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Artist Synthia SAINT JAMES and Toby Bushee, manager, Ceremonies and Events, unveil "Cincuenta," which commemorates CSU Dominguez Hills' 50th anniversary
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Caption BulletArtist Synthia SAINT JAMES and Toby Bushee, manager, Ceremonies and Events, unveil "Cincuenta," which commemorates CSU Dominguez Hills' 50th anniversary; photo by Joanie Harmon

Synthia SAINT JAMES: Renowned Artist Unveils First in Series of 50th Anniversary Commemorative Paintings by Local Artists

Every year, the Annual Fall Reception at California State University, Dominguez Hills welcomes faculty and staff to the new academic year. On August 23, this year’s celebration was especially memorable with the unveiling of a commemorative painting and poster by renowned artist Synthia SAINT JAMES. “Cincuenta” (Fifty) is the first in a series that will be created by locally based artists to celebrate the 50th anniversary of CSU Dominguez Hills.

“What I really want is for everyone who is a part of this school – faculty, staff, anyone who is an alumni – to have something to feel proud of in celebration of the 50th anniversary,” said SAINT JAMES at the unveiling in the ballroom of the Loker Student Union.

SAINT JAMES, who imbues her representational works with the deeper meanings of her subjects, did extensive research on the history of CSU Dominguez Hills, from the South Bay’s origins as the Rancho San Pedro owned by the Manuel Dominguez family to the university’s humble beginnings as California State College, Dominguez Hills, whose first graduating class was made up of four students. She also worked to represent the diversity in age, ethnicity and background of the student population.

“President García wanted me to delve into the history [of the university] but to make it current and make it about Dominguez Hills, not just any college,” said SAINT JAMES. “[The figures] typify all of the different races and nationalities. So all around, this is everybody coming together.”

The artist visited CSU Dominguez Hills in 2009 at the invitation of Gayle Ball Parker, director of University Outreach and Information Services. SAINT JAMES presented a talk to local high school students about careers in the arts and the university, co-sponsored by the University Library. President Mildred García met with the artist and invited her to create the first work for the commemorative art series.

“I just told her about Dominguez Hills, and she said yes,” said García. “She’s excited about Dominguez Hills, she loves what we do.”

Ball Parker underscored the value of students meeting a professional artist and learning about a profession that requires more than picking up a paintbrush.

“When she talks about all of the research she does for her paintings – it’s not like she just gets up and paints, there’s a lot that goes in there – students get to understand the importance of doing research,” said Ball Parker.

A copy of the 50th anniversary commemorative painting will be displayed at the CSU Office of the Chancellor alongside artwork commemorating other campuses’ anniversaries.

“Cincuenta” is one of four artworks that will be unveiled this year as part of the 50th anniversary celebration. Los Angeles-based Hispanic artist Aydee Lopez Martinez, plein air landscape and neoclassical artist Alexey Steele, and Japanese American artist Mary Higuchi are creating the other three works, which will be will be presented throughout the 2010-11 academic year.

SAINT JAMES has also donated an original painting of one of her children’s book illustrations to the University Library.

SAINT JAMES is an international award-winning painter, illustrator, and architectural designer. Significant works include her design of first U.S. postage stamp for the Kwanzaa holiday. Her paintings have been featured on the covers of books by best-selling authors, including Alice Walker and Terry McMillan. The Los Angeles native and self-taught artist has also designed ceramic tile murals for Cowan Elementary School in Austin, Texas, and for Ontario International Airport in Ontario, Calif., elevator doors for a building in California’s State Capitol East End complex, and an original painting for Glendale Memorial Hospital in Glendale, Calif.

For more information about Synthia SAINT JAMES, click here.

For more information about the 50th Anniversary celebration at CSU Dominguez Hills, click here.

- Joanie Harmon


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Last updated August 26, 2010 by Joanie Harmon