Public-art giant

Gregg Payne unveils new huge public sculpture.

Gregg Payne stands with his “Resonance” wind chimes, newly installed in Humboldt Park.

Gregg Payne stands with his “Resonance” wind chimes, newly installed in Humboldt Park.


Listen to the chimes:

Humboldt Neighborhood Park

Willow St. And Humboldt Ave.
Chico, CA 95928

Gregg Payne is pretty much synonymous with local art.

The tall, engaging man with the signature red braid and vintage turquoise-and-white pick-up truck has done countless logos in the 25 years he’s been an artist in Chico—for everything from Sin of Cortez and Big Chico Burger, to KZFR, The Plant Barn, The Pageant Theatre and Chico’s Artoberfest. He’s also done about as many murals: The Beatles walking along “Abbey Road” on the side of what was formerly Main Street Music? Payne’s. The lovely Wakefield & Sons Glass “window mural” on Humboldt Avenue? Also Payne’s. He is also responsible for some beautiful, public aerosol-art projects, such as the butterfly murals—part of the “99 Dreams Project”—underneath the Ceres Avenue bike bridge that he worked on in conjunction with talented local graffiti artists.

Payne also features largely in the local public-art realm as a sculptor as well as a painter. His giant public xylophone at Wildwood Park, for one, is a visual and sonic delight for kids of all ages. And now he weighs in with his massive “Resonance,” aka the city of Chico-sponsored Tetrahedron Wind Chimes Project, that is to be officially unveiled at a reception tonight (July 1), in Humboldt Park (on Humboldt Avenue in Chapmantown). The impressive sculpture features six chime pipes ranging in length from 6 to 9 feet, tuned to a D-major pentatonic scale, suspended from a gigantic metal tetrahedron reaching 32 feet to the sky.

The actual chimes, built in 2003, “used to hang in the yard of a friend’s metal shop on Palm Avenue [for about 5 years],” Payne explained over coffee on the patio of Has Beans Creekside, just up the road from Humboldt Park. “They got very tested—nonstop people were coming by and testing them and taking pictures of them. Kids would come by. Musicians would sample them with their microphones. Retirement-home buses stopped by. People could just stand right next to them and touch them—you could ring ’em and feel your teeth rattle.”

The new, city-approved version “are not as hands-on,” said Payne. Due to liability issues, the chimes hang high up off the ground, and their sound had to be dampened somewhat as well by “wrapping a new, thicker leather band around the big, river stone [striker] that hits the pipes” when the wind blows.

The striker now “cancels out the overtones that you would normally hear,” said Payne, so that the chimes’ sound is “less than surrounding ambient road noise.”

Regardless, the chimes possess what Payne—who plays the dulcimer, and who has been making wind chimes of all scales and sizes for the past 10 years—calls a “mellifluous sound quality.”

And Payne marvels over the “mathematical beauty of the structure” from which the chimes hang. A lover since childhood of math and science (which he credits to his grandparents exposing him to the ideas of innovative architect Buckminster Fuller), Payne described the tetrahedron—a pyramid made with four triangular faces (including the base)—as “the most structurally sound form in nature. It’s a Platonic solid, along with spheres, cubes, dodecahedrons. But really, [the tetrahedron is] something you hardly ever see in a structure.”

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“A lot of different disciplines” came together—visual and sonic art, as well as math and science—to create the tetrahedron chimes, said Payne.

“‘What is art?’ has always been this controversy,” offered Payne. “I think it’s gonna cycle back into the more classic, Renaissance-y—where math, science and art, and music and geometry and alchemy were all the same thing.”