Samantha Bartlett, owner of Gallery Dog, and artist
Rachel Ritter stand in the doorway of the gallery.
SAMANTHA BARTLETT CAME TO HUMBOLDT COUNTY from Champaign, Ill., looking for a change. Four years later, as owner and director of Gallery Dog in Eureka, she has become an integral part of the arts community and is celebrating her gallery's new location at 214 E St. in Old Town.
Gallery Dog officially reopened March 1, featuring an exhibition of recent works by Mimi La Plant and Rachel Ritter, with a reception for the artists during Arts Alive, Saturday, March 4, from 6-9 p.m.
As an early arrival to the area, Samantha Bartlett regularly attended Arts Alive. She was "astonished by the quality and creativity of work" being exhibited. Her interest in starting a business merging her background in fine arts, art history and museum work, while filling a niche in the art community, led to the creation of Gallery Dog. Bartlett's goal: to show cutting-edge local work by providing a venue for emerging artists, while encouraging established artists, whose work often sells out of the area, to show locally.
Beyond monthly exhibitions, Gallery Dog maintains an eclectic collection of utilitarian ceramic ware, jewelry, cards, sculpture, wooden boxes, handmade books, magnets and baskets. Since its opening in May 1998, Bartlett has shown the work of approximately 100 artists.
Gallery Dog's first show at its new location brings together the work of two artists at different points in their careers. Mimi La Plant, with a professional career spanning 20-plus years, and Rachel Ritter, who considers herself to have just entered art as a profession within the last year. Both share a dedication to fostering the language of the subconscious through the creative process, a love for abstraction, a curiosity about realism and a simple hope that viewers of their works will go home happy.
Visitors to this exhibition can expect to find a diverse collection of imagery. Ritter describes her work as ranging from "abstract to representational, mostly
2-D, with some assemblage." LaPlant, who has developed her own vocabulary of forms and symbols through two decades working with abstraction, secretly admits to being a "closet realist." So don't be too surprised if her small, acrylic portrait of a rubber ducky makes its way into the exhibit.
La Plant and Ritter bring a fresh and dynamic quality to their work through vibrant color, expressive line and a willingness to try new approaches. Mimi La Plant always thought she would be an artist. Originally from the Bay Area, La Plant received her bachelor's degree from Berkeley in 1974, master's in 1982 from HSU and master of fine arts from UC Santa Barbara in 1991.
She began her teaching career at the Ink People Center for the Arts in 1984. She teaches drawing at HSU and College of the Redwoods.
La Plant's painting process is one of "free, automatic, subconscious development." An engagement with her materials a love of the layering opportunity of acrylics and the feel of working on paper also is part of her process.
For those familiar with La Plant's paintings, an infusion of color marks a noted change in her recent work. She describes her work as a "spiritual quest." She sees it as "the continuation of a long investigation into the possibilities and meanings of abstraction." She says that while "many meanings can't be pinned down," the "quality of line and shapes conjures up imagery."
A universal language of images and symbols often emerges, reminding the viewer of similar patterns found in the works of indigenous cultures and sparking conscious associations which allow for personal interpretation.
Rachel Ritter shares La Plant's intuitive approach to creating, as well as the early disposition to become an artist. Born and raised in Chicago, Ritter found support for her creative drive from her father who also was an artist.
While largely self-taught, Ritter studied the figure at the American Academy of Art in Chicago. She came to Humboldt County in 1978 and studies painting at the C Street studio with artists Stock Schlueter and Michael Hayes.
Ritter enjoys working quickly, allowing for a spontaneous dialogue between artist and work. Her paintings whether a portrait of a cat, a cow's skull, an abstraction or an evening landscape with cactus are approached with a confident sense of color and composition.
Her consistent strength as a colorist provides a unifying element to her broad stylistic range. Some who view her work will note the influence of Matisse in her use of color. The challenge she faces: "integrating what I've learned technically and consciously with the subconscious and spontaneous way I enjoy working."
Samantha Bartlett, Mimi La Plant and Rachel Ritter: three working artists, united by Gallery Dog, their common passion for the arts and their involvement in the North Coast community.