New Oolong Gallery show explores textile waste and uncovers Vista artist’s long-hidden works

Work by Minga Opazo and Peter Stearns, now on display at Oolong Gallery.
(Philipp Scholz Rittermann)

Oolong Gallery’s new summer show is “Bread and Chocolate”, featuring the sculpture and paintings of artists Minga Opazo and Peter Stearns.

A native of Chile, Opazo is a fourth-generation textile crafter who recycles found textiles to make sculptural work, even harvesting natural elements like soil, grass and mushrooms in certain installations. Opazo’s work questions the textile industry with a series of pieces exploring the idea of “solastalgia”, a term that describes the mental or existential distress caused by environmental change and living in an era of excess, constantly consuming and throwing away.

We live in the Plasticene Epoch. A geologic period defined by humanity’s unwavering and ever-increasing creation, use, and discard of plastics on a world-changing scale,” wrote Opazo in her artist statement. “Unsurprisingly, Americans are the largest producer of textile waste, annually discarding more than 34 billion pounds of used textiles (about 100 lbs. per person)…Clothing has been crucial to human survival and is integral to every facet of society; yet, paradoxically, the Plasticene has transformed our ancient textile traditions into toxic commodities that threaten the future of life.”

Some of her experimental bio-art incorporates mushrooms—using utilizing fungi to transform toxic textile waste into regenerative soil. In one of her time-based sculptures, the outer layer is handwoven using recycled garments and within, the space is filled with oyster mushroom mycelium. Over the course of several months, the mycelium gradually digests the sculpture.

Stearns’ work is featured alongside Opazo’s in the show, on view in public for the first time after 30 years in hiding.

Stearns’ new figurative paintings explore floating shapes, geometry and rural California living in surrealist tropes. The Vista artist’s body of work spans four decades and merges autobiography, fantasy, and whimsy with sardonic and spiritual humor, imagery and themes.

“Bread and Chocolate” runs though Aug. 1 at the gallery, 349 N. Highway 101 in Solana Beach. Visit