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Arc, Graphite and Sumi Ink on Paper, 2015

Michele Benzamin-Miki, CMATO's Featured Artist


 by Lynn Farrand

What if art has a purpose that can be defined and discussed in plain terms? The idea that one does not understand or appreciate an art exhibition, can lead to the natural assumption that somehow you must be lacking knowledge or a capacity for feeling, but this is not necessarily true. What is lacking may well be the way in which the art is taught, sold or presented by the art institutions. 

Authors deBotton and Armstrong propose that art is a therapeutic medium that can help guide, exhort and console its viewers, enabling them to become better versions of themselves.  Their theory is that art has a purpose and it is important to understand what that is, in order to appreciate the art. They define seven common psychological frailties that art is able to convincingly help viewers with:  remembering, hope, re-balancing, self-understanding, growth and appreciation.

What then, are the consequences of holding onto a therapeutic vision of art? I can’t think of one negative one! Art offers assistance with our human frailties and in doing so art has a purpose for the viewer that can educate, elevate and heal.

That power is available to all visitors to CMATO. We invite you to enter into our exhibition and ask you to consider the many possibilities surrounding the Power of Art.

About the Exhibition

It’s moments like these that remind me of the power of art to bring people together and create  a place where diverse ideas are shared and people connect. This exhibition brings artists, scholars and visitors together with the goal to examine what is powerful today. 

The Spirit of '76 , 1875   Archibald MacNeal Willard

The Spirit of '76, 1875

 Archibald MacNeal Willard

Art and Power

Guest Essay by Richard Reitzel

Art and power- two words that don’t seem to naturally fit together. Power conveys a sense of influence, drama, action, and suggests a variety of intense images - the roar of rocket, waves crashing against a rocky shoreline, lightning piercing a night sky, or even the smooth muscular strides of horse racing’s recent  Triple Crown champion Justified charging down the home stretch.

Featured Artist:

Michele Benjamin-MikI

Momentum,   Graphite and Sumi Ink on Paper, 2015  - Michele Benzamin-Miki  ,  CMATO's Featured Artist

Momentum,  Graphite and Sumi Ink on Paper, 2015

-Michele Benzamin-Miki, CMATO's Featured Artist

Michele drops off her work and provides an impromptu talk about her process. To see it installed, check out the exhibition from July 12 to September 7, 2018.

Michele's Reflections on Power

"Each individual is powerful. Power ultimately is a capacity within us, a seed if you will, that awaits growth and expansion of our capacity to meet our lives and the challenges and obstacles of any situation with grace, ease and solutions. Most often these very difficult events of our life bring forth this capacity. When conditions are right or choices are made available to us, individuals can turn an external challenge around, whether it is environmental, social, political, and so on.

I believe these structural systems do not have lasting power.  I  believe power can be misused when it becomes power over others, even if benevolent. What I choose to view as true power is when it is a power with others, empowering, and bringing out the best in oneself and others; then we can get outside of our structures of power, social, economic, political, religious and so on, in order to create systems that are flexible, changing to what is useful for the times, and appropriate to whom it serves."

Elevation  ,   Graphite and Sumi Ink on Paper, 2016  - Michele Benzamin-Miki  ,  CMATO's Featured Artist

Elevation,  Graphite and Sumi Ink on Paper, 2016

-Michele Benzamin-Miki, CMATO's Featured Artist

Inner Power

By Jennifer S. Li

Nestled in the wilderness of Cleveland National Forest in Southern California, Michele Benzamin-Miki’s studio is a sunny, bright, open space. She begins all her work with meditation, bypassing the rational mind so that creative, intuitive and subconscious forces take hold. From Marina Abramovic to Yoko Ono to the Mark Rothko chapel, meditation and visual art are not an unlikely pairing. 

About Michele Benzamin-MikI

Michele's  art is  an intersection between East and West, Realism and Abstraction, reflecting her Japanese and North American heritage. She uses large calligraphic brushes with sumi inks on paper, moving from ‘point zero’ of inner stillness towards an expansive awareness, before or during the  creative process. Michelle  teaches  the non-violent martial arts of Aikido and Iaido Sword, in which she holds two fifth-degree and one sixth-degree black-belt ranking.  She is the Co-founder of Five Changes and Manzanita Village Retreat Center near Warner Springs, in  Southern California, where her studio is located, and where she works with clients and leads retreats.

"The human spirit is powerful: yesterday, today, always."

