Graduates 2023 / 2024

Matthew Johnson





My practice consists of a series of process-based investigations into formal and conceptual interests, through a combination of painting, drawing, printmaking, and sculpture. The thrust of these investigations is the desire to represent long-term themes (violence, chaos, accidents, etc.) while avoiding explicit visual representation of these themes. The creation of these works is simultaneously laborious and reliant upon chance and discovery, a scenario which echoes the processes of natural evolution and metamorphosis. Frequently, a compositional framework of large, heavy forms containing thousands of small marks alternates between the macro and the micro, reflecting organic material, cellular blocks, musculature, or celestial systems.


Although my two dimensional work leans towards a maximalist application of material and imagery, it is ultimately rooted in a metastasized reading of minimalism and post-painterly abstraction. The immense amount of energy expended in mark making acts to orient the work somewhere between art object and performative record. I do not wish to remove the artist’s hand from my work, alternately my intention is to maintain honesty about the material qualities of a flat surface. These guidelines are not meant to create rigid strictures, but are procedures that generate defined spaces within which experimentation can be undertaken with some level of control.


In contrast, the three-dimensional works are directly representational, but are concerned with the bumbling insignificance of humans within the geological timeline. Collectively I group them into a broad subcategory of ideas labeled Dumb Revelations. These works address the makeshift endeavors of humans to define themselves as something other than the descendants of apes. This framework allows for reaction to the equal parts triumph and failure that is human cultural production. The construction of these works mirrors this theme, which tend towards a crudeness absent in the two dimensional works.





Diego Melgoza Ocegueara




Diego Melgoza Ocegueara, aka Melgo (b. 1993 Mexico City), is a Santa Barbara-based visual artist and graphic designer whose inspiration comes from Mesoamerican and Mexican culture. His mission is to create quality visual work about environmental and social issues, to evolve the consciousness of the viewer, and to allow us to progress through knowledge. The artist had solo exhibitions of his work at the Community Arts Workshop in Santa Barbara, CA, and 24th St Studio in San Francisco, CA. His work has been exhibited in numerous group exhibitions and festivals, including the CSULB Student Gallery, Community Arts Workshop, UCSB Glass Box, Lucidity Music Festival, Joshua Tree Music Festival, and Lighting in a Bottle Music Festival. Melgoza received a B.S. from San Francisco State University in Apparel Design and Merchandising with an emphasis on Marketing. He studied Printmaking and Graphic Design at Santa Barbara City College and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Fine Arts at UCSB.





Hope Okere




Hope was born and raised in Iowa to her Nigerian father and white American mother.  She attended Iowa State University for two years majoring in Apparel Design and Fine Art.  She then moved to New York City to attend Parsons School of Design to study fashion design exclusively.  She began her career by interning for threeAsFour and Robert Geller.  What followed was a decade long career, during which she designed for Gap, Target, J.Crew, Madewell, Marc Jacobs, Converse and more.  She has a deep understanding of design and a wealth of experience working within the fashion industry across womenswear, menswear and accessories.  Functionality, originality, comfort, and movement combined with modern silhouettes, emotional color, and sophisticated fabrics, are the framework of her design aesthetic.  She sees fashion as a tool for self-expression and cultural representation.


Now working toward her MFA at the University of California Santa Barbara, she continues to evolve her career as an artist.  Moving from design into fine art and expressing her ideas through sculpture, textile arts, and performance.  Recurring sources of inspiration come from film, fashion, cultural movements, meditation, nature, water, light, textiles, and dance.  Her work often stems from emotions, intuition, memories and dreams.  The abstract forms she creates are feminine, nurturing, rounded and soft.  Representative of how she experiences life, her work explores her identity as a biracial first generation American and questions prejudice and bias in regard to gender, race and culture.




Lyra Purugganan




Lyra Purugganan (they/she) is an interdisciplinary artist born in Manila, Philippines and lives in Santa Barbara, CA. Purugganan received a BFA in printmaking from The Ohio State University in 2021 and is actively pursuing a MFA at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Influenced by craft and materials, queer culture, and the midwest DIY music scene, Purugganan explores selfhood and their intersecting identities, disrupting systems through the misuse and misplacement of materials. Through performance, ceramics, installation, ornament, and sculpture, they explore the complexities of girlhood and femininity, celebrating queerness and its intersectionalities.

As an emerging artist, Lyra Purugganan has exhibited in group, solo, and duo shows in Columbus, Ohio and featured in publications like Folklore As Resistance, The Lantern, and Cleveland Magazine. They have participated in group shows at the University of California, Santa Barbara and have been included in the Greater Los Angeles MFA Exhibition in 2023.



Mariana Rodela




I’m an interdisciplinary artist from Southern California. I work predominantly with found objects, collage, photography, and sculpture. My practice usually begins when I find discarded furniture or objects on the street or a trinket at a thrift store. Breathing new life into these materials that would have otherwise gone to a landfill is beneficial in an environmental sense, but also a compelling challenge in problem solving. Additionally, I often make work that encourages a viewer to interact with it either through touch or by taking a video or a photograph. I want my audience to be so compelled by the form of my work that they would want to reach out and engage with it. Even if that means the work will degrade overtime. The cycle of creation and destruction, repurposing and then discarding again, inspires my practice. I’m currently working through ideas about adolescence, connection, and reflection.






Lela Welch




Lela (she/they) uses sculpture, installation, and her body to explore ideas inspired by mysticism, spirituality and familial myth.


Shahrzad has participated in multiple residencies including The Industry of the Ordinary’s performance art residency and INVERSE. They have shown virtually and in person including venues like INVERSE’s Performance Art Festival and Crystal Bridges’ satellite museum, The Momentary. In 2021, Shahrzad was awarded the Pop Ups Grant by the San Luis Obispo Arts’ Council for a public sculpture and performance. Lela has collaborated with artists in Panama, New York, Beijing and Switzerland and has been mentioned in Art & America, Art and Education, VoyageLA and ShoutOutLA. They graduated in 2018 with a BFA in Art & Design from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo where they were awarded the Life Achievement Award from their department. In 2021 they studied with the virtual first, experimental art school, Dark Study. They are currently an MFA Candidate at the University of California, Santa Barbara.


My practice bridges gaps in identity and memory as a mixed, Iranian artist. I am fascinated by my family history – histories rooted in a confused mysticism that include addiction, migration and survival. I believe that one’s life experiences are embedded in their bodies and their perception of the world. Thus, I use sculpture, performance, and my body to explore these perceptions. I use these methods as they speak to both the permanence and impermanence of experience, leaving something tangible with objects as well as intangible with work that centers around gesture and time.




Coming soon:

Dannah Hidalgo