Canvas of life

From watercolors to burlesque, Eva Blanshei is giving every art a try

Curious about art: Eva Blanshei.

Curious about art: Eva Blanshei.

Photo By melanie mactavish

Art worker
Mitosis, inks and watercolors by Eva Blanshei, shows through Aug. 30, at Empire Coffee (434 Orange St.).
Everyone in Outer Space Wants to go to Japan, a burlesque show, Sunday, Aug. 18, 7 p.m., at Chico Women’s Club (592 E. Third St.). Tickets: $10 (proceeds to benefit Cal Fire).

Eva Blanshei is not an artist. Never mind that she currently has a show hanging at Empire Coffee and is orchestrating a burlesque night that will feature dancers, actors and live music.

The 22-year-old Blanshei feels that she’s not living if she’s not growing, changing and creating. She isn’t trained in any particular discipline, but she doesn’t let that stop her from singing, acting, directing and dancing … or drawing and painting the works of art now showing at Empire.

“It’s ink and watercolor, and it’s called Mitosis,” Blanshei said. “There’s a lot of circles attached to other circles, which looks like mitosis [the splitting of cells]. It’s like moving on, even when you’re not ready to. It’s just what you do—you keep going.”

Blanshei grew up in Chico, and after high school moved around the country, stopping in Berkeley and Brooklyn, N.Y., along the way. She’s back in town now, working as a waitress and figuring out ways to satisfy her creative impulses. She said that she first started drawing when she was in third grade, but she’s never taken lessons. (She describes herself as a better dancer, singer and actress than painter.)

When Blanshei is describing her art, the interaction can be jarringly intimate. “I draw the corpses of women a lot,” she said. “Each corpse represents a woman that I’ve tried to be, and then I’m always embarrassed afterward by the woman I’ve tried to be, so I kill her and stick her in my freezer. I have a library of characters that I’ve tried to be. The corpses represent me growing in and out of my insecurities,” she said.

Blanshei has a self-portrait included in the Empire show: “It’s a woman, or myself, and she’s standing on a road [that] goes off into the distance, and at the end of the road is a monster. It’s about interpersonal fear. In my life right now, I’m pretty scared of a lot of things, so I get to get super vulnerable in front of Chico.”

Vulnerability seems to be a theme for Blanshei, one that’s at the heart of her burlesque-show project as well. “It’s going to be so wild!” she said. She is producing, directing and performing in the show, which is titled Everyone in Outer Space Wants to go to Japan (happening Aug. 18 at the Chico Women’s Club). “It’s my imagination coming alive. I want the characters in my show to [become] more vulnerable and [show] the audience what wonderful, amazing women they are in the end.”

Blanshei explained the production as a love story told in Japanese folk-style. The tale’s main character is the moon, and there will be parallels to Homer’s Odyssey to be found, she said, for those who are paying attention.

She came up with the idea for the show during an argument. “I was fighting with someone, and sometimes when I fight with people, I start to disassociate from the situation, and start daydreaming about other things,” Blanshei said. “And while I was fighting with him, I wasn’t paying attention to him anymore, because he was so uninteresting, and I came up with this idea in my head.” She said she had been thinking and wishing that someone else would throw a burlesque show in Chico, when suddenly she realized, “Oh, I’m totally capable. Why don’t I do it?”

Blanshei is currently working with local jazz/prog band Bogg, artist/writer Jason “Goat” Rankin, and approximately 10 actresses/dancers in preparation. While she created the characters and the story, she has given them over to Goat to flesh out with dialogue.

Other than a few bit parts in plays and amateur films, Blanshei doesn’t have much performance experience, but she is nonetheless energetic and not too nervous about putting herself out there.

She said that when she gets on stage, she feels like a totally different person, which is exactly what she’s going for: “That’s when I know I’ve done my job as an artist, when people don’t recognize me anymore. The best thing you could ever hear as an artist is that someone just forgot about everything else around them while you were performing. [I want] to make a room full of people forget where they are because my art has captivated them.”