Counting the votes
More than just the winners make an impression in juried exhibition
Chico Art Center gallery director Jon Cummins spoke recently of fashioning “a more avant-garde, less traditional and conservative” image for the gallery. Cummins touted CAC’s new juried show, Me, Myself and Eye, which focuses on how various artists perceive and represent the “self,” as helping to craft this new image.
He mentioned Chicoan George Koszis’ giant skeleton made from all recycled metal, and Nevada artist Anthony Alston’s peculiar exhibit containing the artist’s own beard and a Polaroid camera with which viewers may photograph themselves wearing it (and add the photos to the collection of the same such photos that are part of the traveling exhibit).
Cool. It sounded interesting.
The opening night’s reception brought out a good number of people, who milled about snacking on hors d’oeuvres and checked out the 37 winning art pieces submitted by 30 artists from California, Nevada, Washington, Utah, Illinois, Ohio, New York and Florida.
There were paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, photo collages, the beard-and-camera piece—"all visual media … except film, video, installation and performance,” as the rules stated in the competition’s prospectus.
Sculptor and Shasta College art teacher David Gentry was the juror, the man responsible for scrutinizing and whittling down the original 130 entries.
“David was not informed of names. He didn’t know if he was picking the same artist or not,” explained Cummins, adding that as is typical with a juried show, the actual pieces are not judged, but are represented by slides, photographs and digital images. “Honestly, about 10 percent of the artwork is not accurately represented.”
It is possible, then, that some of the more naïve-looking pieces—like Redding resident Naomi Rose’s colored-pencil drawing, with its unerased graphite pencil lines showing awkwardly through, which won one of four $200 Awards of Honor, and Chico artist Kris Evins’ mixed-media “iCandy” piece featuring a large eye with a red M&M iris—made it through the weeding-out process because a good image misrepresented the actual piece.
Chico artist Taylor Lambert’s striking acrylic self-portrait, however, won no award; neither did either of Fresno resident Paulina Swietliczko’s two starkly pleasing oil paintings hanging opposite one another. But, thankfully, Illinois artist Aunia Kahn’s “Blue Sewer"—a somewhat disturbing but beautiful mixed-media piece—did get an Award of Honor, as did New Yorker Leo Theinert’s noteworthy black-and-white photograph of a man sitting next to a Buddha statue. And Koszis’ towering “Analog Man"—unmissable in the center of the room—took Best of Show, garnering him a nice $700 cash prize.
The real avant-garde art, however, hung just outside the doors of the CAC, within the cozy, funky confines of the new Empire Coffee café, housed in the old train car parked directly in front of the CAC gallery door.
Local artist (and self-professed lover of nature) Matt Barber’s elongated pieces made from paint, ink and resin on transparent paper glued to wooden boards stole the show. A mother and baby elephant, a great white shark, ladybugs, and playful hummingbirds were some of the animals and insects that appeared on the colorful, high-gloss, skateboard-like pieces.
In Barber’s artist’s statement, he talks of how he takes weeks to both throw and blast paint (from punctured spray cans) onto a piece of paper, creating a “landscape,” which then dictates to Barber which creatures should be painted into that landscape.
His black-and-white piece of a wolf painted onto what turned out to look like a snowy background was particularly lovely, as was his piece featuring graceful white cranes with touches of red on a mostly black background.
Barber also had a few smaller “cityscape” pieces hidden at the back of the coffee house, near the register. They are particularly interesting for their industrial—or post-industrial—vibe, especially the one containing silhouettes of city buildings juxtaposed with quirky little birds of a different scale. Partially obscured words seemed to spell out “social contagious disease” and “all the pretty pretty songs.”
As one customer wrote in one of the café journals: “The post-industrial revolution has started, in small ‘obscure’ places like this, attracting ‘obscure’ ideas and people that will hopefully fuel the next phase that is under way ….”
Barber sold several of his pieces, and the exhibit has since come down. Look for more of his work around town soon, and go to: www.crazierparasite.com/ for some samples.