On the river and on the road

Sculpture and photography share space at 1078’s two-artist show

ART NERD Jennifer Woodin has a degree in Engineering, and she knows what the piece she’s posing with, “Tripletts,” at the 1078 Gallery is, even if you don’t.<p></p>

ART NERD Jennifer Woodin has a degree in Engineering, and she knows what the piece she’s posing with, “Tripletts,” at the 1078 Gallery is, even if you don’t.

Photo By Tom Angel

“This is going to sound really nerdy,” says artist Jennifer Woodin. She is about to explain the meaning behind “4-DC,” the title of one of her ceramic creations now on display at 1078 Gallery until June 26. “It’s the temperature at which water is most dense,” she says. (That’s 4 degrees Celsius, for those who still don’t get it.)

Woodin knows about these things. She graduated with an engineering degree from Chico State University in 1995 and went on to work as an engineer for the city of Chico designing plans for public works projects such as roads, bridges and storm drains. Thus, her art gravitates toward industrial themes, like “4-DC,” which depicts two water storage tanks snuggled up against one another, full to bursting. Glazed in turquoise and earthen tones, they are likely the most gorgeous water storage tanks you’ll ever lay eyes on.

And that’s Woodin’s point. “I am trying to use colors that attract us and make us look at stuff we wouldn’t ordinarily recognize,” she says. Stuff like storage tanks, grain silos and all manner of water metering equipment, which industry “grays out” and the public largely ignores.

Why does she want us to take notice? “We need to monitor our natural resources,” Woodin explains. “Water is the most important resource we have, more important than oil. This is true worldwide.” To draw people’s attention to water issues, Woodin embarked on a series of colorful new pieces dedicated to water metering. Some of the implements and devices may not be immediately recognizable to the non-engineer, but their colors, textures, shapes and artistry are nonetheless captivating, such as “Bi-meter,” a piece of metering equipment in brown and deep royal blue, and “Meter C,” a petite apparatus in chartreuse and lime green.

Similarly, Woodin has created “Site Work 0.9,” a dome-shaped cornmeal-colored structure that resembles the top of a grain silo. The large dome is surrounded by several miniature silos. Woodin won’t commit to what the structure is, exactly. She’d rather let its ambiguity serve as a reminder of all the taken-for-granted industrial structures that dot the landscape and serve our needs but are never really comprehended. “We all need what comes from them,” she says, “but we just pass them by.”

Woodin is sharing the exhibit with artist Lauren Asta, a 2004 Chico State graduate who is bound for Florida, then New York City to pursue a career in art. Using both conventional and digital photography, Asta gravitates toward themes of journeying to the urban centers she longs for. “I am interested in how certain specific vehicles can get you to a destination where you thrive, you live, you experience,” she says.

Her piece “Lions and Tigers and Bears” demonstrates that perfectly. A pink, 1960s-era station wagon transports a smiling blonde toward a distant cityscape. Asta likes to incorporate hand stitching into her works, and in this instance the woman’s vision of her new destination takes the form of a stitched double “sight line” that swirls toward her destiny.

Cities are also evoked in “Rigor Vigor,” a collage evocative of her native San Francisco but also mixed with snapshots from other cities. Anyone who has ever lived in a metropolis can relate: “You’ll need rigor and vigor to come here,” the text reads, “next exit.”

But the work "Florida First" perhaps best captures the artist’s own direction. A photograph of a woman who looks like Asta is superimposed on a Florida map. She is seated with her suitcase by her side. On her lap is a briefcase upon which one word is stitched in pink letters: "Ready," is all it says.