Studio magic

On tour with Chico Art Center’s annual artist showcase—Open Studios Art Tour

Jim Woronow in his home gallery. (Photo courtesy of James Woronow)

This story is part of the “Open season for art” feature in the CN&R Fall Arts special issue.

Objectively, the annual Open Studios Art Tour is Chico’s biggest visual arts event of the year. What other local event features so many artists in so many locations that you’d need to tour all day over all four days of the event just to have a chance at taking it all in?

The upcoming edition—happening the weekends of Oct. 14-15 and Oct. 21-22, will include 86 participating artists showcasing their work in studios and art spaces throughout Chico and the surrounding areas.

The place to start the tour is the Chico Art Center (CAC). Open Studios is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the longstanding community art center, which produces and sells the tour programs as as well as hosts a preview throughout the month. The preview features examples of works by participating artists (many of which are represented in the slideshow at the bottom of this page as well), and the eclectic exhibit is CAC Board President Lisa Freeman-Wood’s favorite part of the event. “It shows the talent and diversity that we have in Chico,” she told the CN&R.

Probably the greatest selling point of Open Studios, however, is getting to visit the artists’ worlds, those workshops, galleries, yards and other spaces normally hidden from viewers. To get an idea of what to expect on the tour this year, the CN&R convinced a couple of those artists let us and the readers visit their stops—Jim Woronow’s spread in Dayton (just west of Durham) and the home gallery of Kristen DeMartini Carlos—and preview what they’ve been working on for 2023.

2023 Open Studios Art Tour: Saturday & Sunday, Oct. 14-15 & Oct. 21-22, 10am-5pm.
Chico Art Center has guide books for sale ($15), and will be hosting a month-long preview with an opening reception Oct. 6, 5-7pm.

The reinventor

“This is the 50th year I’ve been doing geometric abstractions,” Jim Wonorow told the CN&R in a recent interview. But despite the fact that he’s “always been into abstraction” and has been working in that mode via multiple forms—painting, woodworking, metal sculptures, etc.—for all those decades, it wasn’t until last year that he made a discovery that allowed him to fully realize his vision.

The impetus for his watershed moment? Plastic.

“305” (metal, wood, acrylic, paper), by Jim Woronow. (Image courtesy of Jim Woronow.

He explains the fateful day in his artist statement: “I was cleaning up the shop and storing plexiglass on shelves. I began to glue some scrap pieces together with Super Glue, adding other elements I had around the shop, wood, steel and aluminum. I realized instantly that I had just freed my sculptures from the base.”

While Woronow’s recent metal sculptures were a suitable means for expressing geometric forms, the pieces were both getting too cumbersome for the artist to work on due to worsening arthritis and proving frustrating due the intrusion of their bases in the compositions.

From his chance experiment, he developed a new approach that he’s thrown himself into. The process starts with metal and wood geometric forms that he arranges and then glues to a thin sheet of non-glare plexiglass. The now unencumbered free-floating sculpture is then affixed to a board that’s been covered with handmade paper—providing a background color—and surrounded with a custom-made wood frame.

“It really has gotten my attention,” Woronow said, adding that he’s been making 2-3 pieces a month since.

For Open Studios, visitors will be able to experience both new and old works.

Throughout out his yard, Woronow has installed a selection of eight sculptures ranging in size from 6- to 14-feet tall.

Apart from his workshop, Woronow also has a 400-square-foot gallery where his new works are on display. Each is titled with a number, such as “305,” with its abstract arrangement of little wooden circles and squares, silver metal lines and trapezoids and more floating on sea of fibrous aquamarine paper.

Woronow’s place is one of the more far-flung on the tour—out in the very tiny town of Dayton (west of Durham). But it’s only a 15-minute drive from Chico; a reasonable trip for a chance to experience the abstractions of an artist onto something new.

The scenemaker

When local painter Kristen DeMartini Carlos attended the Academy of Art in San Francisco, she heard all about great works of art on display in famous museums all over the world.

“People would always say to me, ‘Oh, the paintings in the Louvre,’ or “The paintings in Chicago or New York,’ and I [was] a starving artist. I’d never been to Chicago, or New York or Paris,” she said. So after graduating, she decided to get a job as a flight attendant so that she could travel to see these paintings first hand. “It was great,” she said.

Kristen DeMartini Carlos is busy installing her paintings throughout her home in time to welcome Open Studios patrons. (Photo by Jason Cassidy)

A South San Francisco native, Kristen has become a Chico local. She lives on the western edge of Chico with two teenage daughters and her husband, CalFire Chief Paul Carlos, and worked for 16 years—12 as the general manager—at the old Christian Michaels restaurant in downtown Chico before moving on to a position in dean’s office in the Humanities and Fine Arts department at Chico State.

These days, the subjects of DeMartini Carlos’ paintings are mostly the scenes that she’s photographed during her travels—from the Amalfi Coast in Italy to a vineyard sunset in Lake County. In fact vineyards are a common subject in her landscapes.

“I think people in Chico would know me for painting vineyards,” she said.

During a recent preview visit to her home, the walls and floors of the living room were covered with both finished and unfinished pieces. The art also spills out into the rest of the house, much of which will be part of DeMartini Carlos’ home gallery during the art tour.

In addition to the landscapes, she does some figurative and still life paintings, including the recognizable three-and-a-half-foot-tall wine bottles that she initially created to hang in Christian Michaels, some of which now are on her dining room wall and will be on view during Open Studios.

Below is a slideshow of works by some of the artists taking part in this years art tour. For more info on the show and the artists visit

  • David H. Miller

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