masked people

A few of the portraits of masked people designed by Joe Mariscal and Leslie Troutman.

Two artists shared a special bond during the COVID-19 pandemic: co-creation.

At a time of family separation and isolation, Joe Mariscal, a retired art professor at San Joaquin Delta Community College, and his 18-year-old granddaughter Leslie Troutman created portraits of masked people for an art showcase in Elk Grove.

Although he’s primarily a clay sculptor, Mariscal dove into drawing selfies, including masked-up ones of him and his family members.

Now on display at the Elk Grove Fine Arts Center, the show titled: “COVID Collaborative,” both artists seek to reach the community with a hopeful message.

“I would hope that people realize that even in the most dire moments, life presents us ways to overcome the darkness and depression that can overwhelm even the strongest of people,” Mariscal said. “For me, it has always been creativity and family.”

During the pandemic, Troutman sketched images of feelings and thoughts that came to mind, lending its way to a big surprise. Her grandfather had some of her images printed on some COVID masks. This then led to their collaboration with his black-and-white masked portraits. She filled the blank masks with her own colorful, detailed, precocious, and personal imagery.

Troutman is an art student enrolled at her grandfather’s former college. She hopes that people are inspired by the innovation and collaboration she and Mariscal shared.

“I hope that people are inspired by the innovation and collaboration, and I also hope they see the wonderful bond that my grandfather and I share,” Troutman said. “It is a really special show to not only my grandfather and I, but relatives and friends. I anticipate that the strong connections our family has will be displayed for everyone, and I believe it is uplifting in times like these,” she said.

One of the pieces, titled, “Papa Joe” is a portrait of an older man in black and white while the mask he dons is in color and portrays a hit and run scene. At face value, Mariscal said that the hit and run is “a bit gruesome” but is his favorite.

“Leslie has never shied away from disturbing imagery much at times to her mother’s dismay,” he noted.

Mariscal told her to not be afraid of such images and has taken her to exhibitions that feature artists like Edvard Munch whose dark images like “The Scream” require “timed” admissions to be seen because of the popularity of the artist’s often disturbing work.

“The ‘Papa Joe’ piece depicts a cultural image I find adds to the context of the work,” he said. “Leslie and I discussed the love of saints and their patronage by our Hispanic culture, so the addition of the Santo Niño de Atocha floats above the hit and run. This work was actually sold before the show after showing it to one of my collectors.”

The pair celebrated with an opening artists’ reception at the Elk Grove Fine Arts Center on Aug. 7. In attendance at the artists’ reception was Cassie O’Sullivan, Troutman’s cousin and another granddaughter of Mariscal’s, who complimented the collaboration saying, “It amazes me how much detail they put into small spaces.”

Collaborating with his granddaughter, Mariscal said it’s been “pure joy” and therefore neglected his sculptural work in clay.

“I have many friends and collectors that have never seen 2D work from me and my granddaughter, and I look forward to their responses,” he said.

The Elk Grove show was also the public debut of Troutman’s art.

“I had never done anything like this—the closest was getting a piece done for a very small art show for students in my area, but nothing exclusive to me or my work,” she said. “Creation has been at the forefront of my mind these past few months; every time I looked around I was inspired by something new—something I could incorporate into our work.”

During the process of mentoring Troutman for the exhibition, Mariscal said he wanted her to be aware of the commitment and the discipline it takes to bring a professional exhibition to completion, as well as to experience the exhilaration of creating a body of work and the public reaction.

“I hope this experience inspires her to continue creating and exhibiting her work on her own,” he said. “Mentoring my granddaughter whose creative talents far surpass my own at the same age, has been a godsend and it has been a pleasure watching her bloom as an artist in her own right.”

The COVID Collaborative show will run through Aug. 26 at the Elk Grove Fine Arts Center. This venue is at 9683 Elk Grove-Florin Road. For more information, call (916) 685-5992. Hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. or by appointment.