I went to Arcata's Creamery District on foot before the heat wave broke to lay eyes on the new work of public installation art I'd heard about. It turned out to be easy enough to find. On L Street between Eighth and Ninth streets, you could see from far off that the chain link fence separating a strip of battered yellow grass from the beginnings of the new bike trail had sprouted whimsical antennae. Bundled clusters of pom-pom tipped wands reach higher than pedestrians' heads, arching above the sidewalk and nodding like mutant sunflowers. The garishly patterned array loomed partially obscured through yellowish haze from wildfires raging to the east. The hot air smelled like campfires but felt scratchy like burlap on the nose.
Standing beside the installation by Arcata textile artist Malia Penhall (whose work can also be found under the name Malia Matsumoto), it became apparent that every surface has been knit by hand. Shapes in this piece are many-tentacled but surfaces are cuddly. Clustered wands with their coronate flagella recall sea anemones, if sea anemones had been painstakingly knit together from a sequence of cozies. Nubbly wool surfaces with cheerful horizontal stripes and pom-poms nudge beholders to remember the approach of fall. The artwork injects an upwelling of fancy into its surroundings, which feels like luxury, especially now. Someone had left a tiny box of Zig-Zag rolling papers to repose at the base of one of the knit tentacles, like an offering. A second Penhall artwork titled "Cozie Knit Wit Forest," located within a cluster of trees on the corner of N and Eighth streets, features 10 knitted "tree cozies" and more pompoms. Penhall's installation popped up last month but remains on public display, at least until natural decay or scheduled intervention removes it from view.
A second pop-up event is scheduled to last one day only when the Eureka-based women's art collective Seven Plus exhibits at Lori Goodman's converted barn studio space later this month. The exhibition, titled Seven Plus Pops Up, includes works by Amy Uyeki, Lori Goodman, Kathleen Zeppegno, Claire Iris Schencke, Lorraine Miller-Wolf, Tina Rousselot, Nancy Head, Marie Kelleher-Roy, Joan Gold, Patricia Sennott and Barbara Dolan-Wilkinson. Members of Seven Plus have been meeting at intervals to share ideas about studio practice since 2000. They've exhibited together throughout this period, with previous shows at the Ink People Center For the Arts, the Morris Graves Museum of Art and the Upstairs Gallery at Arcata's Umpqua Bank.
Painter and animator Amy Uyeki plans to show still images from her animation film in-progress, From Somewhere, at this month's exhibition. The 15-minute short features pastel images drawn on board, digitally animated to the accompaniment of an original musical score by San Francisco composer/musician Holly Mead. The plot, Uyeki said, is about five characters whose lives intertwine.
Also at Seven Plus Pops Up, the painter Claire Iris Schencke will show digital illustrations created improvisationally using an iPad and a calligraphy app, some of which are currently on display in Schencke's show at Black Faun Gallery. Schencke writes in a statement that the works on display constitute an homage to calligraphy teacher Pearl Huang.
"As a southpaw I failed calligraphy in art school. But when I got to do it with a broom dipped in a bucket of ink while dancing, I loved it. Pearl Huang, who teaches calligraphy through healing movement, gave a workshop in Eureka two years ago," the statement reads. An early adopter of the iPad and its digital painting options, Schencke made a pilgrimage to Taos, where she swapped Huang lessons in the new tech for calligraphic movement instruction.
Schencke continues, "I took her teachings with me on my daily walks at the beach. I drew the character for water — the only one I knew — over and over in the sand at the water's edge and saw it washed away." Then she created elemental characters, such as those for water and snow, using the Zen Brush app.
The Latin tag ars longa, vita brevis (art is long; life is short) summarizes the expectations of permanence past generations of artists brought to their materials, few of which encumber us today. Changes wrought by outsourcing, downsizing and the decline of the middle class have eroded expectations of permanence, while digital media has recalibrated our collective attention span. Pop-up projects make sense for us now, as these shows illustrate. With traditional exhibition spaces less feasible for private individuals to operate and the borderlines between creation and curation increasingly diffuse, expect to see more exhibitions of this ilk in future. Catch them while you can.
The art installations by Malia Penhall on L Street and on the corner of N and Eighth streets, in Arcata's Creamery District, are open to the public.
The Seven Plus Pops Up exhibit featuring all the members of the Seven Plus Collective will be held at the Humboldt Hill studio/barn of Lori Goodman on Sunday, Sept. 24, from 1 to 5 p.m. Contact Patricia Sennott at email@example.com for details.