Arts DEVOté

Emperor Qin’s posse.

Emperor Qin’s posse.

Older than Jesus
Arts DEVOté recently returned from an O.C. getaway with the in-laws, and even though the chill Laguna surf, chill old downtown Orange, and the chill free breakfasts at Embassy Suites were just the sort easy-breathing that his smoke-choked lungs were in need of, it was a brief trip into olden times that is most noteworthy for this column.

At the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, A.D. visited the touring exhibition of China’s terra cotta warriors and experienced the thrill of standing a few feet away from something that was made by humans 2,218 years ago. The museum is hosting a few dozen of the terra cotta protectors that China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, had buried with him upon his death in 210 B.C.

In 1974, a Chinese farmer found a terra cotta head in a well he was digging, and excavation has since uncovered an estimated 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses that were buried with the emperor.

If you can’t make it to SoCal for the show, you can actually experience the warriors in action in Chico, as they come to life to fight Brendan Fraser in … The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. So, you’ve got that going for you.

Busy in the sticks.

Way out of bounds
If you take Oroville Quincy Highway north, past big Lake Oroville, and even past little Lake Madrone, there comes a point in the forest where electricity stops. Out there, on the outskirts of the community of Berry Creek, is where painter Bill Abel lives in the solar-powered home he built on the side of a densely wooded hill. Last week, when A.D. was organizing his story on Chico’s “outsider” artists, he was faced with the crummy task of cutting the stories of some of the interesting people he met during his quest. And the artist that A.D. is most bummed about not including is Abel, so he’s going to take a brief moment in this space to introduce the self-taught, surrealist painter.

The interview took place just as the recent complex of fires was devouring homes to the north and east of his, and despite the smoky, ashy climate, Bill and his wife, Wendy, welcomed A.D. into his newly built studio on the lower end of his property. There wasn’t much art to take in—only a surreal piece featuring the Pope, a hot rod and a dinosaur skeleton (see picture), and a couple of life-sized canvases featuring semi-abstract, meticulously patterned, female forms. Unlike every other outsider artist interviewed for the story, Abel is actually selling his art, so there were another 40-or-so pieces residing across the country in a gallery in St. Petersburg, Fla.

After decades plugging away at carpentry and sign-painting to make ends meet, while having little luck selling or showing his work locally, a wealthy admirer of Abel’s paintings started representing him and found an audience for the artist’s surrealist pieces in St. Petersburg, which is home to the Salvador Dalí Museum. “I believe that life is surreal,” says Abel. “Now that I live my life this way [things are] much easier.”

Bi-weekly DEVOtions

• City arts meetings: Public Art Policy Committee, Thursdays, Aug. 7 and 14, 5 p.m.; Art Outreach and Education Committee, Tuesday, Aug. 12, 3:30 p.m.; Arts Commission, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 7 p.m. City Council Building, 421 Main St.

• Two-man show: Chico poet Bob Garner’s ink sketches, plus the masks and collage pieces of Rod Caudill. Through August at the Upper Crust Bakery.

Dance to This : A program of contemporary dance performances to live music by Bear Hunter and Mute Witness, plus Oakland all-girl MC trio Hottub and opening band Floss Anonymous. Saturday, Aug. 16, 8 p.m., at 1078 Gallery.