FARMINGTON Richard Mordecki's eye for art promises to bring Farmington to the edge of the whimsical, the beautiful and the strange.

His gallery "Diversity in Art: From Traditional to Nontraditional," opens at 3 p.m. Thursday at San Juan College.

Mordecki spent the majority of his adult life working in the commercial sector, first as a steel foundry worker in McKeesport, Penn. where he was born. He then found work at an advertising agency in Pittsburgh and finally founded Ram Signs in Farmington in 1990.

After turning over the business to his son, Mike, on Jan. 1, Mordecki says he is finally ready to devote his time to the fine arts.

"I've done artwork on the side all along," he said. "The goal was eventually to focus full time on the fine arts, but commercial (art) paid the bills."

For years, paying the bills, supporting his wife and six children took precedence.

Mordecki discovered his fascination with art as a child, and for many years, he built a foundation on watercolor, acrylic and other traditional art forms.

Since then, his palette has expanded substantially.

"I've recently gotten into abstract forms," Mordecki said. "I just didn't like the idea of all my work looking the same."

The 12 pieces in the San Juan College gallery range from traditional forms to the purely abstract in which he sits in his studio, "without any set ideas and just (starts) throwing paint around.



One of his traditional pieces to be featured in the gallery titled, "The Guardians," illustrates a cluster of rock formations in, what presumably is, the New Mexico desert. Mordecki's brushstrokes capture a delicate interplay between light and shadow, each crack and crevice in the rocks and the burst of semi-transparent color in a group of plants.

The piece is as traditional as they come, but accurately captures the impermanent beauty of the desert.

In recent years, Mordecki's work has pushed forward past experimentation and into the realm of the bizarre.

"Thinking back, I would have liked this exhibit to be called "From Traditional to the Bizarre,'" he said. "With the bizarre, you have total freedom. You're not trying to please anyone. You're just trying to please yourself."

Out of his 12 pieces to be featured at the gallery, "Magic Music Machine," most immediately calls to mind the bizarre.

The piece shows an partially anthropomorphized grouping of instruments that form a humanoid head against a background of space. The twisted and warped shapes of keyboards, guitars and horns calls to mind the surrealism of Salvador Dali. Mordecki says the work is inspired by steampunk culture.

Mordecki's diverse body of work quickly rose to the attention of the arts department at San Juan College.

"He had a pretty eclectic set (of work)," said Cindy McNealy, gallery manager at the college. "He experimented quite a lot; to be brave enough to do that impresses me."

"Diversity in Art: From Traditional to Nontraditional," opens at 3 p.m. Thursday at the Humanities Art Gallery. The exhibit will be shown until Feb. 14.

For more information on the exhibit, call Cindy McNealy at 505-566-3464.