Arts Devo

Remembering a Camp Fire/World War II refugee

“Mother’s Journey” (detail)

“Mother’s Journey” (detail)

The Last Refugee One of the sweetest perks of Arts DEVO’s job at the Chico News & Review is getting to curate the Keep Chico Weird Art Show. Sometimes the art is mildly weird (that dog has a silly hat on!) and sometimes it’s mildly traumatic (the less said about the “Bathroom Cauldron,” the better).

But many of the works are actually touching. Tanya Strishak has submitted art to nearly every KCW Art Show, and her entry for this year’s exhibit (March 19-22, at 1078 Gallery; reception March 19, 6-9 p.m.) is a moving tribute to her mother, Renate Netch. The Camp Fire destroyed the Paradise homes of Strishak and her mom, and her “Mother’s Journey” is a collaged triptych made from found objects as well as remnants of the fire, and it traces a long life lived on the front lines of history. Strishak’s accompanying statement:

I am a first generation American.

My mother was born in the USSR, and lost her father in Stalin’s prisons.

Flier by Aye Jay

As a child, she escaped with her mother and brother through the German lines as the army advanced through Russia during WWII. They walked through Germany, ragged and hungry, until they ended up in a German “transition” camp where my mother and father met.

They survived until the American Occupation and escaped repatriation because my mother and grandmother spoke six languages and my uncle spoke four. They were useful to the Americans who used them as dispatchers, drivers and gophers. After seven years, my mother found a sponsor in the U.S. and emigrated by ship to New York where she worked as a nanny. She was then able to find work and sponsors for the family as well as my father’s family and they all lived together for awhile.

My mother painted, played chess, traveled extensively and lived most of her life on Long Island, New York.

Eventually she moved to Paradise and bought a house there. Her grandson saved her from the fire as she was 91 and unable to drive. She evacuated with all of us, but the fire affected her to the point where where she never recovered her health. She died on February 6, 2020, peacefully and quietly at our home, surrounded by her family.

She was the last thread connecting me to Paradise and to Russia, the last refugee.

Cute band alert! Normally, news that RedRumsey—the current project of the badass Vern Rumsey, bassist for the legendary Olympia noisemakers Unwound—is coming to Duffy’s Tavern on April 9 would be, well, that’d be the news. But on that same bill is Kid Cops, a band you’ve probably never heard of, but whose existence means that one of Chico’s greatest acts is no more. After 20 years, as of right now, the Americas are done. The only solace to take from losing the post-punk duo is the fact that drummer Casey Deitz and guitarist/singer Travis Wuerthner will continue exploring the far reaches of loopy, mathy, noisy rock dynamics in Kid Cops, and that like-minded soul Mathew Houghton (of Cat Depot, Team Skins, Black Magnet) is joining the fun on bass. I guess I’m OK with that. Carry on, dudes.

First gathering I just got word from District 1 congressional candidate Audrey Denney that a gathering for Albree Sexton and Mike Dolfini, both of whom died last week after a tornado struck Nashville, Tenn., will take place March 28, 5 p.m., at The Old Steeple (246 Berding St.) in Ferndale. All are welcome to attend. Also, a fundraising campaign for the couple’s families is now up on Search “Albree Sexton & Mike Dolfini.”