I broke my painting wrist and decided to keep painting with my “wrong” hand (non-dominant) hand. The results became the theme of the gallery re-opening event and my birthday party. Art + Friends new and old + fried chicken and local craft beer made for a great birthday party!
The town of Marysville, CA, north of Sacramento, hosts a parade each year honoring the Bok Kai Temple and the Chinese-American descendants of people who came to the town in the 1880s. Seminar-goers from the Temples and Museums Conference got to watch the parade down the main street, a spectacle that included their beloved and extremely long Chinese dragon (I counted at least 35 pairs of legs propping him up), martial arts clubs, high school bands, the de rigueur politicians in vintage cars, lads popping fire crackers along the street, and fire trucks old and new.
The day after the town celebrated “Bomb Day.” The event begins with a procession through town. Participants carry plaques with the names of various Buddhist deities. Thousands of firecrackers explode, turning the street a bright pink with their detritus. Eighteen handmade bombs stuffed with gunpowder are set off near the temple. A ring atop each cylinder bomb blasts into the air while young men below scurry to catch it and learn the lucky number it bears.
This was the 136th year of the Bok Kai Festival. Bok Kai is a protective god. The temple bears his name and is one of oldest Taoist temples in the country. The celebration happens in the second month of each Chinese New Year.
Friends of Marysville (California) Bok Kai Temple spearheaded a “Temples and Museums: Managing and Interpreting Historic Cultural Assets,” conference March 12 and 13. The Chinese American Museum of Chicago put on the event. I attended as a member of the Brannan Island-Isleton Historical Society board and learned that we in Isleton are lucky to have a tong building (Chinese gathering place and temple) that is under restoration. The Bing Kong Tong will have its many artifacts replaced and be ready for public viewing by about April of 2017.
But I learned that many towns’ and cities’ Chinese temples have gone under the wrecking ball, usually to make way for freeways and other roads. Their artifacts have been carried off as well.
Presenters shared their difficulties in preserving Chinese temples and their original contents. They were from Singapore, Victoria, Idaho, New Hampshire, Oregon, and other parts of the United States, along with a number of places in California.
Marysville organizers said their town has a long history of Chinese integration into the community and that they have been valued community members. Chinese descendants and non-Chinese members of town attested to that and urged participants to see the Bok Kai Temple in town. The temple was built in 1865, destroyed by fire the next year and rebuilt. Renovated in 1880, the temple saw 1,500 Chinese and other citizens at its grand opening. It is the oldest continually operating temple in Northern California.
Bok Kai was known as Ruler of the North. He vanquished the Demon King and is known for his ability to bring order out of chaos. He also is considered a water god, providing protection from both flood and drought.
We then adjourned to the Chinese temple in the town of Oroville where the restorer’s daughter gave us a tour of their extensive museum and still-active temple. The temple was built in 1863 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Conference organizers said that they want to keep the momentum of preservation going and will pass the baton to San Jose and Isleton to host the next two seminars.
Locke, CA — The management association responsible for the maintenance and historical preservation of the Delta town of Locke, California, has won a nearly five- year lawsuit over resident Martha Esch and co-defendant Dona LeBlanc, and will be able to reclaim a historic building in the town for preservation purposes. The Lock Historic District, where the property at issue stands, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1990.
On February 19, 2016, the Locke Management Association (LMA) prevailed on summary judgment after being forced to sue and endure five years of litigation to protect its right of first refusal. The suit resulted when Esch bought the historical building at issue from LeBlanc without giving the LMA first right of refusal as required in their bylaws and covenants, conditions, and restrictions.
Chinese workers who were responsible for developing the farmland founded Locke in 1915. The town they established is the only standing rural Chinese town in the United States built exclusively by Chinese people for themselves at the time established. Thousands of visitors come annually to step back in time and walk through a town that looks much like it did 100 years ago.
The judge’s ruling frees the townspeople to continue preserving Locke as an important historic landmark and enables the LMA to buy back the building, which in the peak of Locke’s heyday, was a gambling hall. The years of lawsuits and counter lawsuits have drained the LMA’s pockets and energy. Meanwhile Esch has occupied the building and operated an art gallery on the premises.
