Kamas Gallery, a showplace of contemporary art above Java Joe's at 319 N. Carson St., is a potent injection of culture into the malls-and-fast-food flavor of Eagle Valley.
The gallery is the result of planning and work by the proprietors Art and Barbara Herman. Art, a 1955 graduate of Carson High, is a sculptor, releasing graceful animals and other figures from blocks of wood. Also showing at Kamas are acrylic paintings and functional ceramics by Julie LaCroix, oil paintings by art professor Harold LaVigne, welded metal sculptures by Barry Crandall, paintings by recent Bay Area transplant Kerry Mueller and mixed-media works by Evan Johnson.
"We started looking casually for a place about a year ago," said Art, describing the actions which led him to realizing his dream of a gallery in Carson City.
"When you show art at galleries in Reno," added Barbara, "the price of commissions can be prohibitively high, so we thought it would be nice to have a place of our own."
"I came in for a cup of coffee one day and saw the 'For Rent' sign," said Art. He was out that day taking care of sad business - delivering a death certificate to FitzHenry's Funeral Home for Barbara's mother. He was told to give them two hours to fix paperwork, so stopped in at Java Joe's.
"It's almost like Barbara's mother led us here from the other side," chuckled Art. "Yes, this is like her heavenly reward for us," added Barbara.
Barbara's mother had been living with the Hermans and had eagerly watched Art's pieces progress.
"She always really loved and enjoyed the art," said Art. "So, maybe there's something to it."
Kamas Gallery is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day but Mondays. The artists split the rent on the upstairs space.
"It's really a perfect space up here," said Barbara, "It's like the classic New York loft. It's a very comfortable space, not at all intimidating," she added.
The ceilings are more than 10-feet tall and the room is vast and open.
Art and Barbara are renting from John Davis, who runs the coffee house below.
"I want to thank John for giving us a really open hand here," said Art. "He let us paint the hallways, gave us a decent rent, and we really appreciate that."
The group of artists developed their plan after meeting in the Comstock art scene.
"We just came together through word of mouth," said Harold LaVigne. LaVigne, a popular artist known for his poetry and paintings published and shown in the Bay Area during the 1960s beat generation, is still creating original works right here in town.
LaVigne is showing several paintings in the Kamas, and also teaches two-dimensional art and humanities classes at Western Nevada Community College. During the '60s LaVigne's work was published in avant-garde, counter-culture mags like "My Father is a Whale," "Grist" and "Deserted Times." These days he is confident and articulate in his tweed sports jacket as he describes his series "Refugee USA."
"This is a series about people who don't necessarily fit into the big flow of things," he says gesturing to a bright, jazzy portrait of a man with a mustache and dark ball cap. Look for LaVigne's Tai Chi class at WNCC in the Spring.
Julie LaCroix, a self described "painter-potter" featured in the bright gallery, has spent much of her life in this region, a fact which shows in her work.
"I'm a Nevada artist," she says. "I talk about Nevada."
She paints with acrylics on canvas several feet tall and wide. There are colorful scenes of horses, coyotes and deer in desert settings.
"My paintings are somewhere between fantasy and surrealism," she says.
LaCroix is also a potter. Her ceramics are hand-built, as opposed to thrown on a wheel, and the pieces she shows at Kamas are high-fire stoneware glazed with rich earth tones.
Kerry Mueller has lived in Silver Springs for five years. He left the heart of the Bay Area behind for the simplicity of the desert. His art too, is pared down, stripped of everything but the essentials. A series piece called "Arrival," for example, is a conglomerate of many smaller pieces put together. Three or four of them are figures in a place, while others are squares of a single cool color. "The space is a crucial element" says Kerry. "It's just as valid as the image."
Evan Johnson "works every day on her art. It's all she does," said Barbara. A friend of the Hermans for more than 10 years, Johnson covers many bases in her art. At the Kamas she shows four-by-five foot paintings in brilliant color with the flavor of an East Indian dream, and also creates art from found objects.
Art and Barbara, married now for 31 years, are happy with the way things are going at the Kamas.
"At first we were terrified of having to get a credit card machine," laughed Art, "but now things are coming along."
Art, who has done everything from deep-sea diving off the New Orleans French Quarter to being the "Dayton handyman," is ready to refocus on his sculpture now that the gallery is on its feet.
"I've put a lot of time in here, and now I need to get back to my work," he said.
A variety of galleries throughout Carson City were joined by the opening of the Kamas Gallery last weekend. All exhibit a variety of work which is mostly from local artists.
King Street Gallery
449 W. King St., at the Brewery Arts Center since May 11, 1979
This gallery is operated by a cooperative of artists belonging to the Nevada Artists Association.
What's in the Gallery? The works of Carson High School students from Paul Ford's and Jane Oling-Greenard's art classes.
Also on exhibit are the works of association members including: Dorothy Paulson, Carol Foldvary-Anderson, Pat Holub, Candy Cramer, Ann Cameron, Nancy Clark, Sally Fiddymint, Dorrine Sadilek, Lee Netzel, Larry Taylor, Bob Thompkins, Lynne Kelly and James and Gerry Lawrence. The featured artist is Ray Freeman.
Joseph J. Anderson Gallery
Nevada Library & Archives
100 N. Stewart St.
In the Anderson gallery: The works of Melba Oliver and Mechele Johnson.
In the library: The work of Janice Powell Shedd.
Eagle Valley Frames & Art Gallery
4555 S. Carson St. for 20 years
Owner: Samuel Leftwich, general manager Scott Leftwich, manager Dennis King
What's in the gallery? Watercolors of Sierra scenes by Lady Jill and oils with a charming whimsical quality by Lori Mogab. Also carries wall art, original oils, vintage photos of the area and framing.
Great Basin Art Gallery and Frame
110 S. Curry for 15 years
Owners: Rick Davis and Jeff Nicholson
What's in the gallery? Features historic photographs of the Reno, Tahoe and Carson area. Also features two prominent Nevada artists Jean Legassick and Nicholson. Both work in oil and landscapes.
Also features the work of Jack Mallotte a Native American who works in landscapes and was instrumental with murals in Minden and at the Carson Valley Historical Society. Nicholson and Davis also do custom framing.
Heart and Home Custom Framing and Gallery
711 S. Carson St. for four years
Owners: Dr. Paul Phillips since March
What's in the gallery? Work from nearly 100 publishing houses and 11 local artists including: water colors by Anne Mitchell, Ann Cameron, Mechele Johnson and oil work by Nadine Prior, Sonnie Imes and Bev Van Sickle.
Mill Creek Galleries
224 S. Carson St. Ste. 6 for three years
Owner: Barbara Florman
What's in the gallery? The works of Thomas Kinkade, painter of light. Kinkade will visit Reno Dec. 30 at the Reno Sparks Convention Center