On a recent visit to Arcata Artisans I watched a small group of people enter together, engaged in a lively conversation. Almost immediately upon entering, the conversation faded and they split up, each drawn to different work around the gallery -- each gravitating toward something that spoke to their personal aesthetic. It's that kind of a place.
Arcata Artisans has been providing a venue for member artists for almost 10 years. The members of the cooperative gallery work in a broad range of mediums and styles. True to form, this month's exhibition features, paintings and prints by Linnea Tobias and Barbara Wright's mosaic glasswork as well as ceramics by Loryn White.
Barbara Wright has been making mosaics for more than 10 years and has studied the craft in Italy and Spain. While some of the inspiration for her glasswork has come from the traditions and techniques she encountered abroad, she attributes some of the coastal colors and texture in her work (abalone shell, dark sea foam greens and blues) to the environment around her Trinidad home.
Wright's creative process is one of evolution rather than planning. She often begins a piece with a color scheme in mind, but from there she allows the materials and the process to take over. "They just sort of come together for me, Wright explains. "I generally cannot say what a piece is going to look like until I'm finished. They evolve."
The bright, mosaic wall pieces, masks and fused glass jewelry (some with an almost hard candy-playfulness and shine) are eye catching. With her focus on combining color and design, Wright is able to infuse her pieces with a sense of the pleasure that must come from exploring what she describes as the "endless possibilities" of the medium.
In addition to the work Wright is displaying at Arcata Artisans, she also has a piece, "She Jester," in this year's Maskibition, an annual exhibition of masks sponsored by the Ink People Center for the Arts in Eureka.
Linnea Tobias' nature inspired, mixed-media paintings are hard to miss. "I have this attraction to bright color. ... I've tried to paint in a more neutral sort of fashion, but I just don't enjoy it as much -- I'm really kind of a colorist," says Tobias, "I put [the colors] together so they sort of vibrate off the page." Tobias added that, for her, working with such bright colors serves as a kind of antidote for what can be long, gray Humboldt winters (and springs, and summers).
Tobias hopes that her work inspires a sense of joy and that it conveys something of what she experiences walking in nature. "I'm hoping that some of that intensity is coming through in the paintings," she says. "It's one of those things that's hard to put in words, so I'm basically doing it visually."
The vibrant paintings currently on display, some with Day of the Dead motifs, certainly fit the bill. The work, with depictions of various flora and fauna, is clearly nature-inspired, but, with the intensity of Tobias' palette, it's like nature on steroids -- stronger more intense than nature itself.
Loryn White's wheel-thrown and hand built pottery might seem a bit subdued next to the intense colors of the other work on display, but that's okay with White. In her artist statement, White notes that her work is the result of, "many years of seeking tranquility in form and color," and that the "graceful lines and simplicity" of Japanese architecture and brush painting as well as the "colors, textures and peacefulness" of Japanese gardens are key influences in her work.
White's large vessel "torch pieces" are especially compelling and clearly reflect some of her primary influences in terms of form and color. For these pieces, White employs a propane torch during the throwing process to accelerate drying and add texture to the clay. "It's a really fun technique. It's kind of instantaneous gratification with the texture, seeing [the clay] instantly being transformed," she says. White glazes the pieces with contrasting colors to highlight the texture, bringing out the network of fissures that cover each piece.
White's work also shows the influence of her local surroundings. In addition to the torch pieces, White be showing pitchers, bowls and tea sets inspired by the dogwood flowers she encounters hiking in Humboldt County.
Wright, Tobias, and White's work is currently on display at Arcata Artisans (883 H St. in
Arcata, on the Plaza). There will be a reception for the featured artists held in conjunction with Arts! Arcata on Friday, Oct. 12, from 6-9 p.m.