Creating Community: Profiles of local artists
(Editor’s note: On Sunday, Oct. 12, a group of artists who rent studio space within two historic buildings on Riverside Drive hosted a unique art reception they called “Off the Tracks.” Last week the Sierra Sun featured profiles of George Zaffle and Luthea Thomas, the landlords for the group of artists. This week we look at the artists themselves.)
Alanna Hughes has been making pottery for 10 years now, the last six of those in Truckee. She was one of three original artists to have her workspace in the Riverside Studios building, and she has been instrumental in bringing in many of the other artists who now work within the artist colony.
Like many in this community, Hughes came to Truckee expecting to stay for one winter. “When I first moved here I didn’t think this area was going to open up to me. There was no art community, there was no kiln… I just thought that I didn’t belong here,” she said. “And then what I realized was that I was just using excuses, and those excuses were keeping me from the community. I realized that I had to just go ahead and make it happen for myself.”
Once her attitude toward Truckee changed, Hughes started working to turn her vision of this community into a reality.
“From the very start our vision was to encourage other artists,” Hughes said. “We’re hoping that by doing so, more of an art community would be formed.”
So far Hughes’ vision has proven to be foresightful as the crowds at each of the four art receptions they have hosted have continued to grow.
Chris Bomely is a self-described “victim of graffiti culture,” which might explain the alias he goes by within the arts scene.
“I did graffiti all through high school. I was one of those kids always getting in trouble – caught with a backpack full of spray paint,” Bomely said about growing up in suburban San Jose and Sacramento.
Bomely’s urban-inspired cartoonish style may derive from his youth (though he still admits to watching cartoons every Saturday morning), but he credits his move to Truckee for his change in presentation – from the sides of trains to canvasses.
Bomely is one of the original Riverside Studios artists. He and Alanna Hughes moved in to the building together a year ago, and he has been working to grow the scene ever since. “Every show we have it’s more and more of what I didn’t expect… Every time you think you’re prepared for it, more people come out, more people are excited, more artists are involved… you never are fully prepared for it,” Bomely said.
Ask Bomely what his style of painting is, and he’s at a loss for words. “Kind of like Saturday morning cartoons on LSD,” was perhaps his best attempt at a description.
Regardless of whether he classifies himself as an artist or not, Bomely is starting to notice that people around town are hearing about his artistic side. “It’s definitely changed people’s perception of myself… I’m psyched on people thinking that I’m some kind of artist. I feel like they’re going to find me out one day and say ‘wait a second, you’re a hack, a fraud,’ so, until then, I’ll live it up.”
The (acetylene) torch-bearer
Tallie Goebel occupies the back room of what used to be an old radiator shop. Within her workspace you’ll find a host of welding and other metal-working tools along with metal of all shapes and sizes.
Before renting studio space in the building, Goebel, like many artists in the area, worked out of her garage for five years. “It’s just inspiring,” Goebel said about having a studio to work in. “I just sit here and I can see Alanna over on her potter’s wheel and it’s like ‘OK, someone else is working.'”
At the Off the Tracks reception, Goebel had a huge custom metal sign for a new sushi restaurant in Squaw Village to show off to reception-goers as well as a number of smaller projects such as metal-framed mirrors and small tables.
While Goebel, like most of the group, considers her work to be somewhat alternative to the traditional Tahoe style, she does (reluctantly) admit to having made a bear for a client:
“This was when I’d just done an art fair, and I was saying ‘I just don’t do bears, I don’t do them. No bears.’ And then I had a client call me and they wanted a big tree and a bear in metal for their screen door… and I did it. But it was a cool bear,” she said
1,001 points of light
Shahrazade “Sherry” Seoane is the artist responsible for naming the Oct. 12 art reception “Off the Tracks.” According to Seoane, “We were all just sitting there and we liked ‘on the other side of the tracks’ but it just seemed like a mouthful. And artists have always been known as being a little kooky and a little off the tracks, and we kind of liked that fact… It felt right, it sounded right, and it was fun.”
Seoane makes custom candles for weddings, restaurants, parties and special gifts. She works in the front room of the old radiator shop where she turns melted wax into works of art.
“I can’t believe the diversity of everybody and how well we get on, and how perfect it is,” Seoane said of the artist colony on Riverside Drive. “It’s so yin and yang, just beautiful people. We’re really lucky.”
The abstract impressionist
Abstract impressionist by itself is a lot to say, but add to that “bar manager,” “part-time stone mason” and “professional runner and snowshoer” and you’ve got to wonder how Peter Fain finds any time to paint.
But somehow he does, and at the Off the Tracks reception, guests could see his work hanging all over the place – from his studio in the basement to the entryway and the wall of the woodshed – a volume of work that’s even more impressive considering he is the newest addition to the Riverside Studios.
Perhaps he’s just happy to get out of his house.
“The idea of painting somewhere else, away from home, was really appealing… Like any other job, there are too many ways to get distracted (at home). Now, I can come here, I can focus, and I can leave it here.”
Fain has been painting for five years now and feels fortunate to have secured a studio among the other artists in the Riverside Studios.
“I’ve wanted to get into this space for a long time,” Fain said, adding, “You couldn’t ask for a better space… hearing the train come by is a nice touch. It just creates a really cool feel.”
The tattoo artist
Brian Nelson may be the only artist in the Riverside Drive studios who didn’t need the extra publicity provided by the Off the Tracks reception, as his work tends to get up and advertise itself all over town. Nelson opened his tattoo studio, Truckee Tahoe Ink, about two months ago, and business has been “awesome” from the beginning.
A Truckee resident for seven years now, Nelson plans on staying in town forever. He claims to have the perfect set-up for his shop right now and enjoys sharing the neighborhood with the other artists nearby.
“I love the neighbors, love the vibe. I think this whole community is something that Truckee had needed,” Nelson said.
The night owl
According to Chana Powell, one of the benefits of renting studio space in the basement is “it’s nice to be able to come every night, all night.”
That opportunity plus that amount of feedback that she has received from the other artists in the building has made Powell happy to be in the Riverside Drive studio.
“Shows like (the Off the Tracks reception) help motivate me to get stuff done,” Powell said, “and maybe someone will want to commission me to do something else for them.”
If the seven artists profiled above prove anything, it’s that Truckee’s arts scene is evolving as quickly as the town itself is, and alternative forms of art will play a significant role in changing people’s perceptions of the Truckee art community.
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