“After five years, it’s nice to exhale and get back to the work we’ve been waiting to do all this time,” said Russell Ooms, president of the LMA. “The suits cost the town $100,000 — money that could have been spent on upkeep and preservation.” Members of the LMA board, a governmental body set up by the County of Sacramento in 2003, receive no compensation for their long hours of work.
The court ruling states that, without the LMA’s knowledge, the defendants began negotiations for the building around mid-January of 2011, with LeBlanc as the prospective seller of the property. Shortly thereafter Esch signed a formal offer to purchase it. The agreement contained an all cash offer for $21,000, the price Esch paid LeBlanc. But “the contract contained no contingency for the LMA to consider its right of first refusal,” the court ruling said. Defendant Esch was aware of the LMA
right of first refusal “for some time” prior to closing escrow, and admitted to actually reading them prior to closing escrow.
In February of 2011, counsel for LeBlanc notified the LMA too late in the process of the sale. The LMA did vote to exercise its right of first refusal and notified interested parties who had a right to purchase the property, as required in its bylaws and the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions. The lists for notification include former Chinese residents, their descendants and ascendants as well as other interested parties added to the list. The court document shows that Esch, in attendance at that meeting, closed on the sale two weeks later, “with personal knowledge of the LMA’s rights of first refusal….” The judge found that Esch had exercised “willful disregard.”
In public and in the press, Esch has questioned the authenticity of Locke as a Chinese-founded town and belittled the importance of much beloved Chinese elder Connie King, one of the last longtime inhabitants. “Connie King, would be thrilled that Ms. Esch has been put into her rightful place with Sacramento Superior Court Judge David I. Brown’s words,” said resident James Motlow. Motlow spent years recording the last Chinese residents on camera. “The judge said, (The evidence) ‘is insufficient to establish that Esch acted legally or ethically.’ The Locke Management Association has acted legally and ethically and is working everyday to preserve everything that Connie King fought for,” Motlow said.
The ruling said Esch must now let the LMA have the building on the same terms as her initial real estate purchase of $21,000.
Note to Editors: We are happy to provide more information on this lawsuit — elaborate on what impact the Locke Management Association’s success has on the town of Locke and its people, or answer any other questions. Please contact: Gregory P. Wayland, Esq.
The Locke Management Association is a California non-profit mutual benefit corporation. Its purpose as stated in its bylaws is to improve the well-being of Locke, preserve the town’s cultural and historical integrity, and manage the town. Its board members include representatives from government and other agencies and groups, and town building owners, both Chinese and non-Chinese. No board members are compensated.
Not counting families and young people, approximately 1,000 individuals are outside in the elements every night in Sacramento. That means 36 percent of the homeless population cannot find shelter due to the woeful lack of shelter beds in the city.
Five city codes criminalize standing, sitting and resting in public places; three criminalize camping and lodging in public places; and three criminalize begging and panhandling.
When homeless people are arrested and put in jail, things happen to exacerbate their homeless situation. Besides the inherent stress of being in jail, they often have the few but essential belongings they are forced to carry with them confiscated. They can permanently lose property, from cars (where they may have been sleeping/living,) and clothing, to tents, stoves or medication they need on a daily basis. They also face fines they cannot pay which put them further into debt.
The Sacramento City Council recently turned down a moratorium that homeless people and advocates had been asking for: to put a hold on its anti-camping ordinance until enough affordable housing units have been created in the region. They also asked for protection of homeless people’s property seized by law enforcement.
The Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness (SRCEH) Civil Rights Committee found inaccuracies in the City’s published justification for its decision to deny the moratorium. In their “Fact Checking the City’s Response to Homeless Protesters” (a protest in front of city hall has been ongoing for months), Bob Erlenbusch, head of SRCEH, said most of the city’s responses contained falsehoods or were, at best, misleading. One such was that Sacramento has “many” rentals in the open market that homeless people can secure. The current vacancy rate is 2 percent in the city. That is considered a “very tight market,” Erlenbusch says.
