Visiting the H Gallery and Studios, formerly the Hud Gallery, on Main Street affords one the opportunity to see artists at work amidst their works. Witness them wrestling with the profound (like making art) or doing the mundane (like making a sandwich). Whatever the case, it’s a chance to step into the art world and feel right at home. The space’s open atmosphere invites visitors to wander, where they are very likely to meet the artists whose works they’re admiring. Wonder if there’s hidden meaning behind a painting, or wish you could reach out and touch a work of art? Go ahead and ask. Chances are, the artist will be on hand and more than happy to chat about his or her work. 

Several established and emerging artists share the space, which is divided into individual studios and a large exhibition area on the main floor. The residents include painters, mixed-media artists, ceramists and photographers. Open and free to the public, Wednesday through Saturday, the H Gallery is a great place to let yourself roam. Now is an especially good time for a visit because, aside from art pieces presented by resident artists like Yessica Torres, Dominga Opazo, Nintaba, Mariana Peirano, Lisa Caren, Jane Peterson and Nova Clite and others, there are two special shows currently on exhibit.

Located in Space 140 is Edgar Takoyaki’s Protocols of the Cross, a “sci-fi photography series” whose images are unmistakable, yet completely otherworldly. The work references the Stations of the Cross, the traditional 14 images that depict Jesus Christ’s last day — from his condemnation to his crucifixion and entombment. In Takoyaki’s work, Jesus Christ is not flesh and blood, but metal and wire. Christ wears his familiar cloak and crown of thorns, but his “face” is more android than human. So why does the mechanical Messiah seem so human, conveying so clearly humility and frailty? Perhaps it’s because the viewer can’t help but attach his or her own emotions to the images, especially since they offer an unexpected and challenging twist on the theme. Or maybe Takoyaki has tapped into something else. As the exhibit’s literature states, the work challenges “the religious concept of the human soul, independent of glands and gristle.” 

Takoyaki’s photographs are displayed like the traditional Catholic Stations of the Cross, complete with Roman numerals to guide the viewer from beginning to end. They are deeply saturated with color and contrast, and feature real men and women depicting the roles of Mary, Pontius Pilate and others. The backdrop is all Southern California sunshine and shadow. In the middle of the room is the actual statue, sitting in a chair, seemingly relaxed. So what does it all say about religion, society, humanity, technology? The guide gives a glimpse into one interpretation but, like all art, it’s up to the viewer to decide — or question — for his or her self. 

Collective Dissent: Rethinking Rationality, a group exhibition featuring the works of Yari Ostovany, Michelle Robinson, and Glenn Carter, is downstairs in the main gallery. The show’s literature explains that the work “represents a new visual language based on assemblages of the unbounded world, rejecting mediocrity and redefining high art.” That might just be art-speak to describe powerful mixed-media works that draw you in and compel you to linger. 

Ostovany’s abstract oil paintings, ablaze with intense color and texture, serve as the exhibition’s “visceral anchor.” Carter’s work surprises and makes an impact with its combination of conventional materials and everyday objects. Robinson’s work utilizes photography, fabric and other materials to depict natural and urban landscapes. Her pieces are like beautiful tapestries, with each individual snapshot revealing the markings of human impact on the world. Presented together, the artists’ works flow together harmoniously. Take the time to stop and look at each piece, and it is easy to fall into a little world that evokes a different emotion and experience. 

Protocols of the Cross and Collective Dissent: Rethinking Rationality are on display through mid-January at the H Gallery and Studios, 1793 E. Main St., Ventura. For more information, call 626-8876 or visit visithgallery.com.