The MANAS menagerie
Open-submission showcase valuable for artists of all levels
Last Friday (July 19), in the foyer of the MANAS Artspace, a folk-art-like horned bovine of some sort—flames spilling from his nose—seemed to peer curiously from his canvas at the wondrous menagerie of creatures assembled around him.
On another wall, an acrylic representation of a raven-headed humanoid clutched onto a cross atop a steeple, surrounded by dark, billowing clouds lit by a full moon. In one corner stood a Styrofoam bird-man covered in newsprint, letters assembled ransom-note-style across an inverted funnel on his head spelling the word “elucidate,” next to a rack of earrings made from natural and unnatural materials representing feathers.
The range of work, styles and media at this and other recent MANAS exhibits is quite striking, largely due to the open-submission format the space has embraced. Based on no criteria other than a willingness to create and to pay a nominal entry fee to receive the pre-packaged prompt, artists of all levels are welcome to show their work.
MANAS’ latest open-submission show—on display until Aug. 23—is titled Birds of a Feather: Angels, Humans, Animals, Beasts. For a mere $5, entrants picked an old-school animal flash-card (like those some may remember from elementary-school science studies) and used it to prompt their artistic attempt. Or, they were welcome to toss the card out the window altogether and find their own inspiration from the exhibit’s theme. The folks at MANAS aren’t rigid sticklers; these rules exist only to help get the creative juices flowing.
The prompts for MANAS’ previous open-entry show were one old record and the fortune from a fortune cookie, which dozens of artists used in more ways than a person might have imagined. David “Dragonboy” Sutherland, head art freak among the space’s loose collection of art freaks, said he likes the format and plans to keep doing it more.
“It’s a good opportunity for people who may have never even thought of themselves as artists to get involved and have their work shown, even if they never have before,” he said. “And for working artists, it’s an opportunity to be inspired by a theme.
“You’re given this prompt, which is kind of like a problem to work on that may take you outside of what you normally do.”
Sutherland said he also appreciates the range of work that comes together from this group approach. And, on the financial side, the $5 entry fees help keep the rent paid and the lights on.
MANAS’ next open-submission art project, Planting the Seeds of Your Intention, is scheduled for September. Sutherland explained that MANAS partnered with artist Joan Bosque, who also works with the newly formed Chico Seed Lending Library, for the next installation.
For $5, artists (and those who aspire to be artists) will receive a box filled with a seed ball and several Post-it-sized squares of colored paper. As it is even more vague than some of the previous prompts, the package comes with some suggestions for projects, such as putting the seeds beneath one’s pillow at night and writing a dream journal. At MANAS, anything goes.
Rather than detracting from the overall quality of the show, the mix of new and veteran artists tends to coalesce into an altogether nice body of work. It’s fun to pick through the collection and try to trace the thought processes that inspired each piece, as well as find the common ground that exists.
MANAS is always well worth a walk-through, especially on reception nights. Get down there to check it out, or better yet, pick up some seeds and see where they take you.