Dooberville, California: One artist’s interpretation of Chico


Walking into 1078 Gallery for the reception celebrating artist Judith Leinen’s exhibit, “Dooberville,” was an initially confusing experience. Before entering the gallery, one spots a hanging contraption that makes access inside a tight squeeze, leaving one to wonder whether they were supposed to interact with the piece or not (they were, as I later learned from the artist herself). Leinen is spotted moving through the crowd, eagerly watching the audience’s responses and interaction with her exhibit.

The gallery itself is small, but gives the impression of an open space due largely to the high vaulted, industrial ceilings. It is from these industrial ceilings that the artist’s pieces hang, all 12 of which are numbered, interconnected and nearly identical. PVC pipes overhead create a web that holds long, parachute-like, fluorescent material at eye level. From there, black plant-holding crates are latched together in three-by-three foot squares, held together by synthetic fiberglass wedges.

While the hanging pieces, much like mobiles, are easy enough to navigate around in the gallery, the floor is more challenging to maneuver. The shiny concrete floors are cracked in conventional, sidewalk lines and randomly all over individual squares. From these cracks grow roots and grass, exclusively representative of the agriculture that surrounds Chico, according to Leinen. The seeds used to grow the roots were given to the artist from local nurseries such as Little Red Hen and Chico Crop.

In fact, all of the materials used in the entire exhibit were found in Chico, as it is meant to be a representation of the area. Many of the materials were acquired by coincidence and then used to create the exhibit, Leinen said. Rather than seek out specific materials, she utilized materials she had stumbled upon and then began her creative process, acquiring more materials as she worked.

“These materials are from someplace and they will go someplace, Leinen said. “They are taking a sort of detour with me in this piece.”

Leinen is currently a guest scholar at Chico State from Mainz, Germany here to share her art with the Chico community. Although the artist is not a Chico native, her interest in the land and the community is what led her to create “Dooberville,” a place in which she allows her sculptures to tell a story and be receptive to the changes that come from listening to stories.

“Dooberville” represents Leinen’s perception and experiences in Chico. She explains that all the objects featured in the exhibit are temporary, and aren’t as important as the interpretation. The intent was to investigate each piece on a deeper level because soon enough, whether she uses them again or they leave her entirely, they can be utilized again.

All in all, “Dooberville” showcases an important and distinct aspect of Chico from not only an artistic point of view, but also from one that is fresh and foreign.

Chelsea Gallegos can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.