Collaborative exhibit ‘Wide Open Spaces’ turns heads


Photo credit: Franky Renteria

Chico State is the home to a newly curated exhibit at the Janet Turner Museum. It showcases and intertwines Janet Turner’s one of a kind prints with photography by the university’s advanced photography students.

Sketches by Janet Turner and the “Wide Open Spaces” exhibit. Photo credit: Franky Renteria


The exhibit “Wide Open Spaces” is unique in the way that it presents art solely inspired by nature found in the Chico area. Turner, a progressive artist, collector and ecologist, created numerous watercolor and egg tempera prints of nature and bird habitats in Bidwell Park.

Catherine Sullivan, the exhibit and museum curator, collaborated with Chico’s advanced photography class to complement the themes present in Turner’s pieces by displaying current images of the Big Chico Creek Reserve.

Attendee closely observes Janet Turners “immature golden eagle.” Photo credit: Franky Renteria


“We all had different aspects of what we were looking for, so what we saw and what spoke to us were all incorporated in our shots,” said photography student Raul Hernandez. “I saw life blooming and the interactions between human and nature.”

Hernandez, along with other photography students, like Grant Casey, worked together to design collective pieces like their accordion style book, which opens and closes like the instrument. This display drew a lot of attention and interest as it stood out among the traditional presentations of wall-hung art.

Exhibition shot by several students at the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve. Photo credit: Franky Renteria


Though there was a modern spin on this design, the prints had a certain sentimentality to them as the shots were darkly exposed and made to look like older, more weathered prints.

The more modern take on the environment paired with Turner’s older prints made the audience pay closer attention to the commonalities and points of reference existing between the two mediums.

Attendees enjoy wine and snacks at the Turner museum exhibit. Photo credit: Franky Renteria


The contrast between old and new portrayals of the area tells a story about the history and ever-changing ecology of Chico’s famous Bidwell Park.

“I arranged for the photography students to go to the environment she would have gone to observe birds and the wildlife and interpret that space through a camera’s eye,” said Sullivan. “So the exhibition talks about the space as a locale and the space as its inhabitants.”

Curators James McManus and Catherine Sullivan cracking a smile as the crowd claps while they end their Q&A at the curators talk. Photo credit: Franky Renteria


As a supporter of education and the arts, Turner donated her personal collection of prints to enable students to see her techniques and appreciate the detail and texture in original print work.

The flow and presentation of an art exhibit are almost as important as the works themselves. Sullivan compared the process of curating the exhibit to writing an essay and said that to have a successful exhibit, one must have a subject or an overarching theme translated through the placement of specific visual images from the collection.

Sketches by Janet Turner and the “Wide Open Spaces” exhibit. Photo credit: Franky Renteria


“How (the pieces) get there and where it’s positioned has to form a conversation with each other and has to spark interest in the audience,” said Sullivan.

Attendee observes a piece of artwork by Tom Patton. Photo credit: Franky Renteria


“Wide Open Spaces” in the Janet Turner Museum will continue through Dec. 10 and is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and every Saturday from and from noon to 4 p.m.

Anisha Brady can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_arts on Twitter.