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Redwood Art Association goes Off the Wall

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Art enthusiasts are a tough bunch. Despite endless holiday events, a new year and buckets of rain, we've still got to get our fix. Arts Alive in January can seem like a chore, but it doesn't have to be. Across from the Eureka Theater, one art house hums with excitement, color and mediums of every stripe. On the north side of the block, the Redwood Art Association is showcasing members' work for a two-week winter show highlighting the diversity of our North Coast art stable. Your resolution to get out and find new work can be achieved with one visit.

The Redwood Art Association is the oldest arts organization in Eureka. Founded in 1956 by artists and art enthusiasts, its goal is to strengthen our community's investment in the visual arts. Through educational, social, cultural and economic objectives, RAA has threaded itself into the fabric of our arts community. Have you traveled through the airport recently? Been to the small gallery on the second floor of the Humboldt County Library? Seen those sculptures at the foot of C Street in Eureka? RAA and its cadre of more than 300 artist members spread their wings wide to promote the diversity and artistic wealth Humboldt County is proud to hold.

Just a year and a half ago, RAA fulfilled a decades-long dream to find a permanent home. It purchased an elegant building and now shows art year-round, supporting members and non-members alike. "We've been around for about 56 years," says RAA president Roy Grieshaber. "For many of those years we've had what we've thought of as a nomadic life. We'd hold our spring show at the Morris Graves [Museum], and then we would look for a storefront to rent for a couple more shows."

Its new home is big on wall space and features a grand mezzanine that Grieshaber likens to a "Mississippi river boat." From above, visitors can circle round a bannister that looks down on the sculptures, paintings and patrons filling the ground floor. Smaller rooms on the second floor allow the group to feature individual artists or themes, and large, west-facing windows showcase select works to passers-by in the street. Located in the heart of Old Town's art district, the group could not have landed a more auspicious space.

Sandwiched between other fundraisers, in January RAA is holding its Off the Wall show featuring work by nearly 80 artists. This event challenges conventional art gallery practices by encouraging patrons to take their new purchases home right away instead of waiting a month or more for the show to end. In this case, glaring gaps on white walls are a good thing.

One work, titled "Cuckoo For Redwood," by Jimmie Nord, exemplifies the range of media housed within RAA's new space. Its materials list wood, paint, string and bearings. Jumping off the wall, this piece pays homage to the sturdy evergreen that defines our county. At the same time, it explores the conflicted lineage of redwood lumber and its architectural importance for human dwellings. A thick, angular chunk of ribbon-laced burlwood anchors Lincoln-log-like structures while spheres and cubes dangle listlessly below. The add-on lumber and pliable, dangling features replicate our tendency to alter the natural landscape at will, but that solid hunk at the core of the piece is a steady reminder of Earth's tenacious ability to overcome any obstacle, human or otherwise.

Patricia Sennott's monotype, "Autumn Companions #4," lends another viewpoint to our ephemeral vantage of North Coast color. Her leggy, extended composition features snow-white centered, tomato-red dahlias framed against sapphire blue, their proud emerald stems bearing the material beauty of these fall friends. When viewing this piece, it's difficult to remember that it's as individual as the subject it portrays. Sennot's monotypes produce only one print, yet they immortalize that fragile moment when life peaks and color flourishes. Her images suspend time, allowing each print to preserve beauty in a continually changing world.

Redwood Art Association's members produce jewelry, sculpture, painting, prints, ceramics and much more. As Grieshaber mentions, there's "something for everyone," and this month you can literally take it with you. Some artists are nationally known, others are making their mark locally. All of them, though, embody the creative spirit of our community.

RAA hosts its three-day Rum & Rummage fundraiser Jan. 16 to 18 with cocktails and fine art for sale.

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Ken Weiderman

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