Sausalito Artists: The Art of Perseverance

Monday, February 18, 2013

Mondays used to be days I dreaded; back to work, transitioning from fun things we like to do to tasks at hand that need to get done, pleasing a boss or coworkers or getting family obligations taken care of... All those mid-week "to dos" vanished for me on Mondays when I started working in the non-profit arts sector.  The art non-profits with galleries that I have worked for the past 3 years have been open Tuesdays through Saturdays, allowing me to either work at home on Mondays, volunteer at my kids school, or simply, take a day trip.  This past Monday, I visited the artists of Sausalito, back to where my life started with a new job as a web graphics designer over 12 years ago.  I worked in Sausalito in the building immediately next to what is affectionately know as home to many artists in Marin County, "The ICB" (building).  It was not until last Monday that I finally visited the ICB, after knowing about it and all its residents for so many years.  I used to know it solely as the place where West Marine is; where you can get a wetsuit, lifejacket, or fishing supplies before going out on the Bay, however, this very same building houses over 100 artists from all over Marin County, and has held open studios there for 45 years.

"Adrift 1"  ©Kay Carlson
One artist, Kay Carlson, was there in her studio, surrounded by her large paintings of boats on water, assisting another painter from across the hall with the finishing touches on her self-portrait.  Kay Carlson, a plein air and studio painter in the colorist tradition, founded Marin Open Studios 20 years ago and she is currently busy with her team preparing for the 20th celebration of MOS in May.

Another plein air painter, Chris Adessa, was also in her studio, and I stumbled upon her space as I noticed a painting of a barn that was so unique to me-- the entire front side of the barn was covered with the purple shadows of a tree so that it made a pattern that looked more like a web, than a building surface.  This was lovely and different; it caught me off guard and I wanted to go in and see it.  The door was open, and Chris was there, having just arrived to spend the afternoon painting.  I was happy to share how much I loved her new painting.
"Afternoon Light"  ©Chris Adessa

The ICB is a very large building, and on a Monday, I saw about four artists between the three floors.  It was quiet, but had a sense of energy of artists who have persevered for years: hundreds of well-designed and colorful show postcards splashed a huge cork board wall in between floors, showing the depth and multitude of the artists in this building.  Happy that I'd been able to see Kay and Chris, and knowing I didn't have two days to visit, I quickly headed to the building just North of the ICB, which is the Heath Ceramics main building and showroom.  Heath has existed at this location for 60 years, since Edith Heath began her own career as a talented young ceramicist in the Bay Area.  Single kiln firing used by Heath was a method that developed to save energy during the depression.  This style of ceramics continued at Heath today has continued to produce "long-lasting products with integrity, in a responsible manner", which works well with our modern day needs for sustainable solutions that are environmentally friendly.  Inside Heath is a bright, colorful, neatly organized and busy store, with individual ceramicists works displayed and information about the artists.  There is a history of Heath Ceramics timeline, and you can sign up to take a factory tour.  Ceramic seconds of all the work are available for discounted prices, there are items for children and lots of books.  There were plenty of staff willing to help me make a purchase and discuss the items.

"Moment" by Creekwalker
The ICB and Heath Ceramics have been in Marin for more than half a century, and their perseverance has maintained the integrity and quality that we all want in products created by hand and with a creative edge.  There is a sense of pride when you visit these places in Marin, and can take a visitor or friend here who has never been.  It's special and a fun day by the water.  The Bay Model, which also has art exhibit and interactive activities related to the SF Bay is also in this neighborhood, but they are not open on Mondays.  I did however get a peek into a current exhibit of photography by Creekwalker of San Rafael; an exhibit to benefit the Las Galinas Watershed.  Creekwalker's works are detailed, close-ups of water and wild-life in the local creeks.  Well worth a visit if you have the time.
August, Carved Acrylic  ©Sophia Collier

Finally, I had a chance to meet an emerging to mid-career artist who is simply the epitomy of fortitude and perseverance; she made me think of how Sigourney Weaver would take on the art world with a fork lift and big attitude in "Aliens".   Not too far off from this thought, Sophia Collier of Sausalito, has a studio in a converted bus barn where she has worked with 3d imaging, machine carving and her own forklift, to create awe inspiring planks of carved acrylic that literally look like moving water.  Leaned against a wall, they act as a lens for light and cast beautiful, abstract light and shadows onto the wall behind them.  Inspired by the themes of the Light and Space Movement that came out of LA in the 1960's, Sophia is expanding on the tradition and bringing something new to this group of works.  Light and Space artists used new materials that came out of the aerospace industry in the 60s.  Now, Sophia and light and space inspired artists today are using computers, 3d modeling and animation to create works and environments that are pleasing to the eye and immerse the viewer in a special interaction with the art.  I enjoyed visiting the Sophia Collier Gallery and I am truly impressed with the vast knowledge of math, software design and technical abilities Collier has acquired from her business and financial work that she now has at her fingertips for creating art.  She also trained with Pixar animators and precision milling experts in Detroit.  Watch the galleries for Collier in the future.  She is definitely riding a big wave.

Walking along Pier E and F in Sausalito and having a quick coffee and panini at a table in the sun at Taste of Rome, watching cyclists go by, I thought about how lucky we are to live in a place that is filled with a solid history of artists, that also attracts new artists to live here and continue to do what they love.  After all, isn't this the big picture?

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