We talk about home

A new art show featuring Pleasant Valley High School students and local artists looks at Chico

AUTUMNAL MAELSTROM Elizabeth Newman Kuiper’s “World Turns” suggests “rich connotations” to our reviewer.

AUTUMNAL MAELSTROM Elizabeth Newman Kuiper’s “World Turns” suggests “rich connotations” to our reviewer.

Photo By Tom Angel

Currently on view at the Chico Museum are several related exhibits, including a new show of work by local artists on the subject of Chico, a new timeline of Chico and Butte County, 90 years of historical Girl Scout costumes and accoutrements, and the continuing exhibit of large-format photographs by Geoff Fricker.

Pleasant Valley High School teacher Reta Rickmers and her students have curated Chico Scene: Through the Eyes of the Artist. The exhibit represents nearly 40 local artists, with work ranging from the more traditional, such as Rickmer’s own composition of Chico’s “Water Towers” and James Albertie’s “Haystacks,” to Cal Ling’s abstract work with handmade paper.

Among such a rich share of work, viewers will find their own strongest or most appealing pieces. Susan Kirk’s excellent “Winter Feast” is a nicely done portrait of cedar waxwings on the branches of a persimmon tree. The colors are bright and the composition deceptively simple, a little poem that grows.

Elizabeth N. Kuiper’s “World Turns” is another suggestive work. The square-ish piece is held in place by fragments of a gold frame. Within the broken frame is a map of North America, divided into horizontal strips by alternating strips of a painted orchard, all in muted color. Lying on the surface are shards of glass and what appears to be red fabric—a maelstrom, an autumn field in the midst of powerful change. Rich connotations.

The word “bravura” comes to mind looking at Jesus Ramirez’s “Downtown Kaleidoscope.” The piece is approximately 8 feet wide by 31/2 feet tall and contains a variety of images of Chico’s downtown scene: Bidwell Mansion, a skateboarder with a yo-yo, fruit and vegetables from the Farmers’ Market, a fire-eater blowing a huge flame, and much more. The execution is fluid, masterfully confident and rich with bright color, and it almost demands a kinetic response from the viewer, such as a leap, a dance, a whoop of “Wow.” The optimism and good nature of the piece are qualities that come from a vibrant life and culture. Ramirez, I imagine, has studied the Mexican master muralists and given his heart and soul sturdy scaffolding to unfold his contemporary vision.

The large-format black-and-white “environment photographs” by Geoff Fricker capture the detail of life in our neighborhood. Some of the pieces must easily be 3 feet by 2 feet, a size that lends itself to the viewer’s appreciation of composition and the astonishing detail photography provides. The activity of the swimmers at the annual polar bear swim at One-Mile is nicely captured, along with the onlookers in winter coats.

Several photographs show local effects of the flood in 1997: the collapse of the Centerville bridge, the flood in Tehama County. The Sacramento River is the key player in most of the photos and, along with Fricker’s artistry, reminds us just what a great place it is where we live.

The new timeline features, as the “Museum Notes” puts it, “a landmark mural by Sal Casa, poetic narrative by Clark Brown, illustrated maps by Chris Fricker, photo murals by Fleet Irvine, and a historic photo essay by Byron Wolfe.” It stretches from 1830 to 2000, and a long, handsome wood and glass cabinet holds artifacts and photos, while, below the main case, several drawers pull out to reveal yet more artifacts and notes on the “63 most influential Chicoans.”

Last but not least, The Girl Scouts’ Sierra Cascade Historical Collection yields 90 years of Girl Scout items. This will refresh the memory of many generations of women and, for us boys, stir our memory of girls at school in their Brownie and Girl Scout uniforms. An interesting part of our lives, with interesting tidbits, such as the use of buttons on the uniforms when the war effort required metal and thus, no more zippers.

Overall this entire show is a great treat. Highly recommended.