Fresh-faced art

Two young artists debut at Grilla Bites

IN THE FOREGROUND <br>Painter Haley O. Becker poses in front of her untitled acrylic painting of cala lilies at the reception for her exhibition of recent paintings at Grilla Bites in downtown Chico.

Painter Haley O. Becker poses in front of her untitled acrylic painting of cala lilies at the reception for her exhibition of recent paintings at Grilla Bites in downtown Chico.

Photo By Tom Angel

On a straw-yellow plain beneath a straw-yellow sky streaked with wispy blue clouds, a tiny homestead and a few smudgy trees hover in the distance beside a sketchy line of fence that recedes toward a horizon of distant desert bluffs.

Haley O. Becker’s acrylic painting, “After a Rainbow,” evokes both the peaceful solitude of the prairie and the lonely struggle of the pioneer.

The tiny intrusions of figurative, human-related elements into the abstract vastness of its yellow sky/desert background hint that the artist is on the verge of delving into the completely abstract, and her artist’s statement regarding the use of color to evoke or create an emotional response makes that hint overt.

Becker’s paintings do not represent a particular or consistent style, but they do display a consistent fascination with color usage and composition. “Obsession of a Muse,” when viewed from across the room appears as a deep, royal blue abstraction accented with a spot of yellow and a drizzle of small white shapes that could be a group of fish struck by light in a deep-sea chasm. But when viewed close up the figure of a person forms in the deepest blue interior of the painting and the yellow and white accents become the heart and petals of a daisy that the figure is clutching and picking apart. You’ll love it or you’ll love it not.

For me the most striking of Becker’s pieces was the composition in shades of purple titled “Distorted Ballerina.” At first look—and before reading the title card—the piece appeared to be an assemblage of abstract shapes evocative of castle walls and trees, pleasantly fairytale-like. Then I noticed that what I’d interpreted as the branches and roots were the gnarled fingers and twisted leg of a human figure whose face was masked in abstraction surrounded by cascades of flowing hair. One can only imagine the torments of a little girl who would rather become lost in her paints than engage in the formalized impostures of dancing lessons.

Caroline Oster, the other artist in this show, displays a small selection of nicely rendered pencil drawings. Dominating is a large geometrical turtle drawn in shades of green and deep blue on a black background and highlighted with accents of scarlet and sienna.

Reminiscent of Australian aboriginal designs, the piece is potent with implied symbolism and gorgeously decorative in design.

The smaller drawings also reward close scrutiny. A waterfowl sits on a rock in front of a body of water backed by a black stone bridge shrouded in lush green foliage; a closer look at the water reveals a flame like reflection of the fowl’s inner phoenix. In another, a flower carefully drawn in gray pencil is surrounded by a swirling, semi-abstract landscape that explores the spectrum from violet-blue to orange-yellow.

Tied with the turtle for my favorite piece was a small, very realistically rendered drawing of a tennis shoe from which is being poured a mountain of sand as sand dunes recede in the background.

While perhaps not the most polished of presentations, this small show of artistry on the walls of Grilla Bites is a great place to examine the work of two young artists whose talent exceeds their sophistication.

Unobtrusively providing an air of genuine and unpretentious sophistication to the reception for the show was the jazz duo of string bassist Christine LaPado and saxophonist Mark Bloom. Their semi-abstract interweaving of rhythm and melody provided a perfect complement to the visual art. The subtle interaction of musical and visual stimuli created an ambiance conducive to the experiencing of newly created visions.