The whole concept of Artober — a regional celebration of the arts during October — challenged me to collaborate with some amazing artists in order to engage the public in the very process of creativity.
I’ve been reading this fascinating book on why people create, and how they come up with innovative solutions, be it the Swifter or a new sculpture. The whole act of imagining something out of nothing can seem like a mystery, even to those who are involved in creative fields.
Thus I thought, what if the Pence Gallery unveiled an artist at work in their studio, and their space of creation was visible over time? But what artist could possibly want to talk to people as they worked, given that art-making is usually a solitary activity?
Enter Roma Devanbu, an artist who possesses the most amazing sense of curiosity about life and art, and who is always asking questions. She teaches art to college students, thus she’s adept at explaining things to all sorts of people. I visited her studio at Verge Center for the Arts in Sacramento, and fell in love with her explorations in cutting and folding paper into all sorts of shapes and lacy patterns.
Her concept for our installation is to create over the month a three-dimensional paper sculpture (or paper temple) beginning this week. She’ll be in the studio at the Pence, 212 D St., from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays all month. The sculpture will radiate outward from the center of the gallery, but the center will be open, allowing people to sit and contemplate the piece (and each other). Better yet, visitors are encouraged to create a paper cut of their own, and add it to the room’s walls.
My favorite part of visiting studios is identifying the things that artists use as inspiration. Usually there are quotes, objects to draw, postcards from other exhibits, and loads of random junk that might someday be part of their work. Roma is installing one wall full of her “inspirations,” including examples of her paintings.
Near the end of her residency, she will give a free artist’s talk on Oct. 26 from 7 to 8:30 p.m., to talk about her experience constructing the sculpture, and her current interest in larger questions of how art-making relates to spirituality. This project is sponsored by Bill and Nancy Roe.
In our Main Gallery during October through Nov. 25, we will display “Women that I Have Encountered,” a thematic exhibit celebrating the contribution of women, selected from 40 years of work created by Malaquias Montoya, UC Davis professor emeritus of Chicano studies and art.
The exhibition includes Montoya’s powerful charcoal drawings, collage works and silkscreen prints, alongside his larger painted narratives, all of which depict the strength and extraordinary role of women during both peaceful and turbulent times. Montoya’s portraits of women include a series titled “A Moment of Silence,” in which a solitary woman reflects after hearing of César Chávez’s passing, as well as collages never displayed before dedicated to his wife, Lezlie.
Montoya, well known for his silkscreen prints, is credited by historians as one of the founders of the social serigraphy movement in the Bay Area in the mid-1960s. He taught at California College of Arts and Crafts for 12 years, followed by 19 years teaching at UCD until his retirement in 2008.
Please join us on Friday, Oct. 19, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. for an artist talk and book-signing. In celebration of the recent publication of the monograph “Malaquias Montoya,” author Terezita Romo will lead a discussion with Montoya on his life and work. This exhibit is sponsored by Tandem Properties.
We invite you to meet our exhibiting artists, and view our three extraordinary exhibits, on Friday, Oct. 12, from 6 to 9 p.m. To continue the focus on creativity and where that happens, the hallowed “artist’s studio,” is our upstairs exhibit “Artists & Their Studios.” Artists Linda Fitz Gibbon, Linda Erfle, Joe Mariscal and many others have shared views of themselves working in their studio, alongside recent work.
Much like Roma, Lauren Cole Norton will be in residence, with a project titled “Davis Detour.” From noon to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays through Oct. 31, Lauren will create an evolving research studio upstairs at the Pence Gallery, in which you are invited to contribute memories and artifacts of Davis to create a unique audio tour that excavates the hidden histories of the town. Lauren will construct a map of the narratives she records the routes of the walking tour. Visit Lauren and put your pin on the map.
The month of October promises to be a busy one, so we hope that you stop by to see art take shape, learn something new or share a memory of Davis. For more information, visit www.pencegallery.org.
— Natalie Nelson is executive director and curator of the Pence Gallery; her column is published monthly.