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Chico State lecturer and artist Brian McNamara blends nostalgia and identity in ‘Local Citrus’ art exhibit

Artist Brian McNamara at the 1078 Gallery on May 14, 2024
Angel Huracha
/
NSPR
Artist Brian McNamara at the 1078 Gallery on May 14, 2024

Artist and Chico State lecturer Brian McNamara is ready to prove that citrus can be just as satisfying now as it is in season.

His "Local Citrus" exhibit is now on display at the 1078 Gallery in Chico. It showcases a collection of pieces ranging from sculptures to ceramic plates and delves into a world of nostalgia, fantasy, and self-discovery.

An array of well-dressed luchador figures also fill the gallery. For those unaware, a luchador is a Mexican professional wrestler or Lucha Libre performer.

Only this time, the figures are dressed less like wrestlers. Instead, they look like they're ready to enjoy a nice craft beer after work while still wearing their signature masks.

“Breads Gettin’ Stale, Beers Gettin’ Warm” is currently on display at the 1078 Galllery.
Angel Huracha
/
NSPR
Hermano Biblia in “Breads Gettin’ Stale, Beers Gettin’ Warm” is currently on display at the 1078 Gallery.

All of the works on display tie into McNamara’s past.

“Nostalgia is a powerful tool, especially in storytelling and visual language,” McNamara said. “It's a good way to get people to connect with the work and like vibe with it and want to spend a little bit more time with it.”

Naming the exhibit

Surprisingly, the show contains minimal citrus. The title is inspired by the plethora of citrus lining the streets of Chico and the vibrancy of their colors — yellow, orange and lime green.

“I have a beautiful little mandarin tree outside my house, and it produces the most sweet and beautiful fruit,” McNamara said. “I was just kind of sitting on my porch drinking coffee and looking at this tree. And I was like, local citrus. That's the name of my show.”

McNamara draws parallels between citrus and his body of work. He sees the mandarin tree as a symbol of nourishment, health and comfort.

“Thinking back towards that citrus tree, and it being this perfect fruit that comes exactly when humanity needs it, it's like packed full of Vitamin C, cures our sicknesses, and makes us a little happy with this little bright fruit in the middle of the dreary winter.”

Childhood memories influence the exhibit

McNamara’s memories are prevalent in the collection, highlighting various aspects of his childhood adventures in the 1990s. At a young age, his time was split between Bakersfield and Long Beach, Calif.

“A lot of it was us going to 7-11 and stealing candy, wheezing the juice from the Slurpee machine, or going to Home Depot buying broom handles and electrical tape and turning them into weapons and then fighting each other in the streets.”

The cartoons, comic books and monsters that he consumed from an early age are also seen throughout his work. But childhood isn’t the only part of McNamara’s life on display.

The right side of the gallery is dedicated to his older works. There, you will find comic strip pages made of ceramics detailing vivid mementos from his past.

Fusion-Ha! honors the late Akira Toriyama, creator of Dragon Ball.
Angel Huracha
/
NSPR
"Fusion-Ha!" honors the late Akira Toriyama, creator of Dragon Ball.

A standout piece on this side of the gallery is the tribute to the late Akira Toriyama, the creator of Dragon Ball. The piece, “Fusion-Ha!,” is reminiscent of his childhood.

"In that show, there's a moment, to beat the big bad of the series, where the two kids have to fuse to become a third entity," McNamara explained. "That fits with what my boys do, right? They both fuse to become me."

On the left side of the gallery, you’ll encounter McNamara's latest works, which reflect his experiences in Chico over the past two years, including visits to the local Saturday Farmers Market.

Luchador sculptures tie the exhibit together

Peppered around the gallery are the luchador figures decked out in everyday wear. From flannel shirts to pop culture-reference t-shirts of his favorite bands and movies.

“Farmers Market Foo” also known as Montaña Deserito carries a tote bag.
Angel Huracha
/
NSPR
“Farmers Market Foo” also known as Montaña Deserito carries a tote bag.

His love for luchador began at his great-grandfather's house, where the television was pointed at Lucha Libre or old El Santo movies, an iconic Mexican actor-wrestler folk hero. Although he could not understand the language, his fascination with these characters has remained with him.

For McNamara, the luchador sculptures also serve as a bridge between his mixed Mexican and Irish heritage and the broader experience of holding diverse identities.

He especially relates to the luchador tradition of wearing masks.

“Let's use the lens of mask-wearing, which is like a tradition of hiding your identity,” McNamara explained. “Taking my two identities, forming a luchador for each identity, and having them clash was kind of a natural progression.”

Local Citrus is on display at the 1078 Galley until May 26.

Angel Huracha has been a part of the journalism field since 2006 and has covered a range of topics. He is a graduate of Chico State with a Bachelor's degree in news-editorial and public relations with a minor in English.