DAYTON — Having participated in more than 50 exhibitions, Bay Area artist Anthony Pinata earned a place in the Tongue River Artist Residency program Sept. 1–15, where he was able to connect with Wyoming through drawing and painting in the company of his family.

Pinata was the first artist to participate with his family, who were able to develop new work including drawings, paintings and collages.

Many artists with children have to postpone residency programs, as they do not offer the possibility to bring family. However, and despite the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pinata saw the residency as an opportunity to connect with his art and family at the same time.

The Tongue River Artist Residency offers artists the ability to take inspiration from the surrounding area in the town of around 800.

For the residency, Pinata mainly worked on artwork titled ​"Brief Moments of the West​." It is a compilation of nearly 300 drawings and paintings in which he recreates episodes of his stay in Wyoming. The drawings portray barns, deer, bison, signs, trees, rivers, hills and elements of the sky.

In addition, he paid homage to the state by developing separate paintings using the silhouette of the bison. His wife, Jocelyn Behrens, also made several collages and paintings with their 22-month old daughter, Gía.

"Many times an artist's residency offers you a chance to leave daily life behind, and with that, one’s own family," Pinata said. "I spent many hours with my family, noticing the smaller moments of the day, such as the deer in the backyard, who ate from the apple trees, and my daughter also became intent on eating an apple a day.

"I thought for a little while of doing something ambitious, addressing the many issues of our day, but my mental and physical energies were limited as a new parent," he added. "I decided to record my experience on the road and in Dayton through this assortment of mostly 1-inch-by-1-inch sketches. The small format was realistic given the constant interruptions of our toddler. Stepping away from the crowded Bay Area and living for a moment in a quiet, rural Wyoming setting, was an invaluable and restful experience that we hope to repeat.” 

Pinata comes from a family of artists. His father, Ernie Pinata, is a blues musician and bandleader of the group Delta Wires, chef and painter, and his mother, Anne Austin, is a painter and curator. His younger brother, Stephen Pinata (1985–2006), also performed in plays and made drawings and paintings.

Throughout his career, Pinata has participated in more than 50 exhibitions in U.S. cities.  

He currently exhibits several artworks from the residency at the Gallery on Main in Dayton and recently has been collaborating with Oakland-based artists Jamie Treacy and Alejandro Rubio via postal mail, in part to maintain a creative engagement within the pandemic.

"We do this to stay motivated and to strengthen our artistic community," he said.

One of the pieces Alejandro Rubio and Pinata made was exhibited at the Pelham Art Center in New York as part of the ​USPS Art Project​.

Pinata lives in Alameda, California, and works in Emeryville, California, as an archivist for the sculptor Brian Wall.

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