Brea Art Gallery’s MFA Biennial Showcases Emerging Artists

Brea Art Gallery Director Christina Mercer got the idea for the MFA Biennial, now in its third iteration, when she first came to the gallery fresh from Cal State Fullerton.

She thought it’d be natural for the gallery to collaborate with the school less than three miles away.

The exhibit started out with a handful of the region’s Masters of Fine Arts programs involved, including Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Long Beach, UC Riverside, Claremont and UC Irvine. That number is up to 10 this year, including CalArts, Cal State Northridge, Cal State Santa Barbara, UCLA and Otis College of Art and Design.

The show happens every other year, the last one being in 2014.

This year, 50 students applied to the show and 21 were selected, some showing works they’ve exhibited at their colleges, others creating pieces specifically for the gallery.

Brian Johnson, an art teacher at Valencia High School in Placentia, is one of those who created a piece just for the show.

Johnson, who is finishing his MFA at Cal State Fullerton, spent nearly 15 hours inside the gallery, panting a mural on an exhibit wall – not with a brush, but with mat board. He had a concept, but at the end of the day, had no idea what would end up on the wall.

“He wasn’t using any reference photos, that just came from his brain, which was crazy,” Mercer said of watching Johnson work. “The first couple strokes you could instantly see perspective and depth.”

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