Art on two wheels

Bikes are the subject and the object in new MONCA group show

“Push Me – Pull You,” The Wayward Box (Photo by Jason Cassidy)

This feature is part of the CN&R’s 2023 Bike Issue.

To coincide with the Wildflower Century bike ride in Butte County (April 30) and National Bike Month (in May), the subject is bicycles for the current Bike-pedia exhibit—on display through May 14.

The place where bikes and art meet might just be our area’s sweet spot, and the show captures the dual creative and outdoorsy natures of Chico.

Many of the pieces in the show reflect the segment of cyclists who might be taking part in the Wildflower ride, with road bikes in different mediums on display throughout the two main rooms. One of the more striking in this vein is Asya Lesly’s “Spokes II,” which shows a blown-up detail of a multi-gear bike fashioned from blue and gold fabrics and needlepoint lines.

Also of note is “The History of the Bicycle,” an impressive ink-on-paper drawing by Katelyn Fitzgerald. Zoom in on the black-and-white image of three people on bikes—featuring a couple of vintage bicycles in the background and a central image of a modern road racer—and see the thousands of words that form the scene. The road, the mountains and the riders and their bikes are all drawn using letters from a range of sources, including lyrics from the Queen song “Bicycle Race” and a Wikipedia entry on the inventor of the flywheel.

  • “Vintage Biker Jersey,” Nelson Wheeler (Photo by Jason Cassidy)

The beauty of the bike, however, is that it’s not merely a specially designed tool for athletes. It’s our most egalitarian mode of movement through this world, and across our mostly flat valley landscape rides a range of human-powered machines—from the kids bike with training push bar in Richard Baldy’s “Parental Support” photograph, to the cruiser with baskets overflowing with colorful flowers in Rickmers’ acrylic painting, “Wildflowers.”

There are a variety of whimsical bike-as-art sculptures that break up the mostly 2-D exhibit and are the most immediately engaging objects in the space—including The Wayward Box’s “Push Me – Pull You,” which faces in both directions simultaneously.

The piece of the show, however, might be the rumpled “Vintage Biker Jersey” by Nelson Wheeler. Suspended on the wall with an old hanger, the starched and painted brown, light-blue and yellow piece of riding gear stands out. It hangs frozen in a road-worn state, perhaps after a challenging 100-mile ride among the wildflowers in the foothills of Butte County.

Bike art
Bike-pedia is on display through May 14.
Museum of Northern California Art, 900 Esplanade,

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