspired by Art Nouveau. It’s different, unique, more ornate than your everyday stuff.”

Likewise, Johnston said a hallmark of the Art Nouveau style is the idea that art should be a part of everyday life. That’s why Johnston decided on Chambers’ work as the basis for the chosen documentaries — his pieces are often regular items (like lamps), made beautiful by ornate decorating.

“Art Nouveau: Equivoque 1900” and “Alphonse Mucha – Art Nouveau Visionary” are the films SLOMA will show this month. Johnston said she tries to choose films for SLOMA that cannot be ordinarily found, often purchasing the copies directly from the filmmakers themselves. In this case, Johnston found the movies on Amazon: Germany.

“Art Nouveau: Equivoque 1900” is directed by Maurice Rheims and Monique Lepeuve, and highlights the most important concepts of Art Nouveau style. “Alphonse Mucha- Art Nouveau Visionary” is directed by Susan Boehm and discusses the influence of artist Alphonse Mucha on the movement.

Johnston and Chambers both agree that Mucha was one of the most iconic artists to contribute to the Art Nouveau movement, and his influence is still seen in various forms of artistic expression.

“Most people think that things like interior decorating and graphic design are new-age ideas,” Johnston said. “They aren’t … they’re Mucha’s from years ago.”

Mucha was a Czech who lived in Paris and helped pioneer Art Nouveau. According to Johnston, Mucha’s popularity was due in large part to Sara Bernhardt, whom she referred to as the “Julia Roberts” of the time. After producing a well-received poster for one of her productions, Bernhardt made Mucha her go-to designer, subsequently planting his work all over the country.

Mucha eventually moved to the United States in the hopes that selling his art would make him a wealthy man.

“It’s not that Mucha wanted the popularity selling his art would bring — he wanted the money,” Johnston said. “Mucha wanted to return to his Czech roots rich so that he could spend his remaining time creating works that would bring national spirit to (his) country.”

Although Mucha never became rich, he did return home to work on one of his most critically acclaimed work — a series of murals for Prague, which the city currently houses.

The documentaries will be shown on Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. at the SLOMA. Admission to the event is free though donations are encouraged.

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