SRCEH further notes that in September of 2015, 50,000 people applied for a Housing Choice Voucher (formerly known as the federal Section 8 program). Only 8,000, or 16 percent, received vouchers.
In addition, Wind Youth Services of Sacramento reported that they had a waiting list of 100 young people for their emergency overnight shelter. While the non-profit Sacramento Steps Forward counted only 240 homeless youth in the city in 2015, Wind Youth Services saw 918 unduplicated young people at their drop-in center last year.
SRCEH also said 12,000 homeless students were identified in the Sacramento Unified School system in 2015.
The shortage of low-income housing in the city and region already makes it difficult for homeless individuals, couples, families and young people to find any type of housing. When they are jailed for being outside or committing a minor crime, they emerge with a criminal record. Then it is well nigh impossible for them to find a place to live. A criminal record or tickets for camping make it even harder to access the housing and other programs designed to help them.
In a complaint filed with the Department of Justice, SRCEH asks that the court conduct a full investigation into the “pattern and practice” of harassment of homeless citizens by law enforcement. This includes police, sheriff’s personnel, park rangers, light rail police and private security.
Erlenbusch says it is hoped that the City of Sacramento will come into compliance with the federal Department of Justice ruling that anti-camping ordinances constitute “cruel and unusual punishment” and violate the 8th Amendment of the Constitution.
Sacramento City Councilman Jay Schenirer is going this month with a delegation of homeless advocates to Seattle to hear how that city created a homeless state of emergency while the city assesses the fundamental causes of homelessness such as “low income, funding cuts and institutional racism.”
Schenirer has already told fellow council members that he feels it is time to have an open conversation about the challenge and “to be open to ideas and suggestions that might be politically unpopular.”
It’s the first evening of summer, the end of a long, fairly hot day, but the community garden is a welcoming spot. Families, couples and single folks are strolling in for the third in a series of cooking classes at the tables in back of Oak Park Sol Community Garden on Broadway.
Tyler Wescott, a certified Food Literacy Center “genius,” is dividing up what can only described as beautiful fresh produce among the three tables. On the back, his T-shirt says: “Ask me anything.” So I do. Tonight the recipes adults and children will be learning to make are white bean hummus—with squash, cucumbers and purple carrots cut up to dip into it—and SunButter yogurt parfait with seasonal berries on top. SunButter is a brand made from sunflower oil, cane syrup and salt, to satisfy the “unsaturated rather than saturated fat argument,” Tyler says. A major thrust of the organization is to encourage children to eat more fruits and vegetables. And to prove to them that those things can taste outstanding. Tyler will be the instructor this evening for this all-volunteer endeavor. His second in command is Tara Martinez who is not yet through the academy but is savvy enough to lend a hand with teaching the creation of parfaits. Tara is working at Whole Foods in Davis but about to transition to a job in Sutter General’s café. Formerly she interacted with an Obama-supported program that introduced a fruit-of-the-day to schoolchildren. At recess, she would hand out, and teach kids how to eat, everything from oranges to papayas. “The kids didn’t know what half the stuff was,” Tara says. “It made me sad.” She discovered that the Food Literacy Center, which just happened to be next door to the restaurant where she was a cook, was hosting a volunteer orientation. She signed up. “I love everything to do with cooking,” she says. She soon added her name to the volunteer list, which is about a hundred strong now. “I’ve gotten to know a lot of good people who intensions are all the same.”
Pat (no last name given) has lived in the neighborhood 33 years and is sitting on a bench waiting for the cooking to begin. She’s glad that children are being given a chance to become familiar with vegetables. “They wash, cut, stir, mix vegetables they normally wouldn’t try,” she says. The last session she attended they shredded beets, carrots and onions and topped the slaw with vinaigrette they fashioned themselves. “They would never have tried any of that before,” she says. She likes to see the teens participating too. “It’s fun to watch them enjoy the results of their cooking. Particularly the veggie wraps they had us make one time.” She has picked up tips too. Last session she learned to cut a green onion and deposit the part in water that you are not using in your dish. “It keeps growing and pretty soon you have your own chives.”
