Keep Chico Weird celebrates all aspects of Chico culture


Arthur Lemmer with his and his wife Margo’s paper mache sculpture, Sun God of the Myncatezca Photo credit: Mitchell Kret

The annual Keep Chico Weird art show was held at 1078 Gallery; the reception was held at the gallery March 2. The art was accompanied by live performances and refreshments. While Keep Chico Weird has been centered around live performance art in the past, this year the show was focused more on physical art pieces. The annual celebration of Chico’s culture is put on by the Chico News & Review.

As soon as the doors to 1078 Gallery opened for the reception, a fantastic, positive energy filled the room. Costumed supporters, families and artists came to support each other’s talents in a way that is very indicative of the show’s namesake: Chico is weird.

Chico has much more than the university and state park; we have all kinds of artists and oddities that make Chico more than a boring, rural Northern California town. A conversation with artist Arthur Lemmer on the night of the gallery makes that clear. He arrived in an outfit that complemented his art, inspired by The Alebrije which is a flamboyantly colored Mexican folk art sculpture created by Pedro Linares Lopez in the 1930s.

“My inspiration is, well, life itself,” Lemmer said. “I like to create. I like to take things from life and reinterpret them into artworks. So life is definitely my big inspiration.”

Lemmer has been creating art for the public since he was a teenager.

“I’ve been doing art for probably over 30 years,” Lemmer said. “The last show I was in was the Renew, Rebuild, Reimagine show over at the Chico Art Center for the Camp Fire victims. I’m taking drawing classes at Butte College. I’m also in the drawing club over at Chico State and I draw at the Chico Art Center for the figure and portrait drawing there.”

Lemmer and his wife Margo’s submissions to Keep Chico Weird are both sculptures. One is called “Gaze Into My Eyes.” It’s the piece his outfit for the night was based on. “Gaze Into My Eyes” is a box that has the audience peer into the eyeholes to see their eyes reflected onto the face of a monster inside. His other piece is a large golden papier-mâché idol titled “Sun God of the Myncatezca.” He explained the piece was originally for their son, but they kept adding more and more to the piece and decided to submit it.

Some costume-less artists were less obvious. Nelson Wheeler had full conversations with members of the audience about how they interpreted his piece “My Street” before revealing himself as the artist.

“I’ve been doing art… probably all the way back when I was drawing puppies and sailboats and selling them for a penny when I was in kindergarten or first grade,” Wheeler said. “The years wore on and the passion, the interest, increased well-into college when art became my major, and beyond. Now I’m into my retirement years, and it’s a life-long pursuit. A life-long passion.”

Wheeler touched on why he thinks Keep Chico Weird is so important.

“(Shows like this) present an opportunity for characters like myself to do something or the other,” he said. “(It gives people a place) to congregate and to dwell on the arts, even if only for a moment. We can socialize and consider visions and a whole lot more.”

While not everyone fully appreciates the Chico’s quirks, Keep Chico Weird gives the proud weirdos a place to gather and celebrate the art and culture of the town without imposing their weirdness onto the “normies.” The 2019 show ended March 3 but will inevitably be back next year.

Mitchell Kret can be reached at [email protected] or @mkret222 on Twitter.