Talking art

A preview of the Chico Art Center’s upcoming annual Open Studios Tour

THE BUSTLING SCENE (Left to right) Marion Harmon and Jeannie Trizzino check out a vase by local artist Pat Kiszis at the opening reception for the 13th Annual Open Studios Tour.

THE BUSTLING SCENE (Left to right) Marion Harmon and Jeannie Trizzino check out a vase by local artist Pat Kiszis at the opening reception for the 13th Annual Open Studios Tour.

Photo By Tom Angel

There is often more to an artwork than what you see. Art museums are well aware of this, so they frequently provide background information in the form of wall texts, exhibition guides and talks by art historians. Chico Art Center’s annual Open Studios Tour takes it one step further by providing opportunities for art lovers to visit artists’ studios and speak directly with artists about their work.

That the visual arts are thriving in Chico was well evidenced by the “sneak preview” and gala reception held last Friday evening at the Chico Art Center for artists participating in this year’s Open Studios Tour. From the moment the doors opened, the reception and exhibit were thronged with visitors. Representative works from each of the more than 80 artists participating in the upcoming tour were artfully displayed. Visitors had a chance to mingle with other viewers and talk to artists about their work.

A glance around revealed an astonishing diversity of work, from landscapes and still lifes, abstract paintings, wooden furniture, ceramics, glass, sculpture in a variety of materials, and even “audience participation” works like a coloring book by Chico artist Sisko, complete with a tray of crayons for visitors to use in coloring the artist’s whimsical line drawings.

Many visitors joined in by striking a brass bell made by John Nelson, entitled, “Play Freely,” which many did, creating a low sonorous “bong” that frequently punctuated conversations. Attendees also gave Titus Woods’ kinetic sculpture “Five Tall” a gentle push, which set the piece eerily moving in random, slow-motion patterns.

Chunghung Chang’s oil painting “Peaches I”

It is impossible not to use the old cliché that there was something for everyone in the show. David R. Scott’s large mixed-media painting, “Coltrane,” depicted the late jazz great in electric hues framed by narrow, cage-like side wings in brilliant gold and red. The painting evoked the nighttime atmosphere of a jazz club and the searching hunger of a soloing sax.

Chunghong Chang’s oil painting “Peaches I” juxtaposed two colorfully playful, chubby Chinese dancers and a masterfully executed still life of ripe peaches inset deeply into the center of the painting. Her painting-within-a-painting illustrates her dual interests in Chinese and European art. As she has explained, her art expresses her absorption in two very different cultures.

Marvey Mueller also discussed the impetus behind her small watercolor, “Cassis, France.” She spent part of last summer in the small town of that name, where she executed 50 watercolors on site. “I work very quickly, each painting taking only 20 or 30 minutes. I don’t rework but strive to capture the feeling of the moment.” In this approach her method is brief, intense concentration, a kind of painted meditation.

Hearing about artists’ working methods is one of the chief fascinations of art. As talking with artists often reveals, the work of art is not only the artwork, it is also the emotional and perceptual processes artists experience while working. Viewers seldom get a glimpse into art’s inner workings, but the Chico Art Center’s Open Studios Tour provides the curious a chance to visit studios to watch artists work and to talk with them about their art.

The Thirteenth Annual Open Studios Tour will be held on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 2 and 3, with a “bonus weekend” with most artists participating on Nov. 9 and 10. Admission to the tour and colorful tour guides can be purchased for $10 at the Chico Art Center, Chico Chamber of Commerce, and Fir Street Gallery and Gifts in Paradise. Participants can catch the shuttle from Chico Art Center on Saturday and Sunday starting at 10 a.m.

For more information or a look at representative works by artists who will be participating, drop by the Chico Art Center at 450 Orange Street or call 895-8726.