Oak Park Sol Community Garden
Kids from the Oak Park neighborhood wait for food genius Tyler to blend their hummus.
Kids’ herb garden. Don’t pick yet, please!
Baby Gage Jones supervises from his Dad’s head while his family makes hummus from fresh produce.
You’re never too young to make and enjoy hummus.
Oak Park Sol Community Garden’s worm box.
Farmers with plots donate some of the produce for the classes although most of it comes from other natural food resources. Today the donor is Heavy Dirt in Davis. Honey used in recipes is local, with the thought that people with allergies to various regional plants will find relief. A crowd of all ages has gathered. There is room for about 10 people per table. Tyler introduces what they will be making today and points to a mouth-watering array on each table. Zucchinis mingle with purple basil. Yellow nectarines, plums and apricots call out to be eaten. Tyler talks about the white cannellini beans that people can find canned if they do not want to cook them themselves and describes them as a fun alternative in hummus.
People gather around the tables and begin. Mike Jones, holding baby Gage, looks on while his wife Gina and their other son dig in to help with hummus. The family lives a couple of blocks away across from McClatchy Park and heard about the events at the farmers’ market. Gina is a vegan, Mike says, so these vegetable-oriented foods really appeal to her. While he likes vegan cooking, he says he still likes his meat and dairy. It is the second time for Max and his mother Rochelle. “He is getting more adventurous,” she says with a laugh. “He tried a yellow zucchini and he liked the Asian lettuce wraps and stone fruit salad last time. It is really helping his eating habits with this exposure.” Heather is there with her two sons Elliot and Martin. Her younger son likes to “mix a bunch of foods together,” she says. “He’ll easily mix sweet and sour.” They have been to a few classes at the College Heights Library. Heather looks down at her son after he has sampled the parfait. “Is it amazing?” she asks. “OK, high five.”
Meanwhile, Randy Stannard is nearby showing people the worm box that Sacramento State Environmental Studies Program has made for the garden. Randy is president of the board at Oak Park Sol and works for Soil Born Farms. Soil Born promotes programs that encourage young people and adults to learn how to produce healthful foods, and it mentors future farmers. The focus also is on teaching people to cook what they and others grow, and transforming urban spaces into community gardens. In general, they focus on green space development, Randy says. “Transitioning vacant lots or any unused spaces—like funny empty corners on a block. We can turn these into productive spaces. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a community garden. Some spaces may be suitable for some sort of housing development. Or maybe a little park instead of dead grass and weeds.” A major focus in the garden is to spread the concept and practice of urban gardening throughout this low-income neighborhood. Individual family plots are 15×10 feet, but all the gardeners take care of other areas of the garden. Within the community space is a kids’ garden, a wheel-chair accessible garden, a shade garden and native bee habitat—to mention a few. A greenhouse on the premises supports native plant growth. The 11,600- foot perimeter is planted with native California shrubs and wildflowers to attract butterflies and native bees. Besides the cooking classes, anyone can come to free composting and gardening classes. Randy and other food activists worked to see an ordinance passed by the City of Sacramento that promotes urban agriculture and is giving access to land for farmers. People with homes of an acre or more can support farmers. The ordinance took effect in April with the “purpose to support production and sale of locally grown foods, build community, increase public health and well being” and provide economic opportunities in areas that have been vacant or underutilized. These types of actions must be a neighborhood-led process, he stresses. “This community garden was started by the residents, spearheaded by Cara Jennifer Solis. Earl Withycombe inherited the land a few years ago. His family had owned the land since the 40s. The house associated with the land had burned down and he wanted to make it into something meaningful.” Randy says that in 2011, dumpsters started removing debris from the area. “It was full of trash and drug paraphernalia. Now people are gardening here year-round.”
My printer asked me, “How grand was your grand opening?” (for F and Main Gallery at 36 Main Street in Isleton, CA). Well, it’s hard to be modest because last Saturday’s event really was pretty grand. The photos and paintings all looked great: art work from Greg Crawford, Keith Palmer, James Motlow and me. About 200 people came through the doors in the three-hour period.
