Oct. 24, 2016Vol. 47, Issue 2

Drawing a Crowd: Chico State’s Faculty and Staff Artists

Faculty and staff art will be displayed in Kendall Hall until Thursday, November 3.

This fall, the Annual Staff and Faculty Art Exhibit is enlivening Kendall Hall with its showcase of artwork submitted by Chico State’s exceptionally talented faculty and staff.

In this issue of Inside Chico State, we are featuring a sampling of the work on display to give you a glimpse of a few of the artists who are part of the Chico State family. The array of art medias will be displayed until Thursday, November 3. On that day, a reception and silent auction will be held from 4:30–5:30 p.m., presenting an opportunity for you to bid on your favorite pieces and take home a memento of the University’s hidden talent. Here, we get to know three of the artists:


Devon Blenkush, Shipping and Receiving

Blenkush, a shipping and receiving clerk, submitted two pieces of woodwork art, titled “1950’s  ‘Woody’ Chevy” and “Ancient Mini Door (a film prop)”—which was used in the upcoming indie short film 3 Keys made by local award-winning filmmaker and Chico State alumnus Josh Funk (BA, Art Studio, ’07). This is Blenkush’s second year in a row submitting woodwork for the exhibit, and he explained his interest in such crafts stemmed from watching his father complete construction projects and small wood carvings.

“I picked up a lot from watching my father work,” he said, “and saw the joy (and) satisfaction he got when completing them.”

From an early age, Blenkush has enjoyed working with his hands, and in eighth grade he took woodshop, building simple things like toy airplanes and a chessboard out of birch and mahogany. But it’s only within the last few years that he’s been actively working with wood, he said, and “reacquainting” himself with an art that spans his family’s generations.

He favors three-dimensional pieces that requires craft and skill, and said that he tries to make every project he tackles more unique in regards to structure, complexities, and details.

Wood art “1950’s  ‘Woody’ Chevy” submitted by Devon Blenkush

Wood art "1950's 'Woody' Chevy" created by Blenkush


Maria Olson, Financial Aid and Scholarship

Olson, a financial aid advisor, current communication studies graduate student, and Chico State alumna (BA, International Relations, ’95), has been submitting her photographs for the exhibit on and off since 2008. While she doesn’t consider herself a professional photographer, she often documents her travels and feels a responsibility to bring home pictures that tell an authentic story about other places in the world. During a faculty-led staff development trip to Cuba in March 2016, Olson took more than 1,500 pictures in 10 days.

Out of all her options, Olson narrowed it down to three special photos that revealed the locale’s charm; “El Gato,” “Waiting for a Ride in Havana,” and her favorite, “Watching and Waiting,” which was actually a “happy accident” shot that turned out really well, she said. Olson recalled the people of Cuba being so engaging and excited to talk to her and her tour group, especially since President Barack Obama was slated to arrive in Cuba that same week. Many of the locals she asked to photograph were “honored,” she said.

Inspired by narrative pictures like “Migrant Mother” by Dorothea Lange and landscape photographer Ansel Adams, Olson enjoys taking pictures of people, animals, landscapes, and her kids.

“I have two kids and I love to take pictures of them,” she said. “It’s a good way to document, to keep track.”

Photographs submitted by Maria Olson

Photographs “Watching and Waiting” (left), “Waiting for a Ride in Havana” (middle), and "El Gato" (right) taken by Olson


Ben Van Dusen, Science Education

This was Associate Professor Van Dusen’s first opportunity to submit art for the exhibit, wanting to show his affinity for science and art despite having no art background and being completely self-taught since beginning in 2012. The process in which his finished aluminum designs are made is truly unique. Inspired by M.C. Escher’s mathematical “circle limit” tessellations, Van Dusen creates his art using striking digital photos of fractals in nature (images with patterns that repeat in varying sizes) and generates them into infinite tessellations, called hyperbolic tessellations, on his computer. There’s “some cool math tricks to it,” he said.

After completing the designs, Van Dusen sends them to a company that prints them on special paper and heats that paper on an aluminum sheet so the pigments from the print embed themselves into the metal—becoming so ingrained that even Windex is useless against them. The end result is durable yet compelling and glimmers in the right light.

Van Dusen has a red-green color vision deficiency, so he sees his artwork very differently than others, but it doesn’t hinder his artistic eye.

“The pieces that speak to me may not speak to other people in the same way,” he said. “I make designs that I find interesting and see what other people like. Sometimes there’s agreement.”

Prior to his move to Chico in the fall of 2015, he lived in Boulder, Colorado, where he had his first showing at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. After making the move, he had a couple pieces displayed in Art Etc. in downtown Chico, and he would like to show in more places and pursue commissioned work. Van Dusen said he’s not necessarily interested in money, he just wants people to enjoy it, and his exhibited pieces are for sale. More information about his work can be found at www.circlelimitdesigns.com.

 Aluminum art

Aluminum art "Meconopsis betonicifolia" created by Van Dusen

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