This month Arts! Arcata plays it forward. Sights on the north side of the bay include a number of intriguing shows with opening receptions on Friday, Nov. 10, so wear walking shoes.
Lineage: Living Traditions of Line, Shape and Design, opening at Humboldt State University's Gou'dini Native American Arts Gallery (Humboldt State University campus, Behavioral, Health and Social Science (BSS) Building, Union Street at 16th Street) on Nov. 7, features a painting by Annelia Hillman in which a jagged shape, like a doubled lightning bolt, cleaves the dull red field. The shape is half baby blue and half bilious yellow, rendered in a wavery hand-drawn line and outlined in black. Three objects termed "old storage baskets" are fixed to the canvas at different angles with their openings oriented toward the lightning shape at center. "PUTTING THE PIECES BACK TOGETHER," the painting's title, is roughly painted above the artist's initials at the lower margin.
The objects attached to the painted surface recall formalist experiments of the 1950s and '60s, although the confessional tone of the work's address bears a more recent vintage. The zig-zag lightning motif resembles some of the decorations adorning the baskets traditionally made by indigenous peoples of this region — geometric motifs, shaped by process through the centuries, bearing names like "lake," "god's eye" and "blackbirds flocking." In the 20th century, artists began translating these motifs into other media like painting and sculpture, yielding results that could be as visually arresting as they were considered materially incongruous. Exhibition publicity states that the show will "bring together present and past makers, showcasing a lineage of line, design and shape with Northwest California indigenous culture." Perhaps it will explore this intermedia translation, too.
At the Fire Arts Center (520 S. G St.) an exhibition titled Fire Arts Four Techs showcases work in ceramics by Center technicians Meredith Smith, Natalie Williams, Joel Diepenbrock and David Jordan, who make vessels ranging from rustic stoneware to glazed porcelain.
Arcata Exchange (813 H St.) hosts a show this month featuring paintings by Kit Lamb and photographs by Katie Herbst. Lamb, who works with a roster of local avant-leaning bands including Fek and the Future Friends of Sound, is perhaps best known as an experimental musician. He's showing process-oriented, multi-layered acrylic paintings here. Some of these are abstract; others, like "Purple Smirk," have leering faces that seem to emerge organically from within the heavily worked paint. Lamb writes that he is "currently exploring the limits of working with primarily found and secondhand supplies. Working against these limitations allows abstract figures to emerge that are unplanned and otherwise unseen until they are teased out by pareidolia and chance." Alongside Lamb's paintings, Katie Herbst is showing photographs of empty and abandoned architectural spaces in Midwestern locations. The abandoned malls, churches and public spaces that appear in her images speak to an era of economic and social decline. But these elegiac images discover a weird, serendipitous beauty in the architectural husks that litter the American landscape — in peeling paint and dust encrusted floors, in the moment when the light catches a stained glass panel in a church otherwise relinquished to decay.