OAKHURST – The Moment Gallery is truly a delight to the senses. Every corner of the place is bursting with color and style, filled with a line-up of work that’s satisfying to the soul.
Industrial artist/owner Jeff Otto has put his heart into the venture, and invited a handful of artists to join in, displaying their efforts on the deep crimson and brilliant lemon walls. The art is a mix of genres that together strike a balance Otto is pleased to have achieved.
“This gallery and store has been my vision for many years,” says Otto, himself an award-winning woodworker. “This could never have happened without the input of so many people in the community, from the artists to patrons.”
Otto, 52, has been part of the Oakhurst community for nearly a decade. Before that he sold motorized scooters in the Bay area, organizing events and races around the city. San Francisco has had an influence on him, and it’s evident in the bold, modern feel of the gallery that doubles as a special-event space.
“The gallery will be open days, and in the evening too, and everyone should come visit,” Otto invites. “The space is fluid and ever-changing.”
The Moment is a great place for a party. Otto plans to open for music and host other gatherings, and may offer the location as a rental on some occasions. “There will be photography in the gallery and occasional ‘pin up’ shoots where ladies can dress stylishly and pose in the gallery viewing fine art and lounging on fine furniture.” In short, it’s a happening place.
The main draw, of course, is the art. Mixed-media paintings, photography and sculpture are among the treasures Otto has culled for the gallery. Most of the artists of The Moment got together for the gallery’s Grand Opening June 30. Newly-engaged Rivka Scaffner is the first Artist in Residence. She’ll use the gallery as her studio away from home, painting live when elements allow.
“I’m a post-pop surrealist artist,” explains Rivka, who lives in Raymond and travels frequently to Mexico. She’s recognized there as a top notch graffiti artist, garnering numerous accolades, particularly in Jalisco.
“I’ve been doing graffiti since the 70s and now graffiti art is recognized as a true and well-documented art form. There’s a lot of spray artists out there,” Rivka herself included. Known to many as Ms. Rivka, she taught art at Yosemite High School for ten years. Rivka is now engaged to David del Rio.
“My artwork is mainly inspired by being in Mexico where I go three or four times a year and paint,” Rivka says, adding that she appreciates being home here in the mountains, where her brother and father live.
“This area has brought me a lot of happiness and gives me time to work, because you don’t have to spend a lot of money to live here so you can actually have time to be an artist.” Of the gallery, Rivka says, “I really like this place; I’m a rebel that’s respected here.”
Local artist Charlene Rice would probably agree on all counts. The Oakhurst resident runs a studio in Mariposa. Her upbeat, collage and mixed-media work also graces the walls at The Moment. Rice and Rivka sometimes paint together at the gallery, for all to see.
“We are really one community on the mountain, when it gets down to it,” says Rice, speaking of the shared resources that have gone into creating The Moment and are the mainstay of artists’ life in the foothills.
“There is nothing that we can’t have up here,” enthuses Rice. “Culture is what we need, that vision of our future for the schools and the kids. The dreamers know how to dream and this is how bridges are built,” she says, referring to art as a bridge between people and ideas. It’s clear the artists involved at the gallery are fans of owner Otto and vice-versa. “It’s refreshing to see somebody of this caliber showing up with the love,” says Rice.
Also showing at the gallery is the steam-punk sculptural design of Ernie Reda, Oakhurst resident for more than a dozen years.
“I’m doing steam punk art, bringing all the sophistication of old machinery back into today’s living rooms,” says the Reda of his take on mechanical odds and ends. Reda is also a well-known electrical contractor. “It’s a recycling of sort. I look at all the parts that I have and try to create something that looks kind of robotic, something that we expected the future to be.”
San Jose artists Gina B. Ahrens drove in to town for the gallery opening.
“My paintings always have a mix of media in them, mainly acrylic but not only,” Ahrens offers. “There’s frequently, in the layers underneath, charcoal, pastel, maybe some India ink, markers, some rubber stamps; you never know what’s under the layers of paint. Often it’s some sort of metallic or iridescent paint in the background, and if you shine the light on them in the right way, it will show up. I like sparkly,” she admits. The gallery’s lights are well-suited to bringing out the shimmer in Ahrens’ canvases.
Alexandra Kube creates landscapes, often in oils, although she made a little room in her van from Los Angeles to include some graphic close-ups of musical instruments, specifically guitar and cello. “It’s my latest series, a new style and subject matter for me. Since this style doesn’t require any blending I’ve gone back to acrylics just for this work.”
Kube’s landscape paintings, taken from a much wider viewpoint, are affecting in a different way that’s rich and wild.
“I would call that style abstract realism,” Kube offers, adding, “This is out of my imagination, kind of fashioned after Monument Valley but it doesn’t really exist except between my ears.”
Steve Siefert is relatively new at the painting game. His cityscapes are fresh and a welcome contrast with some of the nature-themed work in The Moment. Like Kube, Siefert also lives in the LA suburb Valley Village, home to many artists and industry professionals. Like all the artists represented at the gallery, Siefert is both friendly and willing to answer questions about his work.
“I’ve been coming up here to Yosemite for a long time, and for years my family used to camp at Nelder Grove. For me, it’s a really conducive area for creativity and I hope the gallery gets a lot of traffic.”
Photographer Michael Wicks is responsible for a truly striking triptych of a riotous Sierra sunset.
“By splitting it in to three pieces and putting that tree on the right hand, it brings you in and then your eyes go across and then you see the sky and the colors from there and then you go down to the bottom… it’s just the way your mind processes things. It’s the rule of thirds.” Though the sunset piece is colorful beyond belief, it hasn’t been touched up at. Some of his work reflects that Wicks is also a certified scuba diver who travels the world, submersing himself in some of our most beautiful locations.
Carlos Nieto III is the fourth artist from the southland whose work hangs in the gallery. While Nieto III wasn’t able to be at the artists’ reception, his large, vibrant sugar-skull and Day of the Dead oils speak volumes on their own.
Overall, The Moment Gallery is a smart venue both comfortable and intimate. So comfortable that you’ll probably feel at home strolling from the paintings into a room filled with intimate lingerie, dresses, and accessories, all tastefully assembled and ready for purchase. Yes, did we mention The Intimate Moment lingerie shop?
Melissa Marino is the store Manager and she appears to be a super-woman when it comes to multi-tasking. The night before opening, she was laying out a lovely spread for the artists, putting on make-up, making sure her son got some protein, opening bottles of local wine and fielding questions.
She has no problem with the question that starts, “so… an art gallery and a lingerie shop… why?”
“The connection between lingerie and art is that lingerie is art. We have a really big selection of lingerie and I’m most proud that we have lingerie for everybody,” swears Marino. We checked. It’s surprisingly true. “We brought in stuff for every body type, full figured women, tiny women, young, older… they can come in and pick something out.”
The collection also features stylish dresses, clothes to go out or stay in, with various accessories including shoes that are taller and sweeter than a five-layer cake. Don’t worry, they’ve also got beach cover-ups and flats, too.
“Whether it’s a night on the town or a day at the lake, Jeff did an amazing job for every kind of moment,” Melissa attests, and that seems to be the consensus among his peers.
Finally, Otto explains the gallery’s name, which is subject to a lot of interpretation, depending on what one wants it to be. For Otto, it’s specific. “The Moment is the moment I decided to live the life the way I wanted, one of art and beauty.”
That’s a moment to which we can all aspire. In the meantime, we have galleries. And lingerie.
The Moment Gallery is located at 40680 Hwy 41