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Carnegie exhibit celebrates Portuguese culture
Carnegie Jackson Nichols
A new exhibition at the Carnegie Arts Center, Festa: A Celebration of Portuguese Faith & Culture, includes more than 60 images captured by artist Jackson Nichols over the past 30 years (Photo by Jackson Nichols).

The Carnegie Arts Center announced the opening of a new exhibition of black and white photographs by Jackson Nichols. Festa: A Celebration of Portuguese Faith & Culture includes more than 60 images captured by the artist over the past 30 years. In compiling this impressive body of work, Nichols said the goal of the exhibition is to bring an awareness of the unique Portuguese-Californian culture and traditions to the greater community.

With a population of over 300,000 in the state, the Portuguese-American experience in California is expressed in many ways. The festa is the most common and best-known event throughout the Portuguese diaspora in the Golden State. Festas provide a place to gather, to preserve identity and native language, and to express religious tradition. With nearly 100 of these events taking place in cities from Arcata in the north to San Diego in the south, the festa is the bond that connects all generations and establishes connections with the myriad of ethnicities that compose the multicultural society of California.

Nichols is a freelance documentary photographer exploring identity through culture. The majority of his work is made on black and white film, using traditional 35mm and medium format cameras. He prints all of his silver gelatin prints at his home darkroom in Fremont, California.

“The heart of my exhibition rests on the work of three Portuguese poets who share their personal reflections of the California Portuguese festas. I love the poems because they capture the atmosphere, ritual, reverence and sometimes irreverence that are truly unique to the festas,” Nichols said.

The selection of black and white photographs, taken at festas throughout California, is paired with a few of these poems in the gallery. Nichols’ lens captures events, both unexpected and magical, that transcend the commonplace to reveal the humor and humanity of the participants.

The exhibition also includes a selection of photos from bloodless bullfights taken around Northern California over the past decade. Bloodless bullfights are a traditional part of the festa, and have occurred in conjunction with Portuguese festas in California, Texas, and Toronto, Canada. The photos highlight the drama and artistry of Cavaleiros, who fight the bull from horseback, Forcados, whose 8-man teams stop the charge of a bull with their bodies, and Matadors performing their traditional artistry in the arena. They also reveal the emotion and camaraderie of the participants backstage in the paddock or around the arena as they prepare to perform before the crowd.

The exhibition will run from Feb. 1 through April 30. The exhibition’s opening reception will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Feb. 4. Refreshments will be served. Admission is free.

The poems and many of the festa images are also included in a book that will be available for purchase in the CAC gift shop. Nichols will be presenting an illustrated talk about his work, showing parts of a documentary film about the bullfights, and signing copies of his book at 7 p.m. March 3. Additional special events highlighting Portuguese culture are being added; check the CAC website for complete dates, times and details.

The exhibition is sponsored by Lopes Livestock, Western Meat Processing, Margo Souza, Edward Sousa, David & Marla Sousa, Meras Water Solutions, M&S Portuguese Bakery, Pena Taurina Sol y Sombra, and Grupo Forcados Amadores Luso Americanos.

The Carnegie Arts Center is located at 250 N. Broadway in Turlock. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission to the Lobby Gallery is free.