Inspired: Selections From OMA Staff

Inspired: Selections From OMA staff

February 1–may 23, 2021

Kurosh Yahyai, High and Mighty, 2020

Image 27 of 28

Mixed media on canvas, 36" x 24" x 2"

As part of a wider effort to connect members and visitors to even more remarkable local and regional artists, OMA’s exhibition department invited the OMA team to suggest some whose work really stands out to them. This approach allowed team members to momentarily step back from the practicalities of keeping the museum machine humming and consider the incredible talent and breathtaking creativity that surrounds us every day. The result is a lively exhibition of diverse styles, subjects, and media.

OMA’s core team is an eclectic group of 13 art appreciators with wide-ranging interests and varied experiences in the Southern California art scene. The exciting endeavor of learning about and forming relationships with as many amazing artists in our community as possible is an undertaking that can only benefit by tapping into the team’s collective knowledge.

The OMA team is thrilled to take this opportunity to share work that excites and inspires them by Manuelita Brown, Trinh Mai, Michael Massenburg, Quinton McCurine, Carole Choucair Oueijan, Gustavo Rimada, Katie Ruiz, and Kurosh Yahyai.


Learn more about the artwork in this exhibition:


Temple Maiden Ed. #4, 1995. Bronze on marble base, 14.5" x 12.25" x 6.25"

“It is my intent to show the universality of human experience. I want each viewer to identify with the beauty, strength, and common humanity of the "other"–whether they be of a different gender, skin color, or... My subjects are often family and folks I see in everyday life as well as imagined people from readings.” –Manuelita Brown

On Temple Maiden “Pure, chaste, seated on the cool steps of an ancient temple, the Temple Maiden evokes a purity of spirit and directness of focus that we each have within us.” –Manuelita Brown

Selected By Erika Danina Williams, Development Manager

“In these uncertain times, I find great comfort in Manuelita's work. Her bronze figurative and portrait sculptures are a tangible representation of our human experience, of our need for connection. These particular pieces convey the strength, character, and beauty of individuals persevering in the struggle of life.”

Front and back of No. 1 from the Mẹ Ơi (Dear Mother) collection, 2019,

Materials used in this series: Acrylic, my blood and hair, Bà Ngoại’s (Grandmother’s) ashes and hair, charcoal, color pencil, egg shells, fractured wishbone, fragment of Bà Ngoại’s unread letter, feathers from Mẹ’s rooster, family photos, fish bones saved from a family dinner, graphite, Chị Tu’s gold leaf, hand embroidery, imprints from flora and soil from Bà Ngoại’s garden, ink, plant material, rice, scripture, stone, tattered feather, Vietnamese newspaper, stamp received from Việt Nam, watercolor, and wax dripped from candle burned for my maternal lineage on paper and vellum.

“In the winter of 2014, we gathered around Bà Ngoại during her last days of life to patiently usher her into the next. A heart-rending moment arose when Mẹ placed her hand upon Bà Ngoại’s forehead, both furrowed with the lines that told the story of an interwoven life that met toil with strength and weariness with faith. She mournfully called out to her mother, Mẹ ơi.

These words seared themselves upon the flesh of my inner chambers, and they continue to haunt me still. I absorbed Mẹ’s wavering voice as I sat at Bà Ngoại’s feet, arrested by the lengthening tone of each echoing call.

Mẹ ơi. 

Mẹ ơi.

As I witnessed this intimate moment between mother and mother, daughter and daughter, I ruminated on the expansive love that they had for one another—this deep love that rendered them the might to carry such overbearing weight for one another—the nine months that sustained a hope to bring life and light into our lamenting world, and the boundless sacrifices that followed thereafter. I thought about how the roles can shift as we children shoulder the burdens for our mothers out of this same inherited sense of devotion—this promise of a love that does not boast as sacrifices made remain unseen and unheard.

These works hearken unto the Mother. Portraits from five generations of mothers and daughters within my family comprise this body that speaks on the burden that mothers carry for their children, and the afflictions that their children, in turn, carry for them.

For each piece, notes were inscribed en verso. These are personal, unedited, and free-flowing notes to document the images, the memories they evoke, and significance of materials used.” –Trinh Mai

Click here view the entirety of this series

Selected By Luciana Fernandes, Museum Store Manager

“The work of Trinh Mai is deeply evocative, not only visually and thematically, but in the use of texture and medium. Ms. Mai and I come from completely different cultural backgrounds, but I am struck by the similarities we face as daughters. Though our families and roots are deeply seated in a country so different from our own, we must reconcile them simultaneously, allowing each side of ourselves to enhance the other.

