Visitors at the Elk Grove Fine Arts Center can enjoy wild paintings by a local artist as well as student portraits of the Virgin Mary this month.

At the center’s Feb. 1 reception, guests took in two large abstract pieces from member artist Kirk Wolfe and the “Faces of Mary” exhibit, created by students of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School.

In the latter show, 15 students, in grades 4-6, created portraits of Virgin Mary using a technique called scratch art, in which an artist scrapes a black coating off of a white board. Arts center member Erin Martinelli organized the show and taught the students about the technique over a pair of two-hour sessions.

“And then we had two judges, Judy Knott and Darrci Robertson, who are both members here, judge the competition,” Martinelli said.

“Faces of Mary” was a chance for Martinelli to bring two sides of her life together.

“I’m a member artist here, and I also volunteer quite a bit at the school,” she said. “I wanted to have the two worlds kind of meet a little bit, and I felt like it was really good for the kids to do something fun with this.”

First place was awarded to Martinelli’s daughter, Sara. Sixth-grader Mirelia Saavedra’s piece won second place, and fourth-grader Evy Vasquez took home third.

Sara had previously taken classes in scratch art. The fourth-grader said she chose her version of Mary because of how Mary looks directly at the viewer and because she liked the design of the halo.

The competition was Vasquez’s first experience with scratch art, and she wasn’t expecting her third-place award.

“I was like, ‘No, I’m not going to get one,’” she recalled. “And then I was like, ‘Oh yay, I got one.’ I didn’t expect it.”

Kirk Wolfe brings wild

paintings to arts center

The paintings by arts center member Kirk Wolfe struck a colorful contrast with the black-and-white scratch art. Each month, a member is featured in the front of the center, known as the Foyer Gallery.

In one piece, called, “Omakase,” vertical and horizontal smears of acrylic paint covered a canvas 30 inches tall and 10 feet wide.

Wolfe created the painting two years ago for an El Dorado Hills restaurant, using “a little bit of watercolor, a little bit of gesso and an awful lot of acrylic paint.”

With his abstract art, he said that he focuses on texture, movement and the “cathartic” experience of putting paint to canvas.

“Because of the size of the works that I do, I actually build a platform out of wood and support pieces, so that I can lay these canvases flat,” Wolfe said. “And then I actually take my paints and place them throughout the canvas, just trying to find different places for the dabbles of color. That might be a strip of paint out of the tube. It might just be a dot, but it covers pretty much the entire canvas.

“At that point, I have squeegees that I’ve made out of wood … that I drag the paint across the canvas horizontally … and I can do that vertically as well.”

Wolfe said his paintings are open to interpretation.

“In an abstract, when I put the painting on there, I may see something, but I always welcome the viewer to tell me what they see. … And that excites me, that different people see different things in the painting.”

The show continues at the Elk Grove Fine Arts Center through Feb. 28. The center is at 9683 Elk Grove-Florin Road.