A couple of years ago I heard rumors that there was a cool and successful art gallery somewhere in San Diego County that catered to the type of art I usually only found in Los Angeles, Seattle and New York. I may have even seen a mention in Juxtapoz or on a trendy‘n’hip web site. I immediately dismissed this rumor as a psychotic dream or the hallucinatory visions of an especially spicy chili pepper, for certainly San Diego was awash in “tourist art” — countless scenes of the sparkling coast, Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo, and lots and lots of seagulls. Like the photo to the right… which includes not just seagulls, but also the all-important coastal scene all tourists seem to drool over.
(Okay, full disclosure… I took that photo with my camera phone at La Jolla Cove and use it as the wallpaper on my cell. It may be a photo of seagulls and the coast, but I like it! I also would like to thank the seagulls for posing so nicely and allowing me to creep up close, all paparazzi-style)
Anyway, back to the rumor that there’s a cool art gallery somewhere in town….
Sure enough, a couple of weeks ago I ventured down to Art Walk, San Diego’s yearly art-fest held in Little Italy where the streets are lined with booth after booth of budding artists and funnel cakes. Art Walk is pretty huge, but I can usually make it through fairly quickly, since a lot of the same artists show year after year and I have a quick (or, perhaps, impatient) eye for what I like. As I was zipping around the stalls I came across a booth of illustrative work that immediately slowed my step and drew me into the curtained walls.
Bold, confident work, strong themes, very lowbrow (to beat an obnoxiously overused-to-the-point-of-cliche term to death) in the best of ways. Nah… no way… could it be?
Sure enough, the stories were true; I’d come across a sample of work from Distinction Gallery in Escondido (just north east of San Diego for fans of geography).
Inside the booth I met Melissa and Sam, two of the friendliest gallery owners I’ve had the pleasure of meeting (which really isn’t fair to all the other gallery owners I know, since they are all equally friendly and have played a tremendous part in helping me build my collection). We had a fun chat about collecting art, the San Diego scene, and their gallery way up there in Escondido. Upcoming, they told me, was a three person show opening May 10th featuring Jenn Porreca, Jeni Yang, and Alex Willan.
Curious to see this once-rumored-now-real gallery I decided to attend the opening reception. Because most of the openings I attend are out of town I tend to pick and choose the shows I attend very carefully, usually going to shows where I’m very familiar with the artists and (maybe) intending to purchase something. After all, if I’m going to burn a tank of gas, I may as well make the walls of my house happy. For this show, though, I wasn’t at all familiar with any of the three artists, so my wallet would surely be safe, and — apart from getting lost and ending up 20 miles north, in Fallbrook, after the opening — the gas expenditure would be light.
Little did I know that I would come across the delightfully imaginative work of an absolutely brilliant artist, the talent-rich Jeni Yang. Wow! I was really taken by her bright, candy colored acrylics, and found each of her paintings wildly exciting with unexpected surprises. Quite seriously, every time I looked at one of her paintings I found some new hidden surprise.
It didn’t take too much time before I began to get that — Must. Own. Art. — feeling, and ended up buying the amazing painting pictured at the top of the page (and added to the Collection section of my site). This piece is titled “Reverie” and it’s filled with a treasure box landscape of imagination, spread across a 4 foot wide, 30 inch high canvas of natural wood. Broccoli trees and milk carton buildings. A noodle bowl hot tub, and a boombox factory. Lavish desserts and magical headphones. It’s really a wonderful masterpiece!
The artist — Jeni Yang, who is pictured above next to the painting, was very forthcoming with all kinds of information about how the painting came to be, from the initial ideas, the first sketches, symbolic elements, and pictures of her friends and pets scattered throughout the work. I was very impressed with how well she was able to corral an extremely vivid imagination, and transfer her energy into her work in an organized and cohesive fashion that felt, to the eyes, like a roller coaster ride of fun. I think she has a tremendous career ahead. Check out more of her work on her website: www.jeniyang.com.
It just goes to show that sometimes the best art in the world is hiding just beyond the plans we make, and accidents can be quite a pleasurable trip!