Artist Vera changes his palette from dark to light at Has Beans show
Things change fast.
Check out the south side of downtown Chico, and the level of change is shocking. The trees in Downtown Park are coming down, the face of the Senator has been stripped and is exposing its own history of change, and up the block the dirt of the corner lot has sprouted an impressive skeleton of steel beams in preparation for what amounts to a skyscraper in this part of the world.
In the center of all this is a small business that is buzzing along even with the jackhammers and chainsaws wrecking and building everything in the neighborhood. At 5:30 this morning, Has Beans Café welcomes a gradual stream of workmen and regulars, and also welcomes a new art show that features an artist who has change on his artistic agenda.
Daniel Vera is the artist. And, other than the paintings on the walls of the café and a black-and-white photo of himself on a pillar in the center of the room, he doesn’t offer much information about himself or what he’s up to. Thankfully, the manager of the café knows enough to let me in on the fact that this show is a departure from Vera’s usual work. He points out a painting in the center of the show and explains that the piece is indicative of the work Vera has done in the past.
This is an important nugget of information, because the large, frameless oil painting is so different from everything else in the room. Without knowing the history, it would seem out of place in the context of the rest of the show. Surreal, dark, and almost psychedelic, the painting of a sad and serious looking bohemian dragging an acoustic guitar behind him is situated right in the center of the exhibit, suggesting that Vera has put it out as an example of where he was before, in contrast to where he’s at now.
Now, he’s in a much lighter place. Replacing the dark, thick and heavy oils with comparatively light watercolors, Vera’s new show is beautiful. The darkness is still there, but it’s a darkness of mood rather than medium. The eyes are definitely where it’s at for Vera. And in his show, made up primarily of portraits of women, he presents a handful of different styles, all with inescapable stares—all to wonderful effect.
Mixing sketchbook-style pen renderings with loose washes of watercolor on six or so of the pieces, he creates very expressive portraits. A portrait of a shadowy guitarist and one of a devil-horned male face are pretty abstract. But the other four (all of females) are less so and more immediately intense in their representation of these serious women. All of the paintings engage through the eyes, but the eeriest of them has eyes that are nearly closed, with careful washes of green smearing the eyes and lips.
Vera also tries on a Surreal/Cubist style in thickly outlined sections of rearranged women’s faces that are cool looking. But his most accomplished (and my favorite) pieces are four fantasy-like monochrome watercolors of females and flowers floating in backgrounds of color. Each features a different color (yellow, pink, red, and green) surrounding a white female cut out of the surrounding color. The most beautiful is the pink one, where the woman’s arm is sweeping through the color, leaving a tumbling trail of roses in its wake.