‘Next stop … Jtown’

Janice Porter invites friends and family to build a town out of art inside 1078 Gallery

Janice Porter with one of her painted Jtown backdrops.

Janice Porter with one of her painted Jtown backdrops.

Photo By matt siracusa

1078 Gallery

820 Broadway St.
Chico, CA 95928

(530) 343-1973

For this year’s Artoberfest celebration, Chico artist Janice Porter is inviting us to step into another dimension: a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. Next stop … Jtown.

“Jtown is meant to be an alternate universe,” Porter says of the installation that will occupy 1078 Gallery for the second half of October. “Physically, it’s being created via backdrops I’m painting and drawing, and via eight three-dimensional structures guest artists are making.”

Porter says that, by merely stepping through the door, visitors will understand they aren’t in Chico anymore: “We’ll set up the flavor of a town or neighborhood that may have some familiar aspects, and will definitely have a lot of strange aspects to it. Some of the buildings are reminiscent of things you might see—a shed, a trailer, maybe something vaguely similar to a phone booth—but they’re quirky as all get out.

“They’re unique art objects themselves. Some are meant to be entered, some are kind of voyeur; you can only look in.”

Porter is aware that buildings and backdrops alone do not make a place, but people and happenings are necessary to inject a soul into the body. For this reason, Jtown will host a number of special events, from underwear yoga to heavy metal shows and even an ancient ritual or two. Most of the performers are friends of Porter’s, or her family: a “Men On Love” night (Oct. 24) will be hosted by her husband (and CN&R columnist), Anthony Peyton Porter, and her 17-year-old son, Ade, plays in the band Forms and put together the rock show (Oct. 23).

“The conceptual aspect is part of the artwork, not just the physical scenery and the buildings,” she says. “In my conception, Jtown is what we’re going to be making of it every moment, and we’ll know the next moment what it will be. We want to get people to come to the gallery frequently and breathe life into the thing. Those times will create Jtown.”

Porter says the concept has been brewing in her mind for more than a year, and is in part a reaction to the way things are traditionally run: “Common visual art exhibits have one reception date, an opening or closing, where we ask folks to come out and see the work and party for a bit, and that’s it,” she says. “For me it’s historically been a real emotional letdown when weighed against the months that have gone into the preparation. I’m bringing it more into the arena that musicians and actors have always enjoyed, of a live audience participating in the art.”

Jtown’s inaugural event is a birthday spectacular on Oct. 16, and will start with an hour’s worth of performances (skits, music) attended by the town’s characters followed by a potluck party.

All of the events build up to Jtown’s final night, Halloween, featuring live music by Dr. Yes! and the Soulgazers, a DJ, costume promenade, a Day of the Dead altar and a special rite to celebrate the life and death of Jtown.

“We will have a short ritual that pulls in parts from Samhain and Day of the Dead, supported by a drum circle,” Porter says.

The rite seems only fitting, as Porter’s mind has been on life and death recently. She was diagnosed with breast cancer last April, and has chosen to forego standard medical treatment and treat the disease holistically.

“I’m not treating symptoms or trying to kill symptoms,” Porter says. “I’m using lots of tonics and supplements and foods as medicines that are nontoxic to me, but several are toxic to cancer cells, and they’re kicking its ass.”

Porter approaches her cancer with a great deal of candor, and friends from her native Minneapolis started a blog at www.welovejanice.org to help her raise money for treatment. The same friends who started the site are holding a benefit in Minneapolis Oct. 16, which is not only Jtown’s but Porter’s own birthday.

“It’s a wonderful convergence of events,” she says.

A quick perusal of Porter’s art site at www.janiceporterart.com, reveals that a deep sense of spirituality and symbolism permeates all of her work. Jtown is no exception.

“It’s rising out of the formless and going back into the formless in a very short time,” she says of Jtown’s spiritual foundation. “Its emphasis is on presence and joy and the richness of the moment. It does so visually in how I’ve set up the scenery. You’ll look over here and there’s fire, or here there’s water, or here there’s rock and over here there’s sky.

“I’m trying to remind us of that which stays, or at least those forms that appear to have really long lives like the elements. There’s a cosmic egg or two that appear throughout the imagery; who knows what’s inside? And at the dead center of the gallery on the north and south sides we have a day gate and a morning gate, which serve as metaphysical portals.

“We’ll see if anybody gets through them.”