-Douglas Turner, CMATO's Contributing Artist

twistTrio , Bronze (cold cast bronze shown), 2017    -Douglas Turner  , CMATO's Contributing Artist

twistTrio, Bronze (cold cast bronze shown), 2017

-Douglas Turner, CMATO's Contributing Artist

Defining Gravity

by James Buckley Galloway

In his series, SunAthelo, (Strive Together), Douglas Turner creates sculptures that define gravity, literally, and figuratively.  Gravity as a phenomena, represents a force, its effect, the only visible proof of its existence.  Working from models, but also sourced images and his imagination, Turner creates convincing formations rooted in both the anatomical, and universal laws of Newtonian reason.

About Douglas Turner

Douglas Turner is an artist & sculptor living in Santa Monica, California.  He studied Fine Art and Communication at the University of New Mexico and then moved to Hollywood to work in motion pictures effects. Over 30 films feature his work - including "Beetlejuice," "Ace Ventura," "Star Trek VI" and "Judge Dredd" - plus TV shows, commercials, magazines, amusement parks, and Planet Hollywood Restaurants. 

Mr. Turner has returned to fine art bringing an abundance of ideas, technical expertise, and a strong sense of character and drama. His sculptures reflect his dynamic sense of anatomy & rhythm with attention to detail.

Suspend , Bronze, 2016    -Douglas Turner  , CMATO's Contributing Artist

Suspend, Bronze, 2016

-Douglas Turner, CMATO's Contributing Artist

Luciana Abait's Cultural Landscapes

By Reina Flynn

Argentinian artist Luciana Abait’s work has focused on the individual’s relationship between the powerful symbiotic partnership of nature and the urban world. She describes her works as “cultural landscapes” emphasizing humankind's aggressive intrusion on nature which she hopes will bring awareness to the public on environmental concerns.

Bridge,   Mixed media on paper ( photograph with pencils and pastels), 2017  - Luciana Abait , CMATO's Contributing Artist

Bridge, Mixed media on paper ( photograph with pencils and pastels), 2017

-Luciana Abait, CMATO's Contributing Artist

Crane,    Mixed media on paper ( photograph with pencils and pastels), 2017  - Luciana Abait , CMATO's Contributing Artist

Crane,  Mixed media on paper ( photograph with pencils and pastels), 2017

-Luciana Abait, CMATO's Contributing Artist

White,   Mixed media on paper ( photograph with pencils and pastels), 2018  - Luciana Abait , CMATO's Contributing Artist

White, Mixed media on paper ( photograph with pencils and pastels), 2018

-Luciana Abait, CMATO's Contributing Artist

About Luciana Abait

Luciana Abait was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. From 1993 to 1997 she attended the National School of Fine Arts “Prilidiano Pueyrredon” in Buenos Aires. She also studied Art History at the University of Massachusetts and “Literature and Painting” at the University of Cambridge, England. Luciana Abait moved to Miami in 1997 and was a resident artist of the ArtCenter South Florida for 8 years. In 2005 she relocated to Los Angeles where she now lives and works. She is currently a resident artist of 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica, California.

Abait's Reflections on Power

"I believe the relationship between humans and nature is extremely powerful. This connection actually determines the way we live, the way we think, the way we as humans relate to each other, what we eat, what we breathe. It will eventually determine the future of humankind and how much longer we, humans, will remain on earth. 

My works create a new visual nature through photo-based manipulated landscapes, installations and photo-sculptures. “Icebergs”, presents icebergs and construction structures and equipment like scaffolds and cranes. These are presented establishing new relationships with one another in a surreal, eerie and almost sci-fi manner. These connections bring about issues of adaptation and assimilation. Also, they make a deep reflection on the intricate relationship between the natural and the built world. The works portray the aggressive and powerful intrusion of the urban environment into nature even in the most remote places on earth. "

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Pushing Buttons

 Artist Review by Reina Flynn

Artist David E. Weed tenders a most playful approach to re-purposing common construction materials, juxtaposing them to themes and ideas of pop culture, current politics, and consumer goods and services to draw new ideas forth. As an example, this includes using new electrical junction boxes, measure, cut, powder coat, and assembling 12 volt parts and accessories to form visually appealing interactive signs and novelties.

Prior to engaging with art history, Weed enjoyed drawing, which naturally led him to painting. He eventually added a working light bulb (credit to Dan Flavin) to a panel with paint.  The idea of using paint to create a representational illusion somehow faded, and paint solely became a symbolic tool based on color. The canvas was eventually discarded for the appropriation of common objects found at hardware stores.

