Sustainable Inspiration: The Visual Wonder Of Johnny Dutro

On the industrial west side of town on February 15th, a door was opened to reveal a stunning and imaginative body of work by local artist, Johnny Dutro. Myriad Wonder was the culmination of ten years of pondering and thirty days of intense, transformative focus. During the previous month, Johnny had undertaken an incredible experience provided and nurtured by the Idea Fabrication Laboratory Chico’s premier playground for artists, innovators, and creators.

Johnny displayed close to 30 works, most of which were sold instantly. The pieces were interactive and vivid, and as one walked through the gallery, appreciation for the artist’s talent for detail and color was audible. Each piece had a tangible vibration and message for the viewer. Johnny was beaming—the reception was a huge success.

Two years ago, Johnny Dutro held an art show at the Origami Lounge where he met Erin Banwell, a founder of the Fabrication Laboratories. This meeting would ultimately lead to Johnny’s involvement with the IFL Artist Residency Program and the stunning works that are on display today. The IFL Artist Residency Program is a key element to the Fab Lab’s revolutionary contribution to Chico’s art scene: to create an open-source, community-driven creation zone for exploring the digital fabrication techniques and technologies of modern maker culture.

The Fabrication Laboratory is like a futuristic cradle for innovative artists. They focus on facilitating classes and workshops and provide a channel for technologically inspired artistry. Their effect upon the community extends to a cultural degree, and many Chicoans have found themselves awe-str and inspired by the welcoming, progressive nature of the facility, which assures us that science is beautiful and an artistic revolution is at our very fingertips. You can read about their membership opportunities at, or stop by the 6th and Orange location to witness for yourself how this place has nurtured and evolved the talent and artistry of the incredible Johnny Dutro.

Johnny Dutro is an inspiring individual. He’s well-loved and received by the community and anyone who knows him can tell you several different incredible things about their experience with him. You may recognize Johnny as the front man from several local bands such as Soul Union, Pyrx, and Mystic Roots. He’s a handsome dad, and an incredible artist. Having travelled far and wide, and ultimately settled back in our little community, Johnny is now focusing on self-actualization and conscious living. He walks his talk and enlivens those around him with color and music. Jordan Layman, a founder of the Fabrication Lab, describes Johnny as, “a painter and a dreamer… He perfectly brings authentic form and natural intuitive elements into technology.”


Johnny’s vibrant art reflects his inherently reverent, psychedelic mind state. His eyes have enveloped the color wheel and his hands are now the master craftsmen of that wheel’s infinite expression. His acute sensitivity to color gradients can be witnessed in his piece titled “Atmospheric Pagoda.” After ten years of searching, pondering, and experimenting, Johnny says this art show has manifested as the culmination of all his visions.

He plays with what he calls dream-time-reality: a state of mind that allows organic matter to flow out of him in an effortless reverence for the mystery of life. His striking and simple inkblot designs are a good example of the fruition that comes from this conduit-like mind state. He shared the story of the birth of one particular piece, which appeared as an accidental ink spill upon his work table. During a not-so-fun hash-out with a lady friend, Johnny focused his gaze upon the inkblot and engaged in that curious human behavior that compulsively creates and manipulates. Pulling the pool of ink in every which direction with a pointed end, the blueprint for “Effervescent Abyss” came into existence. This cathartic doodle was then photographed with a simple cellular camera, uploaded to the Fab Lab computers, and digitized into what now hangs upon the gallery wall. Some of the more symmetrical pieces, such as “Morning Jay” or “Neo Totem,” are computerized kaleidoscope-like constructions of Johnny’s very own “future-glyphs,” which he describes as emotional, intuitive symbols. They can be viewed in their own isolated glory in the background of “Gold Rising.”

How does one come to be in such a potent, productive state of being? Born in Chico and raised in Marin, Johnny Dutro was, like many of us, prepared to run from Northern California in search of something more. It led him on vision quests and memorable experiences all around the world. Ultimately, what he discovered was that the true cultivation of self, art, and community must be found and grounded in the warm embrace of where you’ve been placed. For him, and many members of the Fab Lab community, Chico has become the womb of what Johnny calls “sustainable inspiration.” This idea draws upon the necessity of being well-received and warmly welcomed by those who are graced with the sacred and vulnerable gift of art. A safe container is needed for the old paradigm to compost, and allow communion and celebration to sprout. We must grow, collect, be inspired, and be held. And where better to find this than our lovely little home town, where we all know each other a little too well; this place that some choose to run away from? Johnny graciously affirms: Where there is struggle, there is growth.

In art shows past, Johnny had put many treasured pieces
on display and sold to friends and community members. None were documented, however, and Johnny now feels he can appreciate the value of documentation beyond the sole purpose of sustaining one’s ego. “Life is momentary,” he says. “Yet it is important to have documentation of those lost moments. These days, I always consider what I’ll want to show my daughter. My work is important, if for no other audience than her.”

Written by Kel Zimmerlee

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  1. TONIA says: