North Coast Journal banner
Art Beat

June 16, 2005


Art whirlwind


Whew, what a weekend; my eyes are spinning from viewing art. I attended three art events in two days -- Open Studios, my own studio for Arts Alive! and the Mateel's Summer Arts and Music Festival at Benbow.

[Gus Clark in studio]Saturday started with North Coast Open Studios, with choices laid out in a slick brochure with good information. I have only been to two open studios in the past ten years. I've always had an excuse -- too old, too tired, too far. Now I must admit, it's an amazing experience, to see how other artists work and live and survive. Maybe Humboldt really is an art mecca. For people who want to see art it surely is.

Our first stop was a bead studio on K Street where Merry Cole, Kelly Mathson and Mary Miller demonstrated their alchemy with fire and glass and sold their beads.

The next studio was Kim Pinches'. Her folksy paintings and drawings are brightly colored philosophical comments on the everyday things in our lives. We talked about her inspirations and as we conversed, one of her inspirations escaped its tether and was out front greeting guests. Her plump, well-fed chocolate Lab undulated its ample flesh as the tail wagged. On Kim's wall was "Ode to Chewy", a large painting under glass. Outside, Chewy appeared to have earned the name.

Next stop was downtown Eureka's clusters of artist studios. Entering the first, C Street Studios, a cacophony of painting greeted us: A huge room filled from ceiling to floor with paintings, and I do mean filled. Each canvas was covered with pieces of color that were so intense I felt breathless. Augustus Clark, the artist [photo above] , paints dots and swipes and strokes of every color imaginable creating form and shape on canvas, on wood, on found objects -- I would guess on any surface available to him -- and apparently he never sleeps. I saw several pieces I would love to own.

The artist himself, standing in a corner, showing his work to other viewers, did not look old enough to have completed this body of work. His mother came over to chat and promote. I asked her if her son could possibly be old enough to have produced all this work. "He is 30," she told me, "and he started when he was" -- she put out her hand to indicate the size of a 2-year-old. Even so, I think he never sleeps.

We cross the hallway to view the contemporary art of Mimi La Plant, meet Kathy O'Leary who is painting a Humboldt landscape in her studio. Another artist, Michael Hughes, has a studio that looks like a Hollywood set, with living quarters at the end filled with antiques and oriental carpets. He doesn't live here, he explains, but it makes it more comfortable. His dreamlike peoplescapes fill the walls.

We leave C Street and proceed to the studios upstairs in the Art Center building at 2nd and G, where I share a space with Sue Tucker. While we hadn't opened for Open Studios, many of our neighbors did. Jane Higley's ethereal paper sculptures guard the entrance to her studio door. Juanita Larson paints a whimsical dreamscape environment with watercolors and mixed media. Ruby slippers float in the clouds of a fantasy world, winged shoes flying through the air and winged children twisting from strands of glittering cord. Michelle Murphy-Ferguson exhibits landscapes in oils; Open Studios organizer Sasha Pepper shows the human form in totemic abstract oils. Nancy Craig creates collage with elegant design. Karen Merry exhibits contemporary batik-style watercolors in vivid colors.

As evening approaches, Open Studios becomes Arts Alive! and we open the door to our studio. My wet in wet contemporary watercolors fill one side of the space. Sue's funk art cats in watercolor and pastels -- magicians, shamans, cigarette-smoking travelers in chartreuse convertibles -- entertain on the other side. The evening is crowded with viewers. We close up shop at nine and go home.


Sunday, off to Benbow for the Summer Arts and Music Festival. It's a beautiful drive down 101 curving along the oh-so-very-green Eel River. Once we reach our destination the parking situation leaves something to be desired. Parking in a distant lot and shuttling to the fair takes almost two hours. We pick up a thick printed guide and find that the focus is on the music, page after page. We are looking for the arts and crafts. I go through the flyer and finally on the back page find a list of exhibitors. That's all. A list of names.

We forge on. We see many artists who don't exhibit in Northern Humboldt. While there is a lack of paintings and two-dimensional work, pottery is varied and nicely crafted. There are woodworkers, a basket maker from Orleans, soap makers, perfume makers, stained glass and blown glass. The offerings seem endless with a lot of variety in the wares: succulents in pots formed from tree bark sewn into hanging baskets, leather goods, a shoemaker, hand-dyed clothing, nature photography and glass lamp shades in swirls of colors.

It was a good, quality show with something for everyone. It seemed to me that there were just as many people there for the visual arts as for the music. It's too bad the artists didn't get a bigger share of the publicity, at least more details on what each booth specializes in.

Then we come upon a booth that I had noticed from afar, and wanted to see up close. This one is so unique I don't know what to call it and there is no sign with a name or any business cards.

The artist himself is dressed in a patchwork of patterned and embroidered cloth embellished with all sorts of trinkets, bones and stones. He himself was an exhibit. At the front corners of the booth were life-sized human forms dressed in what we were told were the summer and winter costumes. Costume as sculpture, made of fur, cloth, bone, crystal, gemstones, watch dials and anything else that could be used as adornment. Layer upon layer, stitched together with metal and thread. Everything but the kitchen sink, and maybe it too, made up the seasonable costumes.

For sale were wands and rattles entwined with thick and thin copper and silver wire that linked crystals and other stones to various bells and other found objects. There were hats made of as many different fabrics and furs and stone, bones, wires and badges as you can think of or name, wild pieces that rose almost a foot above the head. This booth filled with shaman objects, inhabited by a walking work of art seemed symbolic of the spirit of art here in Humboldt, where life and art often seem intertwined.

Judith Lehman has been a professional watercolorist for 40 years. She moved to Humboldt from Indiana 10 years ago. She works at her studio in Eureka and her home in Redcrest, off the Avenue of the Giants.





Comments? Write a letter!

North Coast Journal banner

© Copyright 2005, North Coast Journal, Inc.