Walking in chilly autumn darkness from storefront to dispersed storefront for Arts! Arcata last Friday night felt a little like trick-or-treating for art. The eclectic celebration produced little surprises behind each door.
Music dominated visual art, though there was clear enthusiasm and investment among many shops about displaying artists' work. The music of Caribbean Jazz Odyssey drifting from the pop-up beer garden gave the experience an almost surreal vibe — a movie version of someone checking out art on a night like this in a town like this would have exactly that soundtrack.
I started with a mocktail at the Griffin, where Joyce Jonté was hosting a popular monthly life drawing session with Redwood Model Co. Fun, brightly colored bird portraits from Fine Art by Erica filled the space. Artist Erica Brooks said she began these oil paintings after completing her MFA, which was focused on tight, detailed renderings. With this work she'd wanted to do something opposite: loose and free.
I hiked from there over to the opposite end of the downtown activities to check out Toni Magyar's group show Artist Renditions from the Pandemic: Reunion and Celebration in the Upstairs Gallery of Umpqua Bank. Admitting a personal bias for desert imagery, I was drawn to Magyar's "Joshua Tree Morning" amid the nice mix of work by art community regulars in the exhibition. The light in Magyar's acrylic landscape — breaking over a distant ridge and desert scrub inhabited by a single tiny jackrabbit — seemed almost evangelical and appropriate for the show's theme.
At Moonrise Herbs, harmoniously colored hanging weavings by Gabrielle Luo incorporated natural and found materials with yarn into poetic wholes.
The Plaza showcased Vaughn Hutch's carbon 4-by-5-inch prints of the Emerald Mile. These petite images of light through redwoods were striking for their scale, forcing the viewer to get up close and reconsider scenery that is (here anyway) commonplace and universally characterized by grandeur.
Someone headed the opposite direction on H Street asked if I wanted to check out a cool show next week and I said, "Sure." He handed me a small flyer for the band White Deer and said, "They're playing right now at the gallery," and pointed farther up the block. I strolled on and discovered folks gathered onto the sidewalk to listen to the energetic, bluesy indie rock through the open door. Inside Arcata Gallery, large black and white photographs by Sarah Vee stood out. Focused on pattern and reflections, the framing of these quiet images rendered familiar residential fragments nearly abstract.
I stopped by the Creative Sanctuary to cap off my evening with a duo show of vibrant portraits by Moxie Saturday and Soulbunni. Soulbunni's playful representations are of invented characters. The self-described Afrocentric watercolorist told me she enjoys the medium because it's fast and affordable, and allows for blending and flamboyance. She uses layering and glazing to make images that are both fluid and vivid. Soulbunni said her color pallet is meant to evoke a "softer" psychedelia. Like most of the work that debuts on the first Friday of the month for Arts! Arcata, you've still got time to see it.
L.L. Kessner is an Arcata-based artist and writer.