Art duet

A collaboration in wood, fiber and earthenware

The title of the latest exhibit at Chico’s 1078 Gallery, We Live Here Now, reflects the recent history of artists Jacob Troester and Mattie Hinkley. After carrying on a two-year long-distance romantic relationship—she in Virginia, he in California—they ended up in Chico, happily living and making art together for the last several months.

That happiness is reflected in this exhibit. It’s a collection of nearly 70 mostly small, whimsical sculptural pieces made from some combination of earthenware (that is, fired clay), fiber and wood. These elements are mixed and used in a variety of clever ways, some as standing sculptures, others as wall pieces.

What’s especially interesting is that, while the artists have named the many pieces in a separate list, they have declined to indicate which of them made what. When I asked Hinkley about this, during a recent interview at the gallery, she said it wasn’t intentional, but rather the result of their working so closely together. “Over time we’ve moved closer together, both emotionally and artistically,” she explained.

Hinkley’s specialty is working with wood, but she has studied and trained in several disciplines, including illustration and ceramics. Troester, who is a Chico native, has a similarly diverse artistic background that includes fiber arts as well as ceramics. A Chico State grad, he currently works as the technician in Butte College’s ceramics lab.

“Um & Pillar” (Photo by Jason Cassidy)

The couple shares expertise with earthenware and often work together on ceramic figures. They freely mix and combine their core elements, so that a piece made to look like a vase made from woven fiber (“Basket Vase”) is actually made from clay.

My personal favorite is “Um & Pillar,” which features a cremation urn perched atop a four-foot-high cherry wood pedestal. Hinkley said she built the piece following the death of her beloved 17-year-old dog as a way to memorialize his life.

When I asked Hinkley what she wanted viewers to take away from the show, she replied, “We want people to experience joyfulness and comfort with our work.”

Jacob Troester and Mattie Hinkley (Photo by Carly Hayes)

At the same time, the couple is well aware of the privilege they enjoy “of being able to devote time and resources toward creating artwork centered around craft practices and ideas of home,” as they write in their artists’ statement. They continue: “We recognize that we live within an unfair system in which many, many people have never known—or have been stripped of—the safety, comfort and security we hold dear.”

In response, they will donate one-third of the income from this show to the group National Bail Out, which is focused on reform of the bail system that has played such a major role in mass incarceration.

They’ve made their artwork affordable, with prices ranging from just $36 (for a unique ceramic cup) to $600, with most coming in from $100 to $300. This is a good opportunity for folks to add some delightful handmade art to their homes.

We Live Here Now shows through Nov. 22, same day as the closing reception, 1-4 p.m. Gallery hours: Friday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The 1078 is practicing social distancing and not allowing more than eight people in at once. 1078 Gallery, 1710 Park Ave.

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