Grand Central art exhibits reflect on societal expectations of gender

In Art, Artist Profile, Arts & Entertainment, Student Art, Theater & Arts
The Grand Central Art Center is a 45,000 square-foot structure that houses a small theater used by Cal State Fullerton, as well as a variety of art exhibits throughout the year. Currently, art from former CSUF students are being showcased. (Vivian Pham / Daily Titan)

On the first Saturday of each month, downtown Santa Ana holds Art Walk, a free event in the Artists Village where galleries, theaters, artists and performers host an open house for the public.

Taking place from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., the event attracts as many as 1,500 people from Los Angeles and Orange County.

With over 150 participating studios and galleries, there is plenty for art lovers to enjoy.

Downtown Santa Ana is also home to an array of historic buildings. Among these lie Cal State Fullerton’s Grand Central Art Center (GCAC), which promotes contemporary art and visual culture through collaborations with artists, students and the community.

Mike McGee, CSUF’s Gallery Director, and Santa Ana community activist Don Cribb formed the GCAC in 1994 as the beginning of a 10-square block area designated as the Artists Village. The subsequent success of the Artists Village has helped the city grow culturally and economically.

GCAC’s 45,000 square-foot structure currently features four ongoing exhibitions: “30/30+” by Juliana Rico, “A Gender Monologue” by D Hill, “Trees” by Dave Creek and “Swampland” by Jennie Cotterill.

Rico, an artist who received her MFA in creative photography at CSUF, produced “30/30+” over the course of 30 days. She ran for at least 30 minutes everyday and through photos, recorded her body’s reaction, showcasing flushed skin, sweat and open pores.

The exhibit quietly scrutinizes the social constructs of femininity. In response to the adage, “a lady never breaks a sweat,” Rico said her work is a way of proving that the old saying isn’t true and that her biological response in the photos is that of a healthy body. In addition, Rico plotted her daily routes on hand-stitched maps by beginning each run at GCAC and then exploring around Santa Ana’s neighborhoods.

Located 10 miles south of CSUF’s main campus, the art center is a mixed residential, commercial and educational building. Students who have been accepted into the university’s MA or MFA visual and performing arts programs may live and work there.

Hill, a former resident at GCAC who now lives in Fullerton, also received his MFA in creative photography at CSUF.

In the video, “A Gender Monologue,” Hill performed the ideological behaviors of a man and a woman.

“We’re all performing a certain gesture as a woman, a certain gesture as a man and that way, the rest of the world understands who we are,”Hill said. “So then you say, ‘Oh that’s a guy right there or that’s a girl right there,’ but that’s so singular.”

Inspired by Judith Butler’s writing on gender performativity, Hill explored society’s restrictive ideas of gender using his transgender identity.

“It was really interesting to kind of break down how we as a society assume that (by) what we’re looking at, we know that person,” Hill said. “You can’t put gender in one category.”

During this month’s Art Walk, which took place on Sept. 5, 1,436 individuals visited GCAC.

The center’s curatorial team on staff constantly connects with artists locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, John Spiak, director and chief curator of GCAC said. He said the team researches, visits studios, connects with colleagues and reviews documentation to decide which artists will be exhibiting at GCAC.

“30/30+”, “A Gender Monologue” and “Trees”  will be up for viewing through Oct. 11 and “Swampland” will be available through Feb. 7.

For more information on the Grand Central Art Center, visit their website at:

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