Weed's Reflections on Power and His Work

The political power of war (ICBM), the social power to protest (VOTE), and the philosophical power of a celestial being (RELIGION).

Consumer Devices play as interactive signs that are dependent on social and cultural conventions. A bricolage of broadcasted codes and channels, in which the receiver has the option to adjust the meaning simply by flipping a switch in the on or off position. The devices are not binary, but act as semiotic squares, where off is not necessarily off, and on is not necessarily on, i.e., an unlimited semiosis between the author, object, and interpretant. 

David E. Weed, Honorable Mention


About Michael H. Yee

Michael Yee helped found the California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks (CMATO).  Mike was a mixed media artist who dreamed of providing the Conejo Valley region a world-class art museum. Unfortunately, he was taken away from us too soon. To honor his vision as a museum founder and artist, we dedicate this and all future open calls to him. We will never forget you Mike! 

mike yee 1.20.17.JPG



Born in Newark, New Jersey, Bob Moskowitz moved with his family to the Bronx where he lived through kindergarten until they moved to Philadelphia, where he lived for 22 years.  He earned a B.A. in Liberal Arts from Westchester University and later a four-year certificate from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.  There he won a Franklin Watkins Grant and a Scheidt European Scholarship.  In 1977, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri, to attend graduate school atWashington University where he met his wife, artist Margie Moskowitz.  He earned an M.F.A. in Painting in 1979 and taught in St. Louis and Illinois until moving to California to teach art at Ventura College.  Bob divides his time between Southern California and Maine.

Bob has exhibited nationally in galleries and museums and has done over 200 commissioned portraits.  His work has always been figurative and has changed stylistically over the years.


Originally hailing from the suburban outback of Orange County, California, Luke Matjas joined the CSUCI Art Program after teaching at UCSB and the College of Creative Studies, as well as museums across the region. He completed his BA at UC San Diego studying both film and new media, and later received an MFA from UCSB while investigating digital media and installation. As a part of the CSUCI’s Art Program, his areas of focus cover all aspects of visual studies, digital filmmaking, typography, and design. 

In 1999 Matjas founded Muscroy Design Labs, whose commercial clients have included CBS Television’s CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Realcomm, Colliers International, and numerous organizations and public institutions. Far from working solely as a digital designer, Matjas’ work regularly incorporates sculpture, drawing, exhibition design, and film production. With a manufactured and often manu-"fractured" gaze, his ongoing research examines order that has come undone, crumpling taxonomies, and historical power struggles that exist on a geological scale. His diverse projects have been included in festivals, journals, group shows, and solo exhibitions in both the United States and abroad, from Los Angeles to Umea, Sweden.


Timothy C. Hengst is a professor in the Multimedia Program and the Department Chair of the Art Department.

After receiving his graduate degree in medical and biological illustration from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, he illustrated for Dr. Denton Colley at the Texas Heart Institute and served as Director of Photography and Audiovisual Communications. He joined the faculty in the graduate program at Johns Hopkins and served as production manager in the graphics and illustration division and assistant professor in the graduate program.

He began a freelance business in 1986 offering services in all areas of biomedical communications. He has illustrated more than 50 medical textbooks and has won numerous national awards in medical illustration, including three Best Illustrated Medical Text awards from the Association of Medical Illustrators.

He was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Medical Illustrators in 2013. He has also worked as consultant for a commercial multimedia firm.

In addition to medical illustration, he produces digital fine art using original photography and Adobe Photoshop. He has exhibited in numerous regional art shows.

Erika  headshot.jpg

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Erika Lizée was raised among the lakes and trees of Northern Wisconsin.  She traveled to North Carolina to earn her BFA in Painting from UNC Asheville in 1999. Following a cross-country move to California, she received her MFA in Painting from CSU Northridge, in 2007.  In 2008, she was hired as full-time faculty at Moorpark College where she is currently a Professor of Art, as well as the Director of the Moorpark College Art Gallery.  Ms. Lizée is an artist that creates site-specific installations, paintings and drawings.  Most recently, Ms. Lizée built installations within the International Terminal at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), ArtShare LA, Launch LA and Gallery 825.  Lizée’s work has been featured in Juxtapoz, Beautiful/Decay, HiFructose, The Huffington Post and Beautiful Bizarre magazines.  She resides in West Hills, California, with her husband and two young children.

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