Friday, February 27, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Surrealist artist makes his mark in Davis

Artist05W

Alex Reisfar works on a painting for his exhibit at the John Natsoulas Gallery. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

By
From page A9 | February 11, 2014 |

Why was I drawn nearly every day for a year to the Alex Reisfar mural in Tim Spencer Alley?

At first glance, I was able to interpret most of the symbolism in the surrealistic figures beneath cloudy skies and tucked in dark-red haunting rooms — but they kept calling me back to look deeper.

There’s always a lag as you step away from any painting. A residual feeling. For some paintings, that residual feeling lasts longer than for others, and for each person it’s different.

For me, the residual feeling from a Reisfar is as if you just stepped away from a Ouija board, in which the pointer moved craftily on its own — not a “look there, it moved … no you bumped it” move — the pointer moved when none of you were touching it, then it spelled your name, told you to turn around.

Reisfar’s art has this kind of feeling. All Davis residents may see his artwork up close on exhibit through March 1 at the John Natsoulas Gallery, 521 First St. in downtown Davis.

For non-superstitious realists, Reisfar is a painter who attempts to surrealistically mirror society. Symbolically, he asks — begs, rather — for individuals to pay attention to historical and environmental fairness, and he usually steals your attention by drawing the eye to symbolic comparisons.

He doesn’t make it too hard. A person can figure out his symbols — most of them — while standing in front of his work. But they can make you contemplate for quite a while.

In each painting are scenes and symbols that battle and balance each other: war, national history, industry, the environment, carnival-ish scenes, mix-and-match animals with heads of historical figures, unusual plant and fungi species and folklore, always in dark colors.

After viewing a few Reisfars, it’s time for a breather. Walk outside the gallery, talk about anything but art with someone but then you’re pulled back to the gallery for more Reisfar.

Why go back if his art is so unnerving? Why did I make it a point to walk past Reisfar’s “chief” mural in Tim Spencer Alley every day for nearly a year?

Things I did there: Think and write songs while the chef/dishwasher at the sushi restaurant would whistle along through the alley screen door; talk to family members about upcoming events; discover the little things.

I talked with others about the mural. One local barber didn’t want to talk too much about it when he was cutting my hair last year, but he’d heard of it and said it caused a bit of a stir downtown. I’ve seen others stop by and they said they dig the painting. I took visiting friends to see it, and I asked them what they thought of it.

I think I sat there each day as a gesture to the fairness and honesty presented to me from the imagination of a painter’s spirit world. In reality, the fairness and honesty came from living people allowing a mural with such difficult historical issues to be painted in an American town.

Coincidentally, I met Reisfar on the day he completed the chief back in January 2012, which actually is titled “The Signs & Wonders of an Interdimensional Warrior.” We talked for a few minutes as he explained how he was using a technique of projecting from a smaller painting onto the wall.

I met him again this week and asked him about the mural and a little about his other work as well.

Q: Was the location of the mural in Tim Spencer Alley in Davis chosen to be in an alley — as opposed to out in the open — for a reason, i.e., people might be too sensitive to it in a more open location, or was it a statement to say: the nation historically silenced Native Americans on reservations — so we’re going to hide away this mural?

A: No, the location was just random. The guy who owns that building was OK with it — John (Natsoulas) was looking for a place, and it was available.

Q: Why does the red and black flag not have a flagpole attaching to the ground?

A: The colors are of an anarchist flag. The decision not to give a flagpole was to not associate or ground it with any particular culture — a struggle on a wider scale than just a labor or indigenous struggle.

Q: The boy has two apples to symbolize greed and lack of sharing, right?

A: Correct.

Q: Do people ever treat you with anger because of your art?

A: It’s been a long time. I try to make my paintings balanced, that even when there’s intense things. … For instance, a baby skull might be balanced with a flower on the other side. I try to keep symbolism subtle to not offend people too much. So, even if they disagree they can find their own meaning in it. It could probably really insult people if they knew what my meaning was, but they can take from it what they want.

Q: Did you ever paint in bright colors, and what type of paint do you use?

