interviews and photos by BOB DORAN
HUMBOLDT COUNTY IS FULL OF ARTISTS AND ART LOVERS. OUR THRIVING ARTS organizations tell us this over and over -- and while it's not exactly something you can prove conclusively with statistics, it's not hard to verify.
Take a walk around Old Town during Arts Alive! on the first Saturday of any month, or check out Arts! Arcata on the second Friday or Ferndale's Fourth Friday arts walk. You'll find art patrons elbow to elbow sipping wine from plastic cups and nibbling on cheese and crackers while they gaze at and discuss art.
And the majority of that art comes from nearby, from studio spaces above businesses, from artist's garages, from sheds out back, from whole houses given over to the creation of art.
This weekend you will have the opportunity to visit the spaces where art takes shape. The Artist's Open Studio tour takes place Saturday, June 9, and Sunday, June 10, with 65 artists from Trinidad to Loleta throwing open their doors. (The complete list of Open Studios is at the end of this article.) Last week the Journal took a brief tour of its own to talk to some of the artists about what they do and why they do it.
DOING WHAT SHE WANTS TO DO
A jumble of plants lines the path to the studio behind Dellas' Manila home. Among the flowers are hand-painted pots and painted wooden creatures. The walls of her studio are covered with paintings and drawing at various stages of completion, as are the tables and shelves. She moves aside some small pieces, things she says she has been framing to sell on eBay, and makes space at a table covered with little jars of acrylic paint. Before we start our interview she sprays a mist of water over the jars. "I hate screwing the lids back on," she explains.
What do you do?
"I do art. I make things. I was thinking about putting a label on my work like they do with recycling: 73 percent post-consumer goods. I recycle and make a lot of things, but mostly I do paintings."
Do you think of yourself as a painter?
"I guess I'm primarily a painter. I don't just paint but even if I make something, I paint on it, so sure, I suppose I'm a painter. It might seem like a little bit of a downgrading, but I kind of work in the tradition of folk artists. That's a pretty wide description, but I'd say there's some sort of common quality to my work. I'd have to say high art, like for museums or whatever, the purpose eludes me. In academia the sort of thing I'm doing is looked down upon. This kind of medium is considered almost illustrational. The folk art, lower art thing that I come from is more accessible. In fact I've had other artists tell me my art is accessible, for some that is considered a knockdown cut."
That implies that it's better if people don't understand your art.
"It gets a bit like the emperor's clothes, like in symbology: What does what mean to who? Or if your symbolism speaks to people who have advanced degrees in philosophy versus if you speak to people who work in factories."
You mentioned using eBay. How does that work?
"I started doing it last year. I've watched the eBay phenomenon; it's kind of interesting observing the psychology of bidding behavior. I sell under folk art. The section has about 8,000 items; the fine art paintings section has maybe 23,000. So I figure that gives me more of a chance to be seen by people who are shopping for art, folk art, paintings of chickens, whatever. EBay allows me, for a very low price, to advertise who I am out there and to provide a link to my own personal website and gallery and to the Gallery Dog site. The whole web art thing is still in its infancy, but it's growing. And I sell a lot of work out of restaurants like Folie Douce. My first degree was in public relations and what I learned is that targeting your market is everything, like `location, location, location.' People are eating an upscale dinner, drinking a $50 bottle of wine, and `Hey, I've got to have that painting.`"
So one way or another you're making a living as an artist
"Some people say, `Oh, you're an artist? I work for a living.' Then they look at you like there might be something wrong with you. This is a great lifestyle. I really love it. I think about how happy I am that I like my job, because a lot of people hate their jobs. I used to be one of those people."
But now you're an artist, which is what you wanted to be
"That's good advice for people: Do what you want to do. If I wasn't an artist, I'd probably be like criminally insane or something."