Put on your art shoes

An interactive day at Chico State galleries

“The Fortune Teller (I Hear You),” by Jean Gallagher.

“The Fortune Teller (I Hear You),” by Jean Gallagher.

Photo by Jason Cassidy

Idea/Material/Process shows through March 30. Reception tonight, March 14, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Jackie Headley University Art Gallery
Arts & Humanities Building
Chico State

Altar States shows through May 17.
Valene L. Smith Museum of Anthropology
Chico State

What do your soles collect? Is there a lost masterpiece underfoot? Would a mile in your shoes look any different than a mile in mine, and would the grit and grime constitute art?

Trevor Lalaguna’s contribution to the art faculty group exhibit on display in Chico State’s University Art Gallery raises many fun questions, and it was among several engaging works I encountered during a recent impromptu art walk to galleries and studios around campus last Thursday (March 7).

The faculty show is called Idea/Material/Process, and Lalaguna’s interactive installation, “Sole Collection: A Day in My Shoes,” illustrates those themes well. It takes up the entire back wall of the Masters of Fine Arts Gallery—the adjoining space with overflow from the show—and is composed of 30 pairs of soft fabric shoes with white soles. The shoes are hung, sole out, in a grid from floor to ceiling. The accompanying literature instructs visitors to check out a pair of shoes from the gallery attendant, wear them around for 48 hours (the oversized boots are big enough to fit over a pair of regular shoes), and bring them back to be placed on the wall to “display what your sole collected.”

I wasn’t hopeful for any revelations when I returned four days later to see if there were any dirty shoes on the wall, but I must admit, it was pretty cool. Nine pairs had been returned, and the transformations of the sole canvases ranged from the subtle to the dramatic. I’ll spare you descriptions of dirt, other than to say that, according to the attendant, the pair that appeared to have been worn hard by a tippy-toer was actually worn by a horse!

This is just one of the works in what is a refreshingly varied exhibit (with a reception tonight, March 14, 5:30-7:30 p.m.). There are a few more interactive pieces: Josh Funk’s looping videos “Breaking News” and “Display,” the latter of which paints a very David Lynchian scene in a trippy yellow apartment; Sheri Simons’ “How Mr. Aspen Spoke to His Floor,” a wood sculpture with a push broom at the bottom and speakers all over; and Joshua Olivera’s “The Chirping of Lot 49,” a playful cicada interactive (reminiscent of a similar 2006 1078 Gallery performance/installation by the notorious Cricket Menace).

Of course, some of the works just hang there looking impressive and beautiful, including Nancy J. Meyer’s wild, colorful and detailed acrylic/mixed-media trip down the rabbit hole “At Capitol State Park,” and Jean Gallagher’s striking large portrait (5-by-4 feet), “The Fortune Teller (I Hear You),” of a young girl and her mischievous (sinister? sad?) expression.

My campus art walk also included touring the one-day BFA and MFA Open Studios event (see Arts DEVO this week for more) and a stop at the Valene L. Smith Museum of Anthropology for the just-opened Altar States: Spirit Worlds and Transformational Experiences exhibit.

The latter features the works of Peter Treagan and, according to the artist statement, is a byproduct of his ethnographic field research at transformational festivals (think Burning Man) across the Americas. Treagan explains that he’s drawn upon themes of “cross-pollination, symbolism, and transformation to explore inner landscapes and otherworldly vistas,” which is manifested using high-tech tools (laser cutter, 3-D printer, CNC router, etc.) to carve out a wide range of tribal, spiritual and environmental imagery.

Perhaps the most engaging aspect of the exhibit is the fact that it’s both 3-D and glows in the dark. When the lights are out and the 3-D glasses are on, the layers in the displays of tiger heads, rattleshakers, the “Rainbow Warrior” and the glowing “Tree of Lightening” come to life. Combined with the accompanying soundscape, the scene is definitely immersive, and ripe for those seeking a visionary experience.