Accidental animal painters
Colorful pop art raises money for rescues
The collaborative and solo works of Anastasia Nelson and Phil Dynan currently on exhibit at the Chico Art Center gallery deliver a delightful mixture of whimsical imagination and exquisite craftsmanship, and enough of each to keep viewers engaged in exploring the details of the huge selection of images.
Lovers of color, imagination and humor (and, yes, I mean kids and kids-at-heart) will get a kick out of the many depictions of domestic and farm animals bedecked in human costumes and/or portrayed in delicately rendered psychedelic detail in the duo’s Furlandia show. Likewise, serious-minded students of fine art will find plenty to appreciate in the composition and rendering of the pieces.
Making this exhibit especially unique is the first public exhibition of their latest 3-D, reverse-perspective painted sculptures, which they call “viewer interactive art.” In the spirit of no spoilers, I will not reveal the mechanics of how these amazing pieces are put together in their Corning-based New Perspective Studio, but instead will quote Dynan’s description: “The art has motion and also morphs as the viewer changes positions, and the more the viewer gets into the art, the more they appear to be dancing. They want to figure out how it is done. They will twist sideways, jump up and down, walk back and forth and try to approach the art (which is a little disorienting). But it is impossible to understand the concept completely. It is a combination of geometry, math, science and a little bit of magic.”
Dynan’s solo pieces, such as his acrylic painting “Oaxacan Mountain Lion,” employ two-dimensional space and complex abstract compositions against flat color background to deliver expressive renditions of the subjects.
Collaborative works by the two artists—such as “Lil Snoz X,” which depicts a tall, derby-wearing figure reminiscent of the enigmatic men who populate many of surrealist Rene Magritte’s paintings, but with a comical cow’s face—are both funny and reflective of the pair’s other mission: creating art that supports their Accidental Animal Rescue Center. Nelson explains the background on the project in the exhibit’s online description: “People started dropping off animals at our art studio … about eleven years ago. At first it was just a few kittens, then goats, llamas, dogs, and, well, it just turned into a zoo.”
Particularly evocative of that effort is the collaborative “The Free Clinic,” which is, as the placard says, “Based on Haight Ashbury Free Clinic.” But in their rather Peter Max-like painting, it’s converted to a free clinic for animals, including some of the residents of their shelter.
Of the more serious collaborative works I was particularly struck by was the portrait “Ronin, a Pig’s Best Friend,” a full face of a happy looking dog with liquid eyes and a smiling visage rendered in what from a distance seems done in realistic tones, but when examined up close reveals exquisitely fine brush work of nearly iridescent colors on his snout and throat. In the same style, “I’m Listening” portrays a sheep whose lush folds of wool are detailed in tiny stokes of prismatic color.
A personal favorite was Nelson’s self-portrait showing the artist working “in her natural habitat, surrounded by paints, plants and flowers.” The brush work is reminiscent of Vincent van Gogh’s, and the luxuriant colors and textures of the paint exude a deep respect for and love of the craft of painting.
Go for the fun, of which there is plenty, and possibly even a touch of contemplation.