At first glance, Monica Schill's boulders appear to be of the earth, something one might view along the highway as a "rock slide area" warning sign flashes by the car window. But something more cunning than nature's whims lurks here. Multicolored mosaic tiles adorn a quarter of the 88 boulders splayed across the Morris Graves Museum of Art's sculpture garden. These rocks were created with deliberation. Their purpose, oddly enough, stemmed from Schill's desire to show how much space garbage takes up in a landfill. Rather than send it to the dump, the Bridgeville artist encased a bag of non-recyclable trash -- "insulation, roofing materials, wrappers, Styrofoam, twist ties, old dog toys, socks, milk cartons, coffee bags, the list goes on and on," Schill writes -- in chicken wire, which she then covered in concrete. Even the tile, consisting of leftover bits from prior commissions and donations from the trash bins of her local tile shop, represents garbage rescued and transformed. A noble idea. Judging from the attention Schill's "Encased in Concrete 88" has garnered so far, a successful one, too. Although the artistic merit of the boulders themselves may be debatable, she's achieved one of art's great goals: inspiring viewers to see something familiar in a new and unexpected way.
Plus -- sculpture garden instead of landfill? The City of Arcata should get involved! Wouldn't some of Schill's trash boulders perfectly complement the Arcata Wastewater Treatment Plant/Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary? Surely collaborative possibilities exist. In the meantime, read back over Schill's nearly 400-hour process at monicaschill.blogspot.com and check humboldtrecycling.org for alternate ways to help reduce Humboldt County's daily 570,000 lbs. garbage load. The Morris Graves Museum is located at Seventh and F streets in Eureka.
A more fluid exhibit graces the confines of Arcata's Humboldt Surf Company at Ninth and I streets. Matt Beard's artwork, long beloved by surfers local and beyond, flows throughout the store-turned-gallery for the month of May. Since Beard usually sells straight to private collectors, this show offers a rare chance to see (and buy) new originals, previously unavailable canvas prints, prints on paper, new shirt designs, greeting cards and stickers. While defined by a lifetime spent surfing, the images nonetheless appeal to anyone who, as Beard describes his work, appreciates "the simple beauty of a continent's collision with the deep blue sea." His art vibrates with color and motion, ocean swells rising, pelicans coasting, poppies bursting into bloom.
Beard's art affirms the outside with such grace that a salt-tinged breeze can be felt inside the room, inside the soul. The man himself (yes, he does have a beard) awaits visitors at the shop Thursdays through Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. through the end of the month -- or you can try to pick him out of the crowd during Friday's Arts! Arcata reception while Likwefi jams on scene. Buy something that night if you can because Beard's donating 20 percent of all A!A sales to SurfAid International, an organization that provides needed medical assistance in tropical regions. Buy something whenever else you can because inviting color and warmth into your life is bound to make you happier. Preview his stylings at beardart.com.
Drawn to the flame? As it has for the past decade, Fire Arts Center continues to provide space for artists to pursue fire-based art passions. This particular weekend from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., members are giving away juice and cookies in hopes visitors will purchase planters, garden sculpture, tiles -- "think fairies and frogs, rabbits and rats, birds and butterflies" -- fused glass or even plants at the collective's annual Mother's Day sale. Simultaneously, Fire Arts Center's glass-working members offer their own fundraising sale and silent auction in hopes of replacing an aging glass kiln. Every time I've trekked down to their South G spot, I've been amazed by the bustle and beauty evidenced by the members and their creations. They make art that serves practical functions, something that should be encouraged. Why shouldn't everything we use be as lovely as possible? More about memberships and classes at fireartsarcata.com or 826-1445.
Earth, water, fire ... air. An ethereal collection of watercolors by Bobby Wright hangs at the Northcoast Environmental Center for Arts! Arcata. I met Mr. Wright 20-odd years ago (and yes, they have been odd years) when he was a young man crouched over a painting and I was an impressionable teen girl enamored of the prospect of dating an actual artist. Over the years, I fell even more in love with his kind nature, excellent sense of humor and overall steadfastness, but his talent still impresses. The formal release says, "Wright has apprenticed with Duane Flatmo, studied with Michael Hays and Joyce Jonté, worked with muralist Jerry Lee Wallace and shown his work at many locales throughout Eureka and Arcata, as well as in Los Angeles," but I'm offering my own informal invite -- please come! The paintings are real pretty. Cookies and wine!
And when everything falls apart, "when society ceases to exist and the buildings around [them] crumble," know that the folks at Hunter Plaid Gallery will keep on creating. So they say. And they're practicing for that moment with "After The Fall," a found, recycled and performance art "post-apocalyptic installation" featuring photography by Kristen Hunter. I am not sure what that will look like, but I'm intrigued enough to schedule an additional stop on my Friday night circuit. Arcata has plenty of talented, successful middle-aged artists and a plethora of programs for children and teens, but a relative dearth of presentations by those in the 20-something range. You know, the people still brimming with post-adolescent energy, but who have attained some adult perspective? Who are no longer naïve, but remain idealistic enough to shake up the status quo? They may have the talent to express their passion in quantifiable artistic terms -- or they may not -- but the innovation is usually work checking out. Note: Although described as part of Arts! Arcata, Hunter Plaid's reception runs 7 to 11 p.m., instead of 6 to 9 p.m., with music starting at 8 p.m. The gallery's down on South G (just 128 feet past the Fire Arts Center). You can find out a bit more at hunterplaidgallery.com or by reading Julianna Boggs' Dec. 4 "Art Beat" via northcoastjournal.com.