A: I did paint bright colors once in a while, when I was much younger and inspired by Mexican folk art. All acrylic, it’s cheaper.

Q: Do your ideas come to you in dreams? If not, where?

A: Some come from dreams. Some come from my daughter Farrin’s dreams. She draws from her dreams. Her illustrations are a lot of times what she dreams about. She comes up with ideas that are almost too scary for even me to paint about. She recently painted a creature made out of heads with X’s for eyes, like they were dead, and the bottom head arms became legs.

Q: Why do you paint animal heads on people bodies?

A: I like the idea of turning into creatures. My daughter was really interested in werewolves, so I took her to the library. We checked out books on Native American legends, myths around the world about werewolves, and these started showing up in a lot of my paintings.

Q: But what do the animal heads mean?

A: Being able to change your idea depending on the people you’re around — such as a secret society with ties to the government — being two-faced or twisted.

It’s also really fun to paint animal heads on people.

Q: Oh, one more thing … about 10 feet to the left of the mural in Tim Spencer Alley, someone painted a black flower (not in the mural). Was that you? If so, explain.

A: I was going to do more (black flowers). I felt like since I had the right to write on the wall, I added the flower because I could.

Reisfar’s paintings are on view on the second floor at the Natsoulas Gallery, and he might or might not be wandering about listening to what people think of his art. On the first floor are works by several outstanding artists for the Bark! 2014 series.

The mural in Tim Spencer Alley was completed by Reisfar during a residency with Natsoulas Gallery. A map of all of the town’s murals is available at the gallery.

— Reach Jason McAlister at [email protected] or 530-747-8052.

Comments

comments

Jason McAlister

.

News

 
Woodland infant’s death remains a mystery

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

New greenhouse will add to ‘Farm to Mouth’ program

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1

 
Learn about pollinators, gardens and honey at Yolo Basin fundraiser

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Can you give them a home?

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
For the record

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

 
For the record

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

Gerber nominations close Saturday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Explorit: Humming right along

By Lisa Justice | From Page: A3

Flower arrangers feature S.F. designer

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Celebrate Africa on Saturday at I-House

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Chamber explores how to pay for Davis’ needs

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Wolk and Dodd team up to provide Napa earthquake tax relief

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Robb Davis to speak about homelessness, energy

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Spring sing-along is March 4

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Two free yoga classes offered March 12

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Take a night walk at Cache Creek

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Class of 1970 plans 45-year reunion

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Bicycle safety course to be offered in Davis

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Documentary on immigration issues will be screened

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

Learn about your brain on March 14

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
A fill-up mishap

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

Adopt a household for Bridge to Housing participants

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

 
Workshop will teach sustainable gardening methods

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

.

Forum

Tired of all of this

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
No extra cost for containers

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B6

Oral Health Project launches

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B6

 
Here an H, there an H

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B6

Cavalier attitude about bike safety

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B6

 
Start early to build healthy dental habits

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B6

 
Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: B6

.

Sports

Blue Devil boys expect a spike in production

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Inquiring minds want to know about Aggies

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

Encouraging start for DHS boys tennis team

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Off day for Aggie men at UCSB

By Kim Orendor | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Aggie women fall to 4th after lackluster showing

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Lady Devils are on to the SJS semis

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Late goal lifts Red Wings over Sharks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4 | Gallery

Watney struggling at windy Honda Classic

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B12

 
.

Features

.

Arts

International Film Series to present ‘Jaffa’

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

 
Monticello announces March schedule

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

The Artery presents ‘Stepping Into Nature’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
YoloArts’ Gallery 625 presents ‘The Poetry of Dots’

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10 | Gallery

‘Focus': A sharply conceived caper

By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
The Woodland Opera House announces 2015-16 season

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12 | Gallery

.

Business

Nissan’s Z remains an affordable performer

By Ann M. Job | From Page: B3

 
Car Care: Simple DIY steps to protect your car through all seasons

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

 
.

Obituaries

Dieter W. Gruenwedel

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Death notice: Celia E. Recchio

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Vernon E. Burton

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Comics: Friday, February 27, 2015

By Creator | From Page: B5