‘Sisko Lives!’

A preview of the career-spanning retrospective of a beloved local artist

David Sisk, aka Sisko. (Photo by Dennis Wickes)

This feature is part of the Chico News & Review’s 2022 Arts & Music special issue.

When family and friends of David Sisk put out a call for work created by the Chico artist to be displayed as part of a retrospective exhibit, the response was overwhelming. Until his unexpected passing last year (he died suddenly at age 75 while hiking in Bidwell Park on March 21, 2021), the artist known as Sisko had been one of the most consistent creators in town, working across a wide range of media throughout much of his life.

All told, more than 75 pieces have been submitted for the Sisko Lives! show opening at the Museum of Northern California Art (MONCA) on April 14. Many of the works are being provided by Sisko’s family, but the bulk of the pieces in the exhibit are on loan from collectors in the community, said his daughter, Brea Onnah Sisk, who curated the show along with her brother and mother, Jeb and Beth Sisk, and exhibit organizer Pam Figge and a committee of volunteers. It’s a testament to Sisko’s influence and involvement with the local community that so much of his art remains a part of it.

The exhibit will take up three gallery spaces at MONCA. Works span most of Sisko’s creative life and pull from his various projects/series/themes—Sisko characters (cartoon buddhas, animals, even the artist himself) in various media; commissioned cutout plywood sculptures and paintings for local businesses; “chimp art” (guerrilla public pieces); T-shirts; altered altars; puzzle-show pieces; etc. Many feature the familiar “Sisko Says” aphorisms (e.g., “Be kind to your fellow humans,” “Heal thyself,” “Nothing isn’t sacred)” or the artist’s succinct social commentaries, both of which appeared on his iconic public billboard works as “Public Sisko Announcements.” Just one of the full-size billboard pieces will be on display at the museum, but others will be featured via slideshow presentation.

  • “balance” by Sisko, from the collection of Diane Garner.

Across town, the Chico Art Center will present another exhibit concurrently with the retrospective—The Puzzle Show (April 16-29), a community-participation fundraiser that Sisko originally created with son Jeb and artist Titus Willoughby in 2003 (exhibited at his now defunct Drive-By Gallery). The concept involves cutting up large plywood designs into small pieces that are sold to artists who individually paint or otherwise transform the plain wooden shapes before bringing them back to be reassembled for one collective community installation. The project is the epitome of Sisko’s work at the intersection of art and community, and this year’s exhibit is dedicated to his memory.

Sisko Lives! A Collectors Show
Shows April 14-June 12
Reception: April 15, 6-8 p.m.
Museum of Northern California Art
900 Esplanade

The Puzzle Show (dedicated to the memory of its co-creator Sisko)
Shows April 16-29
Closing reception/silent auction: April 29, 6-8:30 p.m.
Chico Art Center
450 Orange St.

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