Article - Office of College Advancement

World of outlooks on display at Ohlone gallery

By Candice Nguyen, The Argus.

Friday, August 1, 2008—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area.

Don Edwards Sanctuary oil on canvas, 14"x18". —Painting by Farshid Namei.

Newark resident Farshid Namei has lived and relived the American Dream.

She was born and raised in Iran, where finding the education to professionally pursue art was unheard of.

So she moved to the United States in her 20s and started a life plan that took full advantage of America's education system.

Namei attended the University of San Francisco and obtained, not a degree in art, but an MBA in financial planning. She knew that in order to be a full-time artist, she first needed to be financially secure.

After graduation, she dedicated exactly 10 years and three months to her money-oriented career in order to pursue her real passions—canvasses, paintbrushes and colors.

Namei's hard work has begun to pay off.

A number of her landscape paintings hang on the walls of Ohlone College's Smith Center in Fremont.

She is acclaimed by her art professors as "one of Ohlone's best and brightest art students."

Although Namei is one of the older students in her classes—about 50 percent of the art students are significantly younger—she is proving that there are no age restrictions to education if the passion is there.

"In America, I can be 120 and still go back to school," she said.

In addition to her work, art pieces from professional artists and art professors also decorate the walls.

Fall at Niles oil on canvas 16" x 20". —Painting by Jian Wu

Jian Wu, a respected artist from China and a professor at both Ohlone and the Academy of Art University of San Francisco, displays his masterpieces.

Known for his exquisite use of light and color, Wu's work has been collected throughout the United States and the world. Although an internationally acclaimed artist and a highly respected professor, he still chooses to teach at Ohlone.

"Jian could teach anywhere, but he chooses here," art history professor Kenny Mencher said. "Teachers (at Ohlone) really care about their students. It's a calling for them."

More than the individual paintings, the entire gallery is taking a different direction with guidance from Mencher.

"The gallery's mission will now be to make the exhibits more relevant and integrated with the Ohlone community."

Previous curators have attempted to bring provocative and politically heavy art to the gallery, including paintings of the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse in Iraq. They were not well-received.

Mencher recalled that one of the pieces was ripped down from the wall in protest. He said that although those pieces had merit, they did not relate to the community.

"There is a lot of violence in the world and I want this gallery to lift spirits," he said. "I want to be able to show beautiful things that are not meant to be aggressive for the sake of being aggressive."

The current show attempts to integrate not just Ohlone's art department, but also the school's entire community. Mencher wants to use the college as a nexus point for students from Ohlone to meet successful artists from the Fremont area. He is recruiting these professionals to attend the exhibit and give talks.

Passion seems to strongly resonate from both teachers and students at Ohlone. Especially because art is an ever-changing field, they watch and support each other's growth.

With help from her professors, Namei literally has created the life she wanted in the United States.

She is finally doing what she was meant to do, and it shows in her art.

[Photos of paintings by Farshid Namei and Jian Wu added to this web page by Ohlone College.]

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