The two tables were groaning with food from the local two groceries and four restaurants. Hahn Winery’s reds and whites were featured. Lots of locals appearing and some not so locals drove from Napa, Oakland, Sacramento and San Francisco. A good opportunity to meet art lovers and members of the community, and see them mix.
Rogelio’s restaurant next door brought in a Chinese vase with large white lilies. Friends from Sacramento and Kansas City teamed up to buy an enormous ikebana arrangement of orchids and ginger. My gratitude to all for such a tremendous kick-off. I feel welcomed—and successful already.
Gallery of Artists Work:
Delta Daze, Acrylic on Canvas by Sally Ooms
Gum Shan, stylized images of the Delta by Greg Crawford
Locke Slough, Photo print by James Motlow
Untitled, Photo by Keith Palmer
Greg Crawford created stunning mixed media pieces on paper that reflected the California Delta “as settled and reshaped by humans. I explored the motifs of mountain, river, levee, labor and fields to examine this archetype,” says Greg. He titled his six-piece work Gum Shan, the Chinese expression for Gold Mountain, in honor of the Chinese laborers who reclaimed the Delta.
Keith Palmer is drawn by patterns that, through his camera lens, abstract everyday images. In his series “Ribbons of Energy,” he invites us to see the commonplace in unexpected ways.
James Motlow, who co-authored the book on the Chinese town of Locke, Bitter Melon, provided black and white photos from that book and newer color prints of the slough area in back of the town.
My acrylic paintings also were a combination of new and old. Many represented my recent time in the Delta, others similar landscapes I’ve traveled through.
F and Main Gallery will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11 to 4 the first weekend in April through the last weekend in October and at Christmastime. Besides art shows, planned are storytelling events, music nights, community benefits, poetry slams and children’s art fairs.
Please drop by and see the new space and find out what’s happening.
Photos from the opening May 16, 2015: (Click any image to see a slideshow.)
Below is an article I wrote that will be included in an upcoming book called Remembering Locke 1915-2015.
Locke, California, artist Ning Hao was born and raised in Shanghai, the son of two Chinese doctors practicing Western-style medicine. Ning says that until 1949, his family owned and lived in a huge house—taking up a whole block—but then “we were liberated by the Communist Chinese Party” and favor went to those who had supported that party.
Even though his father donated their house and hospital to the government, his parents were discriminated against because they formerly had owned their own practices and had been in “business.” They were assigned to work in various sections of the city that the government determined: his mother in what had been the French District during Japanese occupation, his father the Chinese section.
Ning, born in 1957, remembers doing a lot of drawing from the time he was six. He has found inspiration for his art in various places. First were the pets he dearly loved. Unfortunately, he arrived home one evening from school during Spring Festival and all his pets were gone. He found out later that they had “gone” to dinner plates for the festival. “In China at that time you were not allowed to love anything that closely. It was traumatic for me. But compassion for animals—the word pet ceased to exist—was considered too remote. Animals became just food. You were supposed to love humans like that: your mother, father, sisters and brothers.
Ning’s brother, five years older, went to best local government school. Only one child per family was allowed that privilege so Ning was sent to a private school. Private schools had the opposite connotation from American ones. “It was not high quality. Sometimes we didn’t have enough pencils or paper.”
He describes the web of political parties and classes that existed in his formative years. His father was a leader in the Democratic Party, but Ning says the meetings were already fixed by the government before they occurred. “Even though there were nine political parties, Mao made sure that none of them was against him. It was a system designed to protect his power and save face internationally,” Ning says.
He also grew up in a time of austerity for women. “I never saw an earring, necklace, lipstick, false eyelash. Chinese women were only supposed to love red, the color of the Chinese revolution, never pink. All these (accouterments) were considered a sexual disease.
“If you had pimples on your face as a young person, it means you were mentally poisoned. You were to stay home and self-criticize. The community did not want to see you. Like if you were gay, you couldn’t survive.
“Two thousands years ago, they had already dismissed homosexuality,” Ning says