This selection from the series, Mẹ Ơi, explores the relationship between mother and daughter, what we inherit and what we pass on; how we were nurtured, and in-turn, become nurturers. It is a gift to let the veil fall, and get to know our mothers and grandmothers, not just as mommies and grannies, but as women, with histories, hopes and dreams of their own. As we see ourselves in them, we are better able to understand who we are.”

Fragments of Nature, 2018. Mixed media, 16" x 20".

“In this body of work, I want to investigate the language and imagery to explore the issues class, race, and culture in their relationship through rituals. In each artwork, I assembled constructions of objects and images in an attempt to engage the subjects through representational, psychological, and spiritual perspectives. Elements of decaying and blooming landscapes, earth mapping and the migration of life forms are all visual metaphors for the transformation of the unknown and the profound. Through these varieties of elements, my intention is to speak to the notion of what is the significance of life or the purpose of existence. This is the ongoing conversation that I want the artwork to engage in.” –Michael Massenburg

Selected By Collette Murphy Stefanko, Director of Marketing

“I discovered Michael Massenburg through my love of Samella Lewis’ art as he was also inspired by her work. Massenburg’s pieces are experiential for me, compelling and often transfixing as I discover something new during each encounter. With these three artworks in particular, it’s clear each of the figures has a story, a history, a message, a plea to be heard—and I want to know what they have to say and to understand.”

Carne (red, flesh, blue), 2019. Acrylic on glass, 12" x 14".

“Mark making is an essential element in any painting. How paint is applied to a viewing surface gives an audience insight into how, or even why, a painting was made. The haptic residue left behind by the artist can cue the viewer into the emotional, material, and cerebral processes employed in a work. Satori, Lapin, and Carne represent a body of work the artist refers as his Sliver paintings. These paintings focus on reducing the presence of the artist’s hand relegating it to a secondary role within their creative development. The result is a curious “distancing” effect that borders on voyeurism.

These works resemble cross sections and give the viewer the sense that they are peeking into an intimate, closed system allowing them to see the conditions of materiality that are normally unobservable to some extent. The pureness of form, richness of tonality, and the subtle interplay between colors are more products of the medium and not the hand. These paintings represent the artist’s consummate need to engage paint as his primary subject. The artist intends to showcase the unpredictable nature of paint and its continued ability to astound and surprise.” –Quinton McCurine

Selected By Adam Nicolai, Director of Education and Public Programs

“Quinton’s work has immediate visual appeal: It’s bright, colorful, lively, and gestural. The distinct line and interplay of solid colors creates a graphic quality, and in person there are dynamic depths and layers that you can't initially appreciate when you just see a photo of the work. The beauty in this work is that the concept and intention goes far beyond its visual qualities. These paintings are truly about unpredictability and spontaneity, the relationships between artist, viewer, and materials, and how those relationships can bend and shift. I appreciate the depth and quality of Quinton's practice in so many different ways, I am really glad to have this chance to further experience and appreciate his work along with our visitors.”

Embroidery 2, 2015. Smalti, 24 karat gold smalti, lepidolite, millefiori, carroltons, freshwater pearl, red coral, paper, and mixed media, 14" x 22" x 2.5", diptych.

Carole Choucair Oueijan is a fine artist whose work in mosaic, watercolor, oil painting, and mixed media have won international honors. Her art training includes completion of Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Institut National Des Beaux Arts, Lebanon, a Diploma in Interior Design and a specialization in the Byzantine mosaic technique in Greece. Her mosaics have a decidedly painterly effect that blends abstract and realistic styles seamlessly. Her artwork is exhibited across the US, Lebanon, Italy, Greece, Qatar, Canada, and France. Carole is the winner of six public art projects in California in Santa Cruz, Temecula, Bellflower, Temple City, and Monrovia, and one public art program in Oregon. 

