• Courtesy PhotoMonica Van den Dool, "With Daisies" ceramic, mixed media, 2010<p class='dotPhoto'>All Chico E-R photos are available <a href='http://chicoer.mycapture.com/'>here</a>.</p>

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CHICO — “Constructs,” an exhibit of ceramic sculpture by two Bay Area artists opens this evening with a public reception at 1078 Gallery.

Artists Monica Van den Dool and Karl McDade will be speaking about their work during the reception from 5?7 p.m. at the gallery, 820 Broadway.

Both artists are teachers — McDade at Diablo Valley College and Van den Dool at California State University, San Jose — and both received their masters in fine arts from Montana State University and have exhibited together frequently throughout the years.

“Our work compliments each other,” said McDade.

The exhibit will include both new and older works by McDade. His clay wall collages with silk screened imagery explore topics as diverse as war, politics, environment and sex.

“They are older pieces and resemble large terra-cotta platters, about 22 to 24 inches across, and the imagery is more politically charged than in my pedestal pieces,” he said.

The newer works are pedestal pieces, 12-24 inches tall, that McDade describes as “assemblage sculpture.” Thematically, he says, they are landscapes that “reference the interplay between industry and nature.”

Both wall and standing sculptures mirror the human condition but include lighthearted and humorous juxtapositions of familiar images.

“I purposefully leave things vague. To me the works are visual poetry, not narratives. I hope that people bring their own ideas to the images and accept them as formal objects,” he said.

Van den Dool will be exhibiting two bodies of work at 1078 Gallery. One is a series of “monkeys as a narrative tableau,” said the artist.

“I like thinking about monkeys being stand-ins for humans. They are kind of just like us stripped of our façade of civilization; just nasty versions of us,” said Van den Dool. “This series includes monkeys that are about 3-feet tall in ambiguous actions that could be interpreted as either menacing or heroic, depending on your perspective.”

Van den Dool”s second series on exhibit is a collection of work inspired by the genre of still life painting, particularly the compositions of Flemish painter Jean-Simeon Chardin. The artist”s simplified but realistic three- dimensional representations of game animals are forcefully combined and contrasted with garishly bright glazes which she generally pushes into the wet clay of the sculptures. The pieces, both wall and floor sculptures, are dried, fired and re-fired together, resulting in many cracks and stresses.

“The whole genre of still life painting references mortality — the fruit and dead game animals. They serve as reminders of the fleetingness of life,” said Van den Dool. “I hope people respond to the sculptural presence of these pieces; that they are affected by them as objects. And that they go beyond that and think about what they are trying to communicate; that the idea of these things is about our relationship to mortality; that they are the ghosts of us and that they recognize themselves in the sculptures.”

The exhibit of McDade”s and Van den Dool”s works will be on display through March 5.

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