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Art Beat

Sept. 9, 2004


It's alive!


MY HUSBAND BILL AND I GENERALLY TRY TO HIT the streets early for Arts Alive! so we can see as much art as possible, but last Saturday we went to dinner with visiting relatives and didn't arrive in Old Town until after eight. Getting started two hours later than usual meant we could realistically manage two, possibly three openings, but only if we didn't stop and talk to everyone we knew. At the top of our list was "Both Sides Now," Micki Flatmo's new exhibit at Piante (featuring her more typical representational paintings as well as new abstract work), so we headed toward the bay.

Piante is on Second Street, in the middle of the block between G and H, but if the gallery were picked up and plunked down in Manhattan, Paris or Rome, it wouldn't look a bit out of place. Co-owners Sue Natzler and Jo Cunningham have turned the 120-year-old Victorian into a perfect venue for exhibiting art, with neutral gray walls and professional lighting, and since both women possess highly refined aesthetic sensibilities, you just never see a bad show there. Micki's exhibit, not surprisingly, was a knockout.

When we arrived, Sue pointed out three red "sold" dots on the price list, two of them placed next to works in the four-figure range. It was an outstanding beginning to the month-long exhibit, so Micki, Sue and Jo were understandably in very good moods.Painting by Micki Flatmo

Micki, who was wearing a very sophisticated black lace and taffeta number and looking gorgeous, pointed out a large painting of water lilies (titled, aptly, "Water Lilies") that I had seen in her studio the previous week. "Can you believe it's the same painting?" she asked. Well, barely. She had taken a piece that was a lovely whisper and turned it into a dramatic overture, with considerably more depth and power. This was one of the paintings that had already been snapped up by a discerning collector.

After we left Piante, Bill and I headed over to the First Street Gallery, but even though it's only two blocks away, it took us a good 20 minutes to get there. We kept running into people we knew, who filled us in on all the shows we were missing. According to the word on the street, the hottest spots were the faculty exhibit at First Street (where we were going, eventually), the "Small Works" show at the Graves, and E2's "Empire Squared for President," where you were reportedly given the opportunity to throw mud at an oversized image of George Bush. People also really seemed to like Adrienne Werth's exhibit at Plaza Design and Mike Stengl's paintings at Gallery Dog.

By the time we finally made it to First Street, it was already closing in on 9 o'clock, so we couldn't exactly linger over each piece, but I nonetheless saw more than enough to inspire a return visit before the exhibit comes down Sept. 19. Twenty-five artists, all employed by HSU as faculty or staff, are included in the show, and there's such a diverse range of expression, there's something to appeal to just about everyone.

I was particularly taken with the exquisite little mixed media on copper "retablos" by Don Anton, who teaches photography at the university. I asked First Street director Jack Bentley about Anton's process, which apparently involves some kind of PhotoShop manipulation and a chemical transfer process. The beauty and spiritually charged nature of the images made me wish I could take Anton's class just to see how he does it. In fact, the entire faculty exhibit filled me with envy for all the kids who are currently enrolled as art majors at HSU.

While I was talking to Jack, I complimented him on his participation in two recent "Spirit of the North Coast" spots on Channel 3 News about the 10th anniversary of Arts Alive! In case you missed it, Erica Von Thiel did a fine job interviewing some of the movers and shakers in the community, who all talked about how the event has helped shape and build our community.

After we left First Street, we met the Flatmos for drinks at Hurricane Kate's, where Micki had reserved a big table. Most of the people at the table were artists and the conversation was lively and inventive. We talked about art, gossiped about mutual acquaintances, and discussed the Flatmos' upcoming trip to China, where Duane (as well as Ken Beidleman, June Moxon, Stock Schlueter and Rachael Ritter, who were also at the table) will be competing in an extreme art event that should make the Kinetic Sculpture Race look like a walk in the park.

Maybe it was the vodka, or maybe it was being surrounded by so much creative energy, but I started feeling sentimental about living in such an inspiring environment. I remembered my conversation with Jack Bentley about how Arts Alive! has built a community, and realized that I didn't even know most of the artists I was sharing the table with before the event began 10 years ago. It struck me that I didn't know most of the people I'd been chatting with on the streets or in the galleries that night either. While I probably would have met a few of these folks on my own, it seems very unlikely that I would ever have been exposed to as much local art or met as many local artists without this monthly meeting ground. I suddenly had a much clearer picture of what "building a community" was all about.

Linda Mitchell can be reached via



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