Sum of the arts
An eclectic, cohesive group exhibit at Chico Art Center
Upon entering the gallery for Chico Art Center’s beautifully staged National All Media Juried Exhibition, one is treated to the dual vision of Roseville-based painter Marjorie Darrow: “Free Form Blue” and “Red, White, and Blue.” The surreal oil paintings convey a sense of tranquil adventure, resonating with echoes of Yves Tanguy’s enigmatic biomorphic shapes and Dali’s quantum mechanics period, and generating an impression of whimsy.
It’s a great introductory statement for a pleasingly eclectic edition of the gallery’s annual all-media group show. The selections of guest juror Tony Natsoulas and the skillful staging of gallery director Cameron Kelly make for a harmonious feast for the eyes.
A bit farther in is Chico sculptor Nadia Kosheleff-Browne’s equally surreal “Oh My,” composed of paper clay, acrylic, oil pastels, colored pencils and beads. Standing ballerina-like on three tippy-toes, the piece appears to be gasping in wonder at the surrounding art, such as Chico photographer Gary Wagner’s “Morning Seas.” His is a dramatic, multitextured black-and-white study of a coastal seascape, complete with Gothic wave-battered rocks surmounted by a lone tree under an ominous cloud-filled sky.
On a neighboring wall is “Woman Laughing at Salad,” by Nancy Roy-Meyer of Oroville. Her large wall-hanging is suspended from a sign embossed with the word “Belle” in gold paint. The acrylic painting’s fancifully grotesque scene features an ornate dining room dominated by a large female figure in sparkling negligé and thigh-high fishnet stockings, and the applique of glitter and sequins add lustre and dimension to the bizarre imagery.
Less bizarre, but equally striking, Simone Senat’s “Let’s Go! Valparaíso” and “Pan Flute Dance Landscape” both use acrylic and mixed media on canvas to explore the boundaries of abstract and representational art. In “Let’s Go! Valparaíso,” the colorful, multistoried houses of the Chilean city of the title are rendered in a playful composition that suggests rather than depicts complexities of the scene, while “Pan Flute” uses an abstract composition and a palette of rich earth tones ranging from blackened bronze to deep copper to soft gold to convey the tonalities of the title instrument.
Balancing and complementing the oddness of the surreal and abstract pieces, Magalia artist Kathleen Presentati’s “Serengeti Stripes” uses batik on masa paper to illustrate a group of relaxed but vigilant zebras standing in dry grass against a mottled blue sky. And dominating the wall adjacent to the watchful zebra, Michelle Murtaugh’s striking oil painting “Liberty Unraveling” shows a realistic, life-size female form wrapped in diaphanous blue fabric. The figure is shown only from the bridge of the nose to the bottom of the kneecaps, and except for the portions covered in cloth, the artist has matted stripes of unpainted canvas through the figure, creating an effect that is rather chilling in its ambiguity.
In contrast, the simultaneously cartoonish and nightmarish “Untitled,” by Brett Melliar of Orangevale, combines motifs of an angry robot head, a conveyer belt of plumber’s helpers, collapsing buildings, laboratory gear and bird shapes to convey a sense of existential but somehow comic dread in rough and ready brushstrokes.
For those who enjoy the decorative grace of figure and craftsmanship, Paradise artist Teal Buehler’s acrylic and pen “Riverine Rabbit” is a treat, giving the title figure a realistic portrait set on a fine-grained pointilistic background of green, blue, yellow and red dots that pop the rabbit’s image into nearly three-dimensional sharpness.
With many more pieces to explore and enjoy, the exhibition provides an exhilarating variety of styles, aesthetics and even philosophical perspectives presented by a diverse group of artists.