When it rains …

Avenue 9 Gallery opens Chico Icons: Waterworks

WATERFOWL<br>Avenue 9 Gallery co-director Maria Phillips gazes up at Dori Murnieks’ “A View of the Sutter Buttes from Grey Lodge,” part of the <i>Chico Icons 2008: Waterworks</i> show.

Avenue 9 Gallery co-director Maria Phillips gazes up at Dori Murnieks’ “A View of the Sutter Buttes from Grey Lodge,” part of the Chico Icons 2008: Waterworks show.

Photo By Alan Sheckter

Avenue 9 Gallery

180 E. Ninth Ave.
Chico, CA 95926

(530) 879-1821

“Everybody loves water; we’ve never had such a response!” gallery co-director Maria Phillips gushed on the deadline day for submissions to Avenue 9 Gallery’s water-themed Chico Icons 2008: Waterworks group show.

The gallery received 55 artistic visions of water imagery, illustrating such stunning and inspiring North State scenes as David Mallory’s painting of the snows of Mount Shasta and Norm Dillinger’s underwater interpretation of a bountiful Tuscan Aquifer.

The Chico Icons show has really found a niche at this little gallery off of the Esplanade. Phillips said plenty of thought goes into choosing the theme for the annual show, one of the gallery’s most well-attended exhibits. It’s not just based on paintings that will be pretty.

“These ideas have come from my interest in the community,” said Phillips, an outspoken advocate for the Chico area’s visual arts community as well as this region’s natural resources. “First was ‘City Plaza’ and they voted for Norm Dillinger’s painting of the old City Plaza with the elms [for the ‘People’s Choice’ award]. Last year was ‘the trees,’ when they were talking about the tree ordinance, and this year it’s ‘water.’ Everybody is worried about water as one of our precious resources as much as everyone is worried about money and banks.”

The Tuscan Aquifer, “that we in Chico sit on,” Phillips passionately pointed out, is one of those treasured bodies of water. The underground reservoir, valued locally and admired by our southern neighbors, has been whimsically rendered by Dillinger in “My Tuscan Aquifer,” a fanciful, pointillist-styled underwater view of the aquifer, complete with mermaid and dolphin.

The show also features Dori Murnieks’ skillful contribution, “A View of the Sutter Buttes from Grey Lodge,” a lovely work in blue depicting an egret flying into a moonlit sky. Additional contributions include submissions by veteran Chico monotype print artist Garnetta Finnegan and local oil painter Anne Gottlieb, as well as works by a pair of Sacramento-area artists who are fond of painting landscapes outdoors, plein-aire style—Tatyana Fogarty and Rhonda Egan. Magalia artist Joyce Rendon and local photographer Bill DiGrazia are also part of the mix.

Other interpretations of “waterworks” include Bidwell Park, local wetlands, a super-close-up photo of a leaf in the rain, a three-part triptych painting of fish and one photo and one painting of the Teichert Ponds.

There’s a lot of activity bubbling under the surface at the five-year-old Avenue 9 Gallery. The crew is already gearing up for its Wildlife Art Exhibit Jan. 23-25, a facet of the annual Snow Goose Festival it will share with All Fired Up Ceramic Art Center at the Chico Masonic Family Center. But Phillips and Avenue 9 co-directors Dolores Mitchell and Giovanna Rendall Jackson have their sights set further down the road. In early February, the gallery will burst through to the neighboring storefront to create a 1,600-foot combined area. A co-op is planned for the new space, giving local artists the opportunity to further expose their work.

And then there’s ChiVAA. Still in its infancy, the new Chico Visual Arts Alliance is an art promotion endeavor Avenue 9 is working on with 1078 Gallery and All Fired Up. Starting with a tiny grant from the city of Chico, one of ChiVAA’s first efforts will be to take the lead from CN&R’s monthly art walk map. The group plans to publish a slick, high-quality map that highlights Chico galleries and framing shops, and place them in restaurants and hotels to attract tourists and locals.

“The idea of ChiVAA is to give a face and a voice for visual artists as a group,” Phillips said. “You can work in your studio, but if the tourists can’t find you and they go to San Francisco, you will be a starving artist forever.”

The ChiVAA vision includes a trolley shuttle that would stop at all participating galleries.

“Maintaining Chico’s historic character and bringing tourists in to enjoy what we have, and getting the word out—that’s my kind of vision,” Phillips said. “City, community and the arts; I see them as one thing.”