Ryan Chartrand

Walking into the Retrospective art exhibit at the Kennedy Library is both a trip forward and backward in time as each viewer begins to wonder which of his or her own past accomplishments could be put on display as a monument years from now.

The exhibit, which opened on Friday, displays a variety of works in different mediums from six Cal Poly alumni reflecting their experiences at Cal Poly and achievements since through a variety of artistic mediums.

“Nobody graduated from the library at Cal Poly, but it’s always acted as a gathering place where everyone’s diverse majors and interests gather to study,” explained student curator and art and design senior Paradise Osorio. “Doing art exhibits like this in the library is very new, but it seems to really serve as a good gathering place for the eclectic personalities and diverse backgrounds we’re putting on display.

“We’re really honored be able to display all of these alumni’s works,” she continued. “They’ve worked really hard to be where they are.”

Osorio, who worked with the library’s special collections curator Catherine Trujillo, explained that their goal was to bring in alumni from many different backgrounds to display the diversity of talents at Cal Poly.

“These artists come from different colleges here at Cal Poly, not just Liberal Arts,” she explained. “We have people like Donna Kandel with her geometry-inspired art right along Heidi Harmon’s assemblage sculptures. . Catherine and I really tried to set the exhibit up so as to highlight each of the alumni and provide them their own place in the spotlight.”

The Retrospective gallery will be open during normal library hours and also during Homecoming Weekend Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

Heidi Harmon

When assemblage artist Heidi Harmon puts together a piece, art and history combine.

The 1998 history graduate creates three-dimensional assemblage art and sculptures using found objects, hoping to portray the implied history of each item in each of her pieces.

“I have a lot of respect for and interest in the history of an object,” Harmon said. “I like a lot of the strange objects and pieces that other people would discard or just not notice as they walk on by, and I think that has to do with my education in history.”

Sometimes she quite literally finds discarded items and incorporates them into her sculptures. Other times she goes to local swapmeets scouting for the right objects to complete her sculptures.

Her display in the Retrospective exhibit includes a wide variety of pieces, including a life-size flamenco dancer sculpture made from an old dress and vintage images from the Civil War.

Harmon said her degree at Cal Poly not only stimulated her interest in history as a subject but gave her a high regard for intelligent thought in general. She refers back to one of her history professors, George Cotkin, who she says particularly peaked her interest in academics. “He inspired me not just in the field of history; he also gave me an appreciation for the intellectual life,” she explained.

Harmon is currently a stay-at-home mother and says she continues to incorporate the lessons of history, art and intellectual thought into the lives of her children as she homeschools them.

Mandi Metzgar

When graphic communications student Mandi Metzgar was asked to design a book for a class, she already had the genes behind her to produce a bestseller.

In a book design class for graphic communications majors, students in the class were asked to redesign an already-published book. Metzgar, a 2006 Cal Poly graduate, was the exception as her mother had recently written a children’s book that her grandmother had illustrated.

“Creativity runs in the family but I have no talent for actual drawing,” Metzgar explained. “Instead of coming in to Cal Poly as an art and design student, I decided to major in graphic communications, which has actually taught me the practical aspects of creating something for publication, too.”

“The Monarch’s Call” is a children’s book documenting the flight and history of the Monarch butterfly and will be on display at the Retrospective exhibit as Metzgar’s piece in the display. It was so successful upon publication that a second edition is in the works, Metzgar said.

She currently works as a freelance graphics designer, creating images for everything from Web sites to other books.

“‘The (Monarch’s Call)’ has really come in handy as I design other books,” she said. “Since it was for a senior project, I had to document every step of the process along the way. Now I can go back and reference that again.”

“The great education I (got) through the graphic communications program still helps me every day,” Metzgar added.

Library curator Catherine Trujillo said Metzgar “took the talents and passions of three generations and produced a book that has gained tremendous grassroots attention for the flight and history of the Monarch butterfly.”

Katie Winkler

Local artist Katie Winkler was downtown at Big Sky Café when she was approached by Retrospective curator Catherine Trujillo and asked if some of her pieces could be put on display. Coincidentally, the artist’s images also grace the menu at the restaurant.

Winkler, a 1991 graduate from Cal Poly, said she was still at Cal Poly during what she calls the pre-computer era when everything had to be produced with hand-set type and hand-generated images. Now self-described as a multimedia artist, Winkler has a variety of watercolor paintings and pencil drawings on display at the Retrospective exhibit, all influenced by her design skills and her appreciation for typography.

“When I went to Cal Poly I got a great general education. Having that degree in applied art versus one in the fine arts really gave me a practical design background,” she explained.

Since graduating from Cal Poly with her degree, Winkler has stayed in San Luis Obispo, working for 15 years in the local restaurant business while continuing to hone her artistic skills in her spare time.

“I haven’t really had a career as an artist, but I’ve always managed to do art for pleasure on the side,” she said.

She now spends much of her time running around after her exuberant two-year-old son, who can be heard in the background during an interview with his mother. “It’s a delicate balance,” she said. “He’s only two years old and he has a lot of energy, but I’d like to get him involved with art, too.”

She added that she felt honored to be a part of the Retrospective exhibit, where she said she was surprised to be recognized by other local artists. “Yeah, it’s a small town,” she laughed.

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