CALEXICO — The steady beat of live music pulsed from the Carmen Durazo Cultural Arts Center in Calexico on Jan. 18 as people filed in, carrying food dishes, tables and chairs in preparation for an event honoring two artists.
The evening’s feature was
a leaf unveiling ceremony, which serves as an induction into the cultural
center. At the entrance of the lobby an elaborate depiction of a tree covers an
entire wall with leaves that each represent an honored artist. The two new
leaves were covered prior to being revealed.
“An artist must be
sponsored and must submit a full-page bio along with an application to be
considered,” said Carmen Durazo, the gallery’s namesake. “Even if a local
artist moves far for their career, like our inductees tonight, they are still
eligible to be inducted if a reasonable contribution to the Calexico art scene
The evening’s honorees
were Monica Ketchum and Elizabeth Ibarra who were hurriedly putting the final
touches on the displays that featured their art. Following the event their works
were to be displayed from Jan. 21-23.
“I began to study art
when I was a little girl,” said Ibarra. “I must have been around nine years
She added, “Ever since I
spent a winter in Greece as a girl, Greek mythology, architecture and influence
has been a major component of my works.”
Ibarra’s series of
paintings, “Archetypology,” a love letter to Greek culture, was featured at the
“My son is about to be
two this upcoming March,” explained Ibarra. “As a result of my son’s influence
on me my work has been featuring more family themes lately. I’ve been focusing
my efforts on implementing my newfound feelings about family into my work.”
Ibarra’s artwork featured
portraits and action scenes. Always featuring sets of warm colors, many figures
of the Greek Pantheon were represented prominently.
A native of
Massachusetts, Ibarra has lived in several locations and currently resides in
Imperial Valley with her family. Besides having extensive exhibits of her
works, including at the Durazo Center, she has worked as an artist for the
Calexico Arts Council and taught children’s art classes for the City of
Calexico Recreation Department.
Contrasting Ibarra’s art
was the portion of the gallery that featured Ketchum’s display.
“I try to focus primarily
on abstract art,” explained Ketchum. “That contrast in colors and geometry is
what I try to emphasize the most.”
Ketchum noted she is self-taught
and is an avid traveler. Her eye is often drawn to indigenous cultures or ancient
designs in art and she now incorporates these motifs into her own work.
“I actually have a
background in interior design and focused on that for a while. I even started
to paint a mural on the back of my house one year heading into summer,” said
Ketchum. “Once April was coming to an end, the valley heat began to kick in and
that inspired me to instead focus on some smaller works.”
Raised in Jacumba and
Salinas, Ketchum moved to Imperial Valley in 2004 to start a business and
quickly became immersed in the local arts community. A professor of history at
Arizona Western College, she has also made time to volunteer for the Camarena
Memorial Library summer artist at the library program, be a lecturer at San
Diego State University-Imperial Valley Campus and be active in the Calexico
Chamber of Commerce and Soroptimist Club.
exhibits her work at the Durazo Center and supports its cultural events.