Selected By Edward Su Yuo, Visitor Services Representative

“Carole's work is an active reminder of the beauty within a very old visual tradition that is often overlooked for its technical skill and positive impact on our surroundings. Mosaics has been a visual form that pervades through centuries of breathtaking cultures and their respective visual language. From Ancient Roman villas depicting memorable scenes of Gods and people at play, to the walls of thousands of mosques that shimmer chromatic patterns and expressive calligraphy, mosaics have this amazing ability to embed every plane of our surroundings (wall, ceiling, and floor) a lasting representation of our respective culture's diverse beauty.

Carole has taken it a step further in this long visual tradition: utilizing her knowledge of impressionistic oil painting techniques, inspired by her own colorful Mediterranean background, and further diversified by her time living in California, her mosaics are an intercultural creation of modern art using traditional techniques. Works that are beautifully multilayered in its creation, time and visualization. Something that our mixed hot-pot of religions, ethnicities, and beliefs in California and the USA, in general, can appreciate greatly.”

La Bandera. Acrylic on board, 18" x 24".

“This painting is an interpretation of the Mexican flag, the flag of my heritage. The eagle is represented by an Aztec eagle warrior, or cuauhtli. Other elements of the flag are present like the serpent and nopales. The rays of light and roses growing from the rib cage signify the presence and beauty of Tonantzin, our Mother Earth. I also added a card from a popular Mexican card game I grew up playing called Loteria. It’s a very famous one and is called La Bandera, meaning The Flag, which is why the painting is called La Bandera.” ­­­–Gustavo Rimada

Selected By Danielle King, Visitor Services Representative

“Gustavo's work is beautiful but also tells a story. His pieces have a foot in the past and a foot in the present, in my opinion. He takes inspiration from nature and history as well as his culture.”

High Fall, 2020. Oil on canvas, 30" x 30" x 2".

Katie Ruiz is a Chicana artist living in Southern California and working in painting and sculpture. Ruiz's work plays between the line of representational and abstract, and combining painting and sculpture to create what she calls "Combinas" derived from the name Robert Rauchenberg coined for his painting/sculptures "combines". The works have a deep connection to nature and a sense of subconscious experience. Her work often uses the colors and patterns found in Mexican textiles with vibrant colors and patterns like the Otomi patterns and unique color combinations.

“The painting High Fall depicts the natural seasons of the moon cycle and the divine feminine. This work is part of a series about the cosmic energy and cycles our bodies reflect through our natural rhythms, moods, and energies. ” –Katie Ruiz


Selected By Maria Mingalone, Executive Director

“Even while confronting the issues of our times­–the uncertainty driven by the pandemic, getting out the vote, and the social unrest driven by racial inequities–Katie's work remains hopeful and engaged. One can feel the joy and creative curiosity as she experiments with materials in her approach to artmaking. It is a reliable bright spot in the landscape.”

Setting Apart, 2020. Mixed media on canvas, 30" x 30".

“I am interested in visually portraying the human mind. A landscape of thoughts, memories, feelings, and thinking modes. I do this by investigating my own mind and sifting through what I feel is central to who I am as a person living in a modern world. My investigations lead me to rough sketches, material sourcing, and a grounding of overall conceptual goals for each work. Where I do not want my work to be read intellectually or with high conceptual thought, rather I hope the viewer has an emotional, almost visceral, response. It is also my hope that the viewer can relate in even a small way to that emotion or feeling.

With my current work, I set off to portray specific feelings in each painting or sculpture. The titles of each work help allude to these specific feelings, without being too obvious. They act as subtle clues for what my intentions were as the artist, without taking away from the viewers original response when experiencing the painting or sculpture. Through the use of a simplified human form and articles of clothing, my goal is to allow the viewers own mind to enter the work, explore, relate, and feel what the subject matter is feeling through their own experiences and beliefs.”  –Kurosh Yahyai


Selected By Victoria McKellips, Membership Manager

“I have been enamored with Kurosh's use of color, repetition, and juxtaposition. The images are jarring in the vibrancy and tone but are somehow also familiar and relatable. They force both self-reflection and confrontation of a fractured psyche. I look forward to seeing the continued creation of his future works. ”


Watch a clip from the Virtual Exhibition Celebration, live streamed on Thursday, March 25, 2021.

This program was produced in partnership with KOCT Television, The Voice of North County.


Header artwork: Kurosh Yahyai, Setting Apart (detail), 2020. Mixed media on canvas, 30" x 30" x 2".

If you would like to learn more about the artwork, including if the artists have work available to purchase, please email

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