The Back House Gallery — a closet-sized space at the rear of downtown Petaluma’s Heebe Jeebe General Store — is perhaps the tiniest art gallery in town, and Drew Washer, owner of Heebe Jeebe and curator of the gallery, suggests that its diminutive size (just 10 feet by 14 feet) is the secret of its success.
“An art show space doesn’t have to be big,” Washer says. “It just has to attract great artists. And it helps that everyone knows our gallery is all about having fun, and about community. I know that sounds sort of corny, but it’s totally true.”
Case in point is Back House Gallery’s current show, titled Foiled! The show opened on Feb. 10, timed to coincide with Valentine’s Day. Every piece in the show must incorporate aluminum foil in some way. The response from artists, Washer is happy to say, was phenomenal, attracting a total of 53 individual pieces of all sizes and shapes.
“We’ve had as many as 80 pieces in here,” she says. “It’s shocking, but somehow we are able to that, even in a space this small.”
The degree of creativity on display in the Foiled! show is incredibly high. Some pieces have a decidedly crafty, doing-it-for-the-love-of-it look, while some are clearly the works of professional artists taking a bit of a holiday to do something a little wacky.
“Our shows attract a lot of artists who now have art as their day job, doing assignments for other people,” Washer notes. “They like doing our shows because it gives them a chance to relax and remember why they became an artists to begin with.”
Highlights of the Foiled! show include Jean Howery’s delightful dioramas, each employing Barbie dolls, some dressed in suits made of foil, along with Katie Haas’s ‘Lovey Dovey,” depicting a scowling girl wearing a 3D aluminum foil bow, and Washer’s own contribution, “Girl With a Foil Nose Ring,” which is exactly what it sounds like. Also in the show is a striking Tin Man suit fashioned by Michael Garlington, and Kristi Quint’s eye-catching “Listen to Her Heart,” a large “painting” of a heart, made entirely of strips of foil, sheets of foil, and even a frame (a window frame) decorated with what appears to be gold leaf foil.
“It’s so fun to be here on the day when the art is delivered,” says Washer. “To see how different people interpreted the theme, and the inventiveness that these artists have, it’s so much fun, and kind of thrilling.”
The Back House Gallery generally hosts between 7 and 11 shows per year. Some are solo shows featuring the work of a single artist. Others are community shows built around a single theme or, like this one, a specific required art material or substance.
“We’ve done a glitter show, a pasta show, all kinds of shows,” Washer says. “It’s fun to not just suggest a theme for a show — like hearts or elephants or something — but to also sometimes make that theme a particular material that the artists have to incorporate in some interesting way. It makes for an extra challenge that is, first, a starting point for an artist’s creativity, and second, a fun way to express themselves in ways they might not have thought of otherwise.”
(Contact David at firstname.lastname@example.org)
What: Community art show, featuring pieces that have in common the use of foil in one way or another.
Where: The Back House Gallery, at Heebe Jeebe General Store, 46 Kentucky St.
When: The show runs through March 12. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Cost: Admission to the (very tiny) gallery is free.