Exhibition represents artist’s transition from student life to real world


Rin Carbin - The State Hornet

Caiti Chan stands with her work “You Can’t Make Them Stay” which is made with ink, paint powder, isopropyl alcohol, sea salt and pastel. Her exhibition, “Right Now (and Yesterday) will be displayed in the Union Gallery until Oct. 19.

Rin Carbin

A Sacramento State alumna’s transition from school life to the world beyond the classroom is the theme of the Union Gallery’s newest exhibition: “Right Now (and Yesterday).”

The colorful, abstract art exhibition will display Sac State alumna Caiti Chan’s artwork from the past year, ranging from her last semester of classes earning a master’s degree in painting, to now working as a full-time artist and at a retail job.

Chan said the exhibition’s name is a reflection of the changes in her life after graduating, and how they affected her art. “Right Now” represents her current work after finishing her degree, while “(and Yesterday)” represents the work she did in her last semester at Sac State.

“(The work from “Right Now” is) very new, it’s very raw, it’s not looked at by any professors not looked at by really anybody except some of my Instagram followers (and) some of my friends,” Chan said. “The new work’s not based in academia.”

Click through slideshow for close up shots of Chan’s paintings:

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Ian Harvey, a painting and drawing professor whom Chan cites as her mentor, said her interactions with other art students in class helped her grow as an artist .

“I’m just one voice, and one pair of eyes; in class there’s twenty voices and twenty eyes and she took full advantage of that,” Harvey said. “She was always out there looking for advice. She really built a community for herself and used that community, which is really hard to do at this university, a drive in-drive out university.”

“Right Now (and Yesterday)” will be Chan’s first solo exhibition as a new graduate. Union Gallery Director Rebecca Voorhees said that she invited Chan to open the exhibit out of her appreciation for Chan’s style, method and medium of choice.

“I just really enjoy her style and ideas, and I felt that as a recent master’s (degree) graduate she’d be a great candidate for a solo exhibition,” Voorhees said.

Chan combines saltwater and isopropyl alcohol to create moving explosions of color by using squeeze bottles to squirt paint and ink onto a canvas laid on the ground. Chan said the movement and transformations of the substances’ inability to mix together remind her of growth and being alive.

Before you knew, but now you don’t.

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To add more texture to her abstract paintings, Chan lays cellophane on top of the painted canvas. A method she developed over summer is reusing the same sheet of cellophane across different canvases, causing remains of paint to be transferred for a new piece and calling it a “sister painting.”

Chan said she thinks of reusing the cellophane as another part of growth and life, comparing it to an abrupt end to a friendship she experienced over the summer.

“I kinda felt discarded in a way from that friendship,” Chan said, “so when I was using this cellophane in my studio, and I was thinking about it as garbage, I was like ‘no, I want to give it a second chance’ like a second life.”

The exhibition also acts a personal journal for Chan, who writes about her thoughts and emotions while working on each piece in her studio. For each piece, Chan chooses the colors of the paint and ink based on her mood and creates the title based on a phrase she wrote in her journal.

However, Chan said she does not expect attendees to feel the same emotions she felt while working on each piece. Instead, she finds abstract art to be uniquely interpreted by each person.

“I really love when people look at an abstract painting, and they feel a certain way because it’s special to them,” Chan said. “The point of it is to share in this universal, maybe spiritual viewing of this work that makes you think of your own human experience.”

The exhibition will be open until Oct. 19, and there will be a reception on Thursday, Sept. 28 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

UPDATE Sept. 27: In the previous version of this story, we inaccurately mentioned that “Right Now (And Yesterday)” is Caiti Chan’s first solo exhibition. Instead, the gallery is her first show as a college graduate.