Lisa Anderson and Martin Shapiro, professors at Fresno State with very busy lives, didn’t quite realize what they were getting into nearly eight years ago when they organized an exhibition titled “Art Scientifique” at the Chris Sorensen Studios. They hadn’t thought beyond that first year. But Sorensen, a wily arts administrator and judge of human behavior, knew exactly what he was doing when he talked to them about the show’s success.
“You have the March slot now,” he told Anderson, as she remembers it.
They’ve kept up the schedule, opening the seventh annual “Art Scientifique” in March.
Considering all the work that goes into a juried exhibition, what then did this science-minded married couple do? They created another monthly Sorensen show, this one titled “Geek Artistique,” a celebration of art depicting pop culture in the realm of science fiction, animation, comic books, cartooning and gaming. Now in its second year, the “Geek” show is my highlighted pick for Thursday’s September ArtHop, the monthly open house of studios and galleries in the downtown and Tower District neighborhoods. Plus I give you four more picks for the rest of your evening. (Most, but not all, of the venues are open 5-8 p.m.)
Here’s a more detailed rundown on “Geek Artistique”:
The curators: Anderson is an anthropology professor and Shapiro a biological psychology professor. Both bring a scientific edge to their interest in art.
The inspiration: After curating “Art Scientifique” for a number of years, Anderson says, the pair realized that they were having to turn away some interesting works that were more in the realm of science fiction than science. (Think of the kind of art that might show up at Comic-Con.) “Geek Artistique” was born. The inaugural event last year was a big success, with a big, excited crowd showing up. Anderson and Shapiro encourage people to dress up in cosplay, and some did. The curators also recognized that this type of art attracts younger artists, some of whom might be encouraged to enter an art show for the first time.
This year’s show: There will be about 80 works on display, including paintings, photography, mixed-media and sculpture. I catch up with Anderson on Tuesday as she is putting the finishing touches on hanging the show. A quick glance indicates that some of the usual suspects are there: “Spider-Man,” “Star Wars” and a smattering of space aliens. But as we walk through the gallery, she tells me that the entries this year aren’t as dominated by “fan art” and superheroes as they were last year. There’s more original, “out there” work.
First impression: You can’t miss Todd Runberg’s playful sculpture of a Hollywood icon: a clever depiction of a Minion that doubles as a wood stove, which greets you as you enter the exhibition. It doubles as a woodstove. I love the axe in his hand. (Are Minions male? Female? Non-gender specific?) Cheery and identifiable, it’s a good kid conversation starter.
Artistic stretch: One of the things that delights Anderson about the show is how it prompted some artists to try new things. Take, for example, Ellen Bayne, part of the extended Sorensen studio family, who is known for her paintings of cats. For the “Geek” show, she painted a series of more fanciful cats (above), two of them with pairs of wings.
Impressive technique: There’s oodles of creativity in the show. I really like a composite photograph by Fresno photographer Rick Horowitz titled “Alien Abduction,” left, which depicts a woman floating far above the ground, her face raised to the heavens with a look of consternation. As the viewer, you’re looking directly down at her and the top of the farmhouse from which she’s been plucked, and surrounding her are spaceships (and an alien) ready to cart her off to who knows what nefarious ends. In his entry for the show, Horowitz explained that he built the farmhouse model with 1,013 popsicle sticks and balsa wood. He also built the ships and the alien. (There also are models of cows and a tractor that he purchased.) He then photographed everything in a studio with a strobe and a spotlight, then composited the image using Photoshop. The overall effect is eerie and amusing, all at once.
Most traveled entry: Most entries are local with a few from throughout California, but two works were submitted by Kenish Magwood, of Charleston, S.C. She created two covers for “Nigresence Comics,” above, one depicting a black woman surrounded by timepieces and chains, titled “The Anarchist”; and the other with a collegiate theme, titled “The HBCU Experience,” depicting a perplexed college-age woman in a traditional campus setting complete with a man wearing a fraternity sweatshirt. I like the strong themes and storytelling going on in both works.
Science fiction, not science: John Coppola created a creepy (and authentic looking) “history” of a scientific experiment gone awry involving the splicing of insect and human genes. It’s the type of piece that couldn’t go into “Art Scientifique” because of its fictional nature, but it fits in well here.
The Aw, Shucks entry: Tom and Dustin North used found objects to build “Zoonot” (right), a robot from the planet Nots, whose mission on Earth is to collect recyclable materials. He’s accompanied by “Scrappie,” his scrap-metal guard dog. Too cute.
Finally, look for: It’s traditional to include a work by Sorensen in the show, and you can find two: a pair of wire sculptures depicting profiles of what almost look like characters from “The Simpsons”; and another wire sculpture, this one a rather harmless looking spider, presumably the precursor to superhero status.
Details: “Geek Artistique” opens with an ArtHop reception 5-8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 7, at the Chris Sorensen Studios, 2223 S. Van Ness Ave. Fresno. Cosplay is encouraged, and a food truck will be on hand. The exhibition continues through September.
At Gallery 25, located at the M Street Arts Complex, four artists are featured:
Ann Leedy connects in a sensual way to the natural world through the medium of pastel on paper. Jerrie Peters explores sculptural shapes from beautiful places working in wood cut-out and acrylic. Shannon Bickford continues her exploration of reflective and transparent surfaces as a metaphor for the way our experiences and sensory system merge to create our experience of the world through mixed media and watercolor. Lylia Forero Carr is showing new art works in encaustic (the hot wax technique) and cold wax medium mixed with oils.
Here’s a twist: Carr’s two large works in the show are collaborations with her twin friends Isabella and Cynthia Amu, age 11. (Photo below.)
Details: ArtHop reception is 5-8 p.m. at Gallery 25 in the M Street Arts Complex, 1419 M St., Fresno. The show continues through Sept. 30. Regular gallery hours are noon-4 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Clay Hand Studios
Here’s art with a strong social statement. Local clay artist Abiam Alvarez addresses two issues in “Dessication,” his new Clay Hand Studios exhibition: the toll exacted upon farmworkers keeping American kitchens well-stocked; and the tremendous amount of food we waste. From his artist’s statement:
We pick our groceries thoughtlessly, believing that all of our pickings will be consumed right away. Much is picked and we create a surplus. But as time passes by we forget of the expiration or the freshness of the produce. By the time we go back to use it most of it has wilted, molded, bruised, darkened, softened, dried, and rotted. It becomes discarded, just like the value of the laborer.
Details: ArtHop reception is 5-8 p.m. at Clay Hand Studios, 660 Van Ness Ave. The exhibition continues through September. Regular gallery hours are noon-6 p.m. Thursdays and noon-4 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Jeffrey Scott Gallery
How much do you really “see” out your window when you’re driving? Probably a lot less than Keith Seaman, a professional Fresno photographer who has spent a lot of time over the past 15 years on what you might call a very specific side hobby: stitched panoramas captured out the window of his moving car.
His efforts are documented in “Driveby,” an exhibition at the Jeffrey Scott Gallery. Seaman was stitching together panoramas long before sophisticated software made it relatively easy. He used to have to precisely capture each frame and combine them in Photoshop, a technique made even more complicated by the car’s motion.
Jeffrey Scott interviews Seaman in a Q&A format in an interesting article on the gallery’s website. From the interview:
Originally, I would drive by stuff, and I’d lean out the window and click the shutter and wouldn’t know what I’d got until I pulled over and looked or got home. Now I don’t do all of them while driving myself. I put the camera on a tripod in the passenger seat and put the flash head on the backseat, out the window.
Apart from the exhibition, I recommend the Jeffrey Scott Agency as an ArtHop destination because it has a great vibe and lots of creative energy. It’s a terrific place for a first time ArtHopper or a place to show out-of-town guests.
Details: ArtHop reception is 5:30-9 p.m. at Jeffrey Scott Agency, 1544 Fulton St., Fresno.
Originally trained in realism, Peter has developed an appreciation of abstract expressionism which influenced his later works. Organically experimenting with paint application, he creates a highly kinetic experience though the harmony of color and form. Peter is also an accomplished photographer who specializes in portraits.
I particularly like Carrion’s use of color in his abstract works.
Details: ArtHop reception is 5-8 p.m. at CMAC, 1555 Van Ness Ave. Regular hours are 10 a.m.-9 p.m.Mondays-Thursdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Fridays, 1-6 p.m. Saturdays.
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