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Gayle Pitts Sculpts Sealife at the MAH

Artist and Sculptor Gayle Pitts sculpts for a cause, and brand new exhibitions debut at the Museum of Art & History.

The final artist of this year's Makers at the MAH series graced the Museum of Art & History's atrium with seabirds, giant shells, and beautiful renditions of the female form on Saturday. Sculptor Gayle Pitts (Gayle Force Creations), rolled up her sleeves to get elbow deep in clay and show onlookers how she layers up clay to create the feathers of her work in progress: a pelican in flight, mounted on canvas. 

Pitts sculpts with all-natural and non toxic "Paper Clay"— a white clay made with volcanic ash. She dries it with a heat gun and then carves and sands it into the shape she wants. Subdued colors are achieved by using sand or dirt, and many of her pieces are mounted on locally found driftwood, shells, or natural found objects.

"My goal is to find a cause for each piece. Like when this clam shell sells, a portion will go to help save the reefs," said Pitts, running her hand along the edge of a giant clam shell someone had given to her which she melded with the clay figure of a woman. "Because of the pollutants in the ocean, these shells have been getting thinner and thinner, so they break easier and the creature inside dies."

With the exception of her "Seals on Driftwood" piece, the sales of which she will donate to the Marine Mammal Center, Pitts isn't sure yet which organizations she would like to raise money for. For now, the Tannery-based artist is focusing on amassing more work and then researching different organizations to donate to.

"Each piece is like a representation of nature and so I want to put it back where it came from," said Pitts, who grew up in Santa Cruz and draws on her passion for nature and local sealife for her artistic creation.

The Makers at the MAH series was a pilot program which Katie Love, intern and director of Makers at the MAH, says she hopes will continue throughout next year.

"It gives us a chance to expand on the idea of what art is by looking at the process, rather than just the product," said Love. 

The artists chosen this year were artists from all over Santa Cruz County who embody the local art scene, or have historical significance.

"We also want to help artists who aren't completely well known and give them a chance to interact with the public and show their work and their process. We've had a lot of established artists, but we've had a lot of unknowns too," said Love. 

To schedule an appointment with Gayle Pitts to see her work, call 831-332-7813.

New exhibitions at the Museum of Art and History went up on all three floors of the museum on Saturday as well, and will stay until March 18. The new Exibitions are:

The Butterfly Effect, a colorful display of butterfly wing photography and collage by artist and curator Shelby Graham.

The Espresso Police, an exhibit of the history of Cafe Pergolesi, complete with old artifacts and an interactive coffee questionaire game. Surprise espresso pours will occur throughout the next few months, coffee lovers take note!

Futzie Nutzle, art activist whose visual puns have popped on the walls of Cafe Pergolesi as well as the pages of Rolling Stone Magazine, the cover of The New Yorker, The Japan Times, and currently, Santa Cruz Weekly.

Rydell Award Winners: Art by the four local artists to win this year's prestigious Rydell Award, including feminist paintings by Andrea Borsuk, sculptures by Andy Ruble, abstract art by Tim Craighead, and handmade garments and headgear with socio-political themes by Victoria May.

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