Dozens of community members sipped on champagne, mingled with artists and studied the paintings, sculptures and ceramics on display at Gallery House's reception for its 60th anniversary exhibition last weekend.
Originally founded in a Palo Alto home, Gallery House, an artist-run exhibition room that shows work by local artists, has come a long way, now having established itself as a diverse and community-oriented contemporary fine-art gallery. The artist co-op is solely managed, advertised and staffed by members, who also double as artists with their work often on display.
The gallery, which currently boasts the theme "Past, Present, & Future," exhibits artwork from 36 local artists, including painters, sculptors, printmakers, ceramicists, photographers and mixed-media artists.
At the heart of the exhibition is artist Robin Stearns' interactive installation, a representation of the crossroads between art and technology in perfect Silicon Valley fashion.
During the reception, a boy played with a touch-screen display of Stearns' "cityscrape" paintings, portrayals of different cities deconstructed using rollers, knives, scrapers and sponges. He tapped on a cat within Stearns' painting of a room and a meow suddenly emitted from the screen, eliciting a laugh from the onlooking crowd. He explored the painting, clicking on different items in the room to induce different responses. When he tapped out of the painting, he explored a completely different virtual world, swiping left and right, touring the colorful scenery of what appeared to be a Mexican-inspired downtown.
"Sometimes you see a picture and you just kind of want to step into it," Stearns said about the inspiration behind the idea.
The project was a collaboration with her husband, Howard, she said. He is a software engineer at High Fidelity, a company that provides a social virtual-reality platform for users to create and explore virtual worlds. With Howard's expertise in VR tech and Robin's artworks, the couple started developing the technology two months ago. The Gallery House exhibition is their first time publicly showing the installation, but they have plans to show at galleries in San Francisco and create more projects.
As all displayed works are on sale and the Gallery House takes a smaller commission on works compared to professional galleries, the opportunity to sell is enticing for many artists like Robin. However, she said that she doesn't have expectations to sell at this particular exhibit.
"Selling art is sort of like placing kittens. You want to place your art in the best homes," she said. "The artwork is so new and different so it's less about selling it and more about getting people to see it."
While Stearns may foreshadow the gallery's future, ceramicist Barbara Brown seems to represent the gallery's past, having been a member for 40 years. Brown has watched the co-op grow and has noticed that the standard of art has also improved throughout the years.
"(The gallery) has just become better quality in every way," Brown said. "More people have joined and everyone makes beautiful, quality work."
Palo Alto Mayor Liz Kniss also focused on the gallery's longevity and growth over its 60-year history in her speech at the reception.
"You are celebrating 60 years of something that is often considered nice to have, but not necessary," Kniss said. "When people were saying 'why do you need art anyways,' this place existed and persisted for 60 years."
Gallery House alumni artist Ruth Waters, who founded and now chairs the Peninsula Museum of Art, also spoke at the reception. She outlined her experience as a new artist in Michigan and emphasized the importance of art in schools.
Stearns also spoke at the reception, explaining her installation and seemingly representing the gallery's move towards more technology-infused artwork.
Gallery House co-chair Rose Hagan echoed Stearns' speech and said the art co-op has become more "tech-savvy" as it has progressed.
"We have a robust website, which we update regularly. We have social media," Hagan said. "We try to get our art out there in different ways, recognizing that a lot of people don't come into the gallery but may see us on Facebook or Instagram."
Although the gallery has evolved to include social media and more technology, for Hagan, the spirit of the space has not changed.
"It's still important to see art live. You can get a sense of things online but there's nothing quite the same as seeing it live seeing the texture, the depth, seeing it on the walls, getting a sense of the size and scale," she said. "(The gallery) is just a great place to come to see local art in person."
What: "Past, Present, & Future," Gallery House's 60th-anniversary exhibition.
Where: 320 California Ave., Palo Alto.
When: Through Aug. 19. Gallery hours are Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday-Saturday, noon-8 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Info: Go to Gallery House or call 650-326-1668.