Sac State ‘META:morphosis’ exhibition delves into isolation and loss

Artists explore interpretations of transformations


Jennah Booth

Laura Hansen’s “Constrained,” featured in the “META:morphosis” exhibition on Nov. 23, 2021, is a mixed-media assemblage which features broken frames, chains and metal coils. The exhibition ran in the University Union Gallery from Nov. 22 through Dec. 2.

Jennah Booth

Isolation and loss inevitably brings adaptation, change and growth. 

The last two years have been a testament to this phenomenon and inspired the exhibition “META:morphosis,” an exploration of grief, growth and transformation, where studio art major Denise Benitez-Gonzalez asks fellow artists to compare themselves to the people they were two years ago before COVID-19.

Benitez-Gonzalez explored these themes of change and growth in curating “META:morphosis,” hosted in the University Union Gallery at Sacramento State. The show ran in the gallery from Nov. 22 and closed with an Artists Reception on Dec. 2.

“META:morphosis explores the interpretation of change, growth, and transformation through artistic expression,” Benitez-Gonzalez wrote in her artist’s statement posted in the entrance of the gallery. “The art presented sheds its skin exposing rawness and truth beneath while emerging from its proverbial cocoon, bringing about the light hidden within the layers.”

“META:morphosis” curator Denise Benitez-Gonzalez’s piece “A Torii for Love and Loss-II” stands in the University Union Gallery on Nov. 23, 2021. Benitez-Gonzalez’s Torii, a traditional Japanese gate, is translucent resin figures embedded in rusted steel plate and suspended in a rebar frame. (Jennah Booth)

After nearly two years of isolation, the hospitalization of her parents due to COVID-19 and the loss of her mother, Benitez-Gonzalez said she experienced deep personal growth and change, which she expressed through her work. 

“With all the changes that have taken place in my personal life, I was basically realizing that I was undergoing this metamorphosis for myself…constantly transitioning to a new version of myself based on certain events that were happening,” Benitez-Gonzalez said.

Having suffered his own losses over the last year, alumni Matthew Pugh says the work featured in the exhibition is reminiscent of a collective loss. 

“I really got a sense of mourning and recovery,” Pugh said. “I think a lot of people have lost people in the last year.”

Matthew Pugh’s “Approximating Equilibrium” is featured in the “META:morphosis” exhibition on Nov. 23, 2021. Pugh says his work is inspired by nature and the transformation of matter. (Jennah Booth)

Pugh graduated from Sac State in 2020 with his Master of Fine Arts degree and said that when Benitez-Gonzalez asked him to participate in the show much of his work already revolved around themes of growth, grief and deconstruction.

“When she approached me with the show, it felt like an opportunity to show my own transformation from being a student to where I’m at now,” Pugh said. “It just felt serendipitous for me in a way because I never got a chance to have a resolution at Sac State.”

Many pieces exhibited in the gallery coincidentally share neutral, earthy color themes and feature natural materials like wood, metal and clay. 

Following the theme of transformation, works like Pugh’s and fellow artist Laura Hansen’s are constructed with recycled and repurposed materials. 

“There are levels of metamorphosis in which changes must break free of binding objects and ideas that have ‘constrained’ movement, thus inhibiting change,” Hansen wrote about her piece “Constrained.” “It is only through breaking those bonds can shifting occur.”

Featured artist and fellow studio art major Andrew Rosas said that he created his untitled piece for the show itself and that it resulted in an emotional pivot from his usual work, which is typically mechanical and architectural. 

Art studio major Andrew Rosas’ untitled work, pictured on Nov. 23, 2021, was created for the “META:morphosis” show, and is his first venture into emotional exploration. He says he is excited to take this pivot from his previous work, which was mostly mechanical and architectural. (Jennah Booth)

“It was something that came out of a personal experience,” Rosas said. “It’s easier to deal with things that are outside of yourself. It’s way harder to deal with things that are on the inside and often we push them aside and that all comes out in this piece.” 

“META:morphosis” is Benitez-Gonzalez’s second show at Sac State but her first in person. It was originally intended to be a solo show, but Benitez-Gonzalez said that she ultimately wanted to share the space with other artists and found gratitude in it.

“I kind of wanted to see what other artists’ notions and ideas of what metamorphosis, what transformation, what transmutation, what that meant to them,” she said. “Who are we as a collective now in comparison to two years ago?”