Petaluma exhibit celebrates CA car culture

IceHouse Gallery exhibits local artwork inspired by automobiles through July 4.|

More than 100 years ago, the invention of mass produced vehicles changed the American landscape forever, creating a culture that can no longer function without them. Cars are as much a part of the American identity as the flag and apple pie, especially in California.

To celebrate this culture, the IceHouse Gallery in Petaluma is featuring “The Art of the Car,” an exhibit of automobile inspired artwork by local artists, with an emphasis on the ceramic works of Jon Gariepy. The exhibit continues through July 4.

The idea came from Joe McDonald, who opened the IceHouse with co-owner Bill Kane in April 2014 to help showcase the work of local artists. McDonald also is involved with the fine arts company Digital Grange and has curated art shows for a number of years.

What was the inspiration for the exhibit?

To connect with an event in Petaluma called “American Graffiti: Cruisin’ the Boulevard” that was held in mid-May, an immensely popular event. People come from all over the United States, if not the world, to see these old American cars that were made in the ‘50s and even before and are souped up into these cruising machines.

The idea was to make that connection with that very large community event. That was the inspiration to try and show a different aspect of car culture, which would be artists interpreting cars.

Do you consider yourself to be part of that culture?

Sure, I love cars. I’ve had a number of different cars. I actually have a classic car of my own. I can’t be in “Crusin’ for America” because it’s not an American car. I haven’t had many American cars. I prefer English sports cars.

Whose work is going to be in the show?

A good friend of mine is a ceramic artist by the name of Jon Gariepy. He makes these wonderful small ceramic cars. He’s represented by a couple of galleries, and he’s had shows in California and many other places. We talked and we hatched this plot, this idea to have a show focusing on his ceramic art. I think he has about 15 pieces in the show, and if you see them you’d see how detailed they are.

From there, we asked people to complement his ceramic work, which is three-dimensional and sculptured, with paintings. I asked a fellow by the name of D.A. Bishop, and he gave car paintings. His pieces are reminiscent of Jon’s ceramic cars, but two-dimensional.

I asked a wonderful local artist by the name of Chester Arnold, and he does unusual things. For the gallery, he painted three car engines. I think one or two of them were old Volkswagen engines.

One of our clients at Digital Grange is a fellow named Rey Isip. He was a designer of cars in Detroit, and he has painted cars for many years as well. I asked him to put in work for the show, so he’s there, too.

Another client of ours is a woman named Gale McKee. She has a section of work she calls “The Vintage Series” where she takes old car photographs, blows them up really large and then paints over them.

Finally there’s a local poster artist by the name of David Singer. He did a series of three posters of his friend’s car, and they’re in the show, too.

Are there any other artists who are inspired by car culture?

There are plenty of them. I toyed with the idea of asking David Best, a well-known artist who decorates regular cars. If you go to Burning Man, you’ll see one or two of his cars. There’s a tradition of that in this area, too. David’s one of the better known ones, but others do it as well.

What do you think of car culture?

I think it speaks to just about all of us. Growing up, cars are a big part of our lives, obviously, and we’re fascinated by them. Really, how many people do you know who don’t have a car?

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