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Welcome to the Vargas Art Gallery

The Vargas Gallery presents artwork by students, faculty, and professional artists from Santa Clara County and nearby regions. Admission is free and open to all.

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Currently Showing Bamboo and Haiku

bamboo and haiku with bamboo image on right at

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Currently Showing #art #activism

six artists pictures #art #activism and their headshots

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About the Exhibition

The artists in this exhibition,Jenny Balisle,Kristine Mays, Maria de Los Angeles, Priscilla Otani, and Robin Bernstein observe contemporary events and use art, writing and social media to bring awareness to issues that they are passionate about.

We have just lived through an extraordinary time and transition in our country - from the first Black president Barack Obama, through the experiment of trumpism, to the hard-won election of President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris, who made history as the first woman, the first Black person, and the first person of Asian descent elected as vice-president.

Through all of these transitions, artists have responded, protested, marched, published, composed, performed, and fabricated works of art. Their artworks show concern, anxiety, courage, passion, and the belief that through meaningful engagement and action, they can effect real change.

And, in each of these artworks, the broader issues are seen through the personal narratives of the individual artists. They allow us to view recent events through the unique lens of creative expression and artistic activism.

This online exhibition also includes a focus on the artists’ Instagram and Facebook posts over the past five years, through shifting social and political upheavals.

Their online posts mark certain points in the historic timeline, highlighting events like the Women’s March in Washington DC, anti-Semitism and white supremacy riots, school shootings and gun control, Black Lives Matter and police brutality protests, ICE and the Immigration Enforcement detention centers,  just to name a few.

Their artworks document troubling times, but also the resiliency of the American spirit. We have seen how social media, like Facebook and Twitter, have the power to influence politics and social issues. They can be tools for awareness, activism and change, but they can also be used as weapons to incite violence and disseminate conspiracy theories, distorted information and lies.

Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, but along with the right to free speech comes the responsibility to be educated and informed about issues. As educators and students, our community is ideally positioned to engage in a dialogue around issues that are meaningful, and to build a strong foundation for the truth.

Knowledge is power; your words have power; your actions have power; and your vote matters. Artistic activism can take many forms: art, poetry, music, performance. Find your passion. Find your voice.

-- Curator Statement by Cheryl Coon

#art #activism Artists Featured

woman wearing tshirt saying artist, creator, threat

From Kristine Mays: As an artist I am very aware of the impermanence of life. With metal wire I have timelessly captured a fleeting moment that I hope will last for decades. My artwork points to the soul and spirit, transporting the viewer into another place. It's about reconnecting to a deeper purpose -- the soul and spirit of our lives.

I transform hard rigid wire into soft flowing movement. I create the outer shell, the exterior of a human being, but provoke you to see what's within. Memories and the way we have loved one another far outweigh our status or possessions -- and yet sometimes a simple dress or a body in motion may trigger a memory from the past, allowing us to visit that which has imprinted our lives."

See Kristine's WORK>

woman standing next to artwork

From Jenny Balise: My art practice investigates diverse yet interdependent relationships within natural and manmade environments. Fascinated by alternative realities, I combine disparate experiences to create new narratives, perspectives, and theories.

The goal is to identify how patterns and symbols of influence impact social behavior, institutions, history, and truth. Mediums are repurposed by altering function to explore inequality within identity and ideology.

As a multidisciplinary artist, my practice incorporates drawings, sculpture, site-specific installations, objects, digital, video, and audio. Inspiration, investigation, research, and writing dictate the final form.

See Jenny's WORK

woman wearing a custom dress and other matching colors

From Maria de Los Angeles: As I create narratives through drawing both from observation, memory and imagination. My techniques range depending on the media being used. Watercolor and ink drawings are my favorite and it does not matter if they are done on paper, canvas, or on the format of a dress. My personal history plays a decisive role in my work. As an undocumented immigrant, I learned to navigate a new culture and a new language.

One of my projects right now is focus on visually question the idea of “American citizenship,”, our responsibility to the environment, and stereotypes of the immigrant community, specifically of undocumented peoples. Migrating is both a physical experience and a psychological one and in my drawings those two sides to displacement are juxtaposed. Framing devices, such as thought bubbles, multiple frames, and scale structure the dual relationship of physical and imagined space.

My artistic practice has extended lately into wearable sculptures that discuss on their surface both internalized and social stereotypes. The dresses are also a celebration of biculturalism and a confrontation of those challenges.

The dresses constructed of different art materials and recycle materials are worn in performances by me and by volunteers. For me they are an incorporation of the body, the body as a canvas, and platform for a political and social discussion. Beyond the participation in political performances, my artistic practice reaches into community organizing, and distribution of information through the arts in social change movements.

For me that is the foundation of art programs and artistic collectives. I want to capture the contemporary life of individuals, creating images that are a type of social commentary on larger issues, such as immigration, politics, and ethical dilemmas. ​

See Maria's WORK

woman in mask holding up peace sign

From Priscilla Otani: ​Since 2017 I have explored the themes of resistance and politics. Making art on these subjects helps me process the drama, conflict, outrage and turmoil in our country. ​

See Priscilla's WORK

woman sitting in chair in an art gallery

From Robin Bernstein:  At first glance, these artworks defy a clear medium and process. They appear to be embroidered or woven, made of mosaic, painted, or sewn. The colors are rich and the forms are attractive. They are “beautiful”. The viewer is inclined to step very close to examine the surface.

The subject matter then becomes viscerally apparent. A paragraph of text accompanies each piece, which retells the horrific act of violence and terror that the artwork memorializes.

Each piece is an example of how people will behave under set conditions. Many of these particular pieces refer to lesser-known Holocaust crimes.

Much of the string that is used is vintage and originated in Europe. Each piece is composed of thousands of tiny cut pieces of string that have been pressed into a bed of wax and brushed onto cut plywood. Each work takes between 4 and 6 months to create.

See Robin's WORK

Previous Exhibits at the Vargas Gallery

Santa Clara Weekly article about our Alumni Art Show.

script writing saying dwell on the past, forget the past
Virtual Gallery

Various artists showed off their work in a virtual environment

Virtual Vargas
bamboo artwork hanging
Bamboo and Haiku

From Spring 2020 our Bamboo and Haiku exhibition

Photo Gallery
skelton artwork
Dia de los Muertos

Mission College presented work associated with the annual Dia de los Muertos in October.

Photo Gallery
drawing of woman's face
Faculty Exhibit

Faculty at Mission College presented their work in Spring 2017.

Photo Gallery
metal artwork under class
"Not So Heavy Metal II"

An exhibition of artwork 10 inches or less.

Photo Gallery
Chen in front of painting
"A Humbling Odyssey"

Hung Tsu Chen presented "A Humbling Odyssey"

Photo Gallery
small statue kneeling

Kristin Lindseth presented "Encounters"

Photo Gallery
woman in front of paintings
"Inspirations and Collaborations"

Presented in March 2018.

Photo Gallery

Mark Engel, Interim Gallery Director or