Ojai Jail Arts Initiative
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October 8-16, 2022

The Ojai Jail Arts Initiative is a site specific, multi-disciplinary group exhibition taking place from October 8th to 16th in and around the historic, decommissioned Ojai City Jail in downtown Ojai. Curated by Matt Henriksen, Elizabeth Herring, and Teddy Nava, the week-long exhibition will include new commissions by Brett William Childs, Annette Heully, Vanessa Wallace Gonzales, Hailey Loman, Sarah Mirk, and James Whipple. Connected through their ties to Ojai and Ventura county, the artists have been asked to respond to the jail as a site for investigating hyper local geography and social historical space, repositioning it as a generative, community space for arts and culture in the Ojai Valley.

This exhibition is public and attendance is free.

For scheduled events visit our events page.

For more information about accessibility, or to make an appointment please contact ojaijailarts@gmail.com.

This project is partially funded by the City of Ojai Arts Commission Ojai Art Grant. We also thank The Ojai Institute, Lum Magazine, Christine Steiner, Cindy Convery, Jennie Prebor, and Brian Aikens for their additional support.

O.J.A.I. 2022
Participating Artists

Brett William Childs is a photographer based in Ojai and Los Angeles. Through his lens based practice, he focuses on relationships between individuals and systems, and more specifically in what happens when the outward expansion of our personal identity meets the compression of our social environments. For O.J.A.I. Child is producing a series of photographs that investigate the jail building’s role in the realm of perception as a space that is routinely overlooked, yet inhabits a highly visible location in the heart of downtown Ojai. The images will be of the structure and surrounding area and will utilize methods of print erasure in combination with repeated reprinting.

Annette Heully is an experimental fiber and video artist whose work examines the intersections of the animate and inanimate and the body and landscape. Her practice investigates time as an agent of change that animates the seemingly inanimate, both internally and externally in relation to the human body. For O.J.A.I. Heully will create a translucent, woven installation using a 16 harness dobby loom which will use the sun’s light to cast a colorful shadow on the surrounding space, capturing and holding the fleeting time of day. By altering ambient light to hold certain colors for longer than they naturally occur, the piece explores how we perceive time and durations of moments.

Vanessa Wallace Gonzales is an interdisciplinary artist who uses ideas of myth and archetype to explore the mutability of identity and relationships of body and earth. Originally from Santa Barbara and based in Ventura, her mixed media work is formed by collaging foraged flora and fauna with layers of prepared paper, often of human forms and including molds or images from her own body. For O.J.A.I. Wallace Gonzales will build an installation in the interior of the jail that will seek to warm and humanize the space, engaging with it as a lived-in, human habitat.

Hailey Loman is an artist working in sculpture and installation originally from Ventura. She is the Co-Founder and Director of Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (LACA), an artist book library and art archive located in Chinatown, Los Angeles. She founded The Autonomous Oral History Group, a cooperative building an oral history collection exploring ethics in leadership roles. Loman's project at the Libbey Park Jail explores how communities employ story-telling, gossip, and humor to reinforce carceral institutions. As an entry point into this issue Loman refers to Edward D. Libbey's redevelopment plans in Ojai and the preservation of a four-person jail inside Ojai’s downtown Libbey Park. The aim of this artwork is to better understand beautification projects and how philanthropic leadership can be rooted in community control.

Sarah Mirk is a comics journalist, author, and zine-maker who graduated from Nordhoff High School in 2004. For O.J.A.I. she is working on a collaborative zine documenting the graffiti inside the Ojai jail cells. When the jail closed, the jokes, complaints, drawings, and words that incarcerated people wrote on the cell walls remained intact. Mirk took photos of the graffiti, which includes drawings of cars, jokes about the police, and a Bob Dylan quote, and hired a formerly incarcerated artist to redraw the text. She is mailing the Ojai jail graffiti drawings to incarcerated people across California and asking them to respond to the images with their own words. The original graffiti and the responses will be included in the zine, which will be available for free at the exhibition.

James Whipple is a sound artist who grew up in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. For the past 13 years he has been active as a musician and producer in Germany, working mostly with the label PAN and the event series Janus under the name M.E.S.H. His most recent release, live & alternate versions 2014-2019, reflects his iterative approach to his own music and its adaptation across performances in different locations. The album opens with a recording he made of the wind roaring through Ojai Valley in the first minutes of the Thomas Fire. For this exhibition, James has produced a short audio-play in which a disembodied voice undergoing psychic imprisonment dreams of coastal landscapes and an endless series of subterranean rooms.