The monca finishes the year strong with ‘Selfie 2020’


Courtesy of the Museum of Northern California Art

Another painting by Arran Harvey that depicts the everyday wearing of masks. Courtesy of the Museum of Northern California Art.

The Museum of Northern California Art’s new exhibit, “Selfie 2020,” is a collection of art that reflects how the first 10 months of 2020 has affected the artists.

Executive Director, Pat Macias, explained the exhibit as told through their call to artists. Macias said artists were asked to create pieces that reflected them 10 months of 2020. Macias asked, “Have you changed physically, mentally, is your mind going in another direction, has your art taken on a new life?”

Types of art included in the exhibit range included photography, politically-focused pieces, and some interesting three-dimensional pieces. However, what the pieces have in common is a shared reflection on the effects the pandemic has had on the artists.

She mentioned Chico-raised artist Arran Harvey’s work and how one of his paintings depicts a group of people at Dolores Park sitting in social distancing circles. This piece is titled, “People Social Distancing.”

“People Social Distancing” is a painting by artist Arran Harvey featured in “Selfie 2020.” The exhibit is open until Jan. 24. Courtesy of the Museum of Northern California Art.

Harvey – who works out of San Francisco but is from Chico – explained how the painting focuses on the space between people and how that’s something we might take for granted now during a pandemic.

“I paint a lot of people and landscapes and I was doing this series of people having lunch together,” Harvey said. “Once this pandemic hit, this whole idea of our proximity to each other kind of played right into the theme of my work anyway because I was taking photos and painting pictures of people while highlighting the spaces between them, and now everyone is so much more hyper-aware of how close we are to each other, and our groupings and what’s appropriate.”

Harvey’s second piece in the exhibit is titled, “Boys With Mask” and pictures a moment during the beginning of the mask mandate. Specifically, the painting depicts two people interacting normally, but both wearing masks. Harvey explained that the goal was to paint an ordinary interaction between two people, while also making an observation about how the pandemic affects social interaction.

Another painting by Arran Harvey that depicts the everyday wearing of masks. Courtesy of the Museum of Northern California Art.

“At the time it was a real novelty kind of thing,” Harvey said of painting masks in his work. “Suddenly it’s become a lot more normal and it’s not so novel anymore it’s just kind of the way things are.”

Something both of Harvey’s paintings touch on are these moments during the beginning of the pandemic, where there seemed to be a lot of uncertainty in the precautions needed to be taken.

“There was this small window of time before they had really been telling people you need to wear masks everywhere,” Harvey said. “So there were all these people in the park and they were in their little circles but they weren’t really wearing masks, so that’s kind of interesting. It’s like this record of a small little point in time.”

Like many artists, using their art to be able to process the many emotions one feels during an especially stressful period can be a really therapeutic experience. One thing he hopes for people when they see his art, is to think about our physical relativity to each other.

“I do want people to step back and reconsider their own physicality in our environment,” Harvey said. “I’ve been interested in this idea of proxemics, how we gather ourselves, the social norms of when it’s okay to be really packed together like at a concert or something.”

Much of Harvey’s work is based around the idea that there are patterns in the way people group together and the unity we all truly have with one another.

Another artist featured in the exhibit, Julia LaChica, also did some reflecting in her work. Between the three pieces she has in the exhibit, there are themes of nostalgia and healing as well as processing the current state of the world.

“I grew up in San Francisco, in a housing project in Chinatown,” LaChica said. “A lot of the texture that I see are from the housing projects … I think a lot of my imagery kind of reflects back to my childhood and what I grew up with and what I saw.”

LaChica’s work is a reflection of the different aspects of her life and childhood. One painting included in the monca’s exhibit, titled, “The Ping,” is more of a self-portrait that represents feelings of acceptance and loss.

“The Ping” is another piece by LaChica that is featured in the “Selfie 2020” exhibit. Courtesy of Julia LaChica.

“It’s kind of a mesh between the past and the present,” LaChica said. The painting largely deals with the loss of her mother and how she had to deal with that as a child and an adult.

“When you lose a parent you’re always dealing with that,” LaChica said. “So when I did that painting it was just my memory of growing up at this housing project.” 

However, LaChica said that, “there’s sadness to it and there’s a playfulness to it; and there’s a hope that we’ll be reunited again in some shape or form.”

Another piece she has in the exhibit, is titled “A Glimmer” and is more pandemic-based in its nature. The painting depicts a young girl wearing a gas mask while holding a stuffed rabbit. LaChica said that the symbolism of butterflies is also meant to represent children of immigrants.

A piece by Julia LaChica, titled “A Glimmer” depicts a reflection of how the events of 2020 have affected us as a nation. Courtesy of Julia La Chica.

With all the social division brought out of the pandemic, LaChica hopes what people take away from her art is that when people see her art “it touches something in them that validates what they’re feeling.”

The monca held a curbside art event on Dec. 13 where some artists from “Selfie 2020” were featured, and are also holding a conversation with the artists on Jan. 10.

Danielle Kessler can be reached at [email protected] or @reserv0irpups on Twitter.