Curious art exhibit inspired by altered state of consciousness

In Art, Artist Profile, Arts & Entertainment, Student Art
CSUF alum Fred Tomaselli returned to his roots by showcasing his early art at the place where he developed his artistic talents. (Yunuen Bonaparte / Daily Titan)
CSUF alum Fred Tomaselli returns to his roots by showcasing his early art at the place where he developed his artistic talents. (Yunuen Bonaparte / Daily Titan)

Cal State Fullerton alumnus Fred Tomaselli returned to his alma mater on Sept. 12 to debut his latest exhibition in the Begovich Gallery. This is Tomaselli’s second show in California this year.

The exhibition titled, “Fred Tomaselli: The Early Works or How I Became a Painter,” displays work which “has not been seen on the West Coast.” Tomaselli spoke about the beginning of his career, the work he is currently showcasing in the gallery and the inspiration behind the works of art.

The exhibition showcases a range of pieces that were created shortly after Tomaselli graduated from CSUF through his early years in New York, where he currently lives. All the works being showcased had been in storage and some pieces underwent restoration in order to be displayed, Begovich Gallery director and curator Mike McGee said.

“When McGee proposed that I do this show, I just thought it was too weird to say no to, seeing that I went to school here and I think a lot of my basic unhinging occurred in this area,” Tomaselli said. “And I thought it would be interesting to bring it back to the scene of the crime.”

Fred currently creates mostly paintings, but his early pieces are constructed of pills, cans, plant matter and lights. One of his earliest works being showcased in the Begovich Gallery, “Current Theory” uses his “escapism” approach, featuring styrofoam cups, strings and a fan. It is best experienced in a dark room.

Inspired by altered states of reality, "The Hornet's Nest" features interesting objects such as an old coffee can filled with LSD tablets. (Yunuen Bonaparte / Daily Titan)
Inspired by altered states of reality, “The Hornet’s Nest” features interesting objects such as an old coffee can filled with LSD tablets. (Yunuen Bonaparte / Daily Titan)

McGee, who is also a friend of Tomaselli’s, explained that the use of pills in his work is symbolic of the altered state of reality that inspires him. McGee explained that ingesting a pill physically can make you feel one way and looking at a pill can visually make you feel another way. That’s why Fred incorporates the pills into pieces such as “Hornet’s Nest,” which can be seen in the show.

Tomaselli, an Orange County native, described examples of altered states of reality that influenced him such as growing up near Disneyland, watching actor Ronald Reagan play president in the White House and his state of mind under the influence of marijuana.

“I really did want to deliver a kind of mind blowing ‘oh wow’ experience to the viewer.  But I also wanted them to sort of think about what that experience was. So that became a sort of genesis of the work and those issues, though they’ve changed formally through time,” Tomaselli said. “And as you’ll see, these installations slowly morphed out of a mashup of California funk assemblage, punk rock sensibility and light and space methodologies. But I was just utilizing cheap materials. They eventually led into these things that are paintings, for lack of a better word. The things that I do now.”

Tomaselli’s early works mixed media and feature interactive pieces that should be experienced rather than seen. The cover of his book, “Fred Tomaselli: Early Work or How I Became a Painter” features one of these pieces. The faculty and student-produced book is for sale through the gallery or through Amazon. It features photographs of the art featured in the exhibition and essays from Mike McGee and peers. The book was printed by CSUF’s Grand Central Press.  

The exhibition ends Dec. 17.  The gallery is open from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday, as well as Saturdays.

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