MENDOCINO: MEET THE ARTISTS

One of the pleasures of Mendocino is the arts community. Walk around town to visit the art galleries and studios. Maybe there will be a show opening during your visit.

I met artist Janet Self at a show at the Odd Fellows Lodge, an 1878 building, and a local art space since 1961, but with an uncertain future. Janet led a group of people in a collective art creation project.

I browsed the current art show and met some artists present. Over 400 artists have shown their work at the Odd Fellows Hall in the recent period. Every month there is a new show. This is a major shared art space for display. I happened to be there when 20 artists from the Anderson Valley had a show.

Artists Bill Allen and Nancy McCleod collaborate in painted furniture art. Some of the furniture I saw is used for media storage. Bill constructs the furniture, Nancy paints on the wood surface. Nancy also does paintings on canvas.

“My art is mainly about what we need to do to help the planet to survive,” said Nancy.

Her canvas paintings were colorful and outwardly folksy, but with deep symbolic meaning. The title is a clue to the detective work needed to understand the meaning. One title was “The Cat Woman Instantly Recognizes Krishna and Invites Him to Tea.”

Nancy’s fans follow her work at http://nancilinispaintings.blogspot.com.

One furniture collaboration with Bill Allen is titled “Skinny Jester Hutch.”

“I like sustainable wood for my furniture,” said Bill, “so I might use plywood rather than a tropical hardwood.”

Bill’s inspiration came from an early need for display cases for storing various media. His pieces with Nancy’s drawings are highly playful, and the title “The Jester Series” epitomizes this.

“I like to create whimsical furniture,” noted Bill. “We consider our work a part of American folk art.”

Bill encourages visitors to take in the annual Memorial Day Show in the Anderson Valley. He and Nancy live in a straw bale house in the area.

Rachel Lahn was another of the Anderson Valley painters, then on display. Her canvases were full of ocean and movement abstract images.

“I think of my work as ‘dimensional constructions,’” she said.

I asked her how she liked painting and living in the Mendocino region.

“There is a good, strong art community here,” she said. “The light is good. I like the wide spaces. I like living on top of a ridge.”

“People have chosen to live here,” she added.

I then walked to the Mendocino Art Center, the most established art showing and instruction venue in the town. They have an artist in residence program and ample gallery space for displays, plus a handy publication guide to the scene. Be sure to stop in there.

I wanted also to see Janet Self’s work at a place along Main Street called the Artists Cooperative of Mendocino, where about 25 artists show their work.

Janet Self had on display some of her “stick people” cluster of paintings, including one called “Carmen’s Triangles.” The co-op also has an outdoor deck where the locals gather for socializing when a new show is up or for their regular Second Saturday Sunset Parties, starting at 3:30. Janet has her wall in the gallery and served, during my visit, as a spokesperson for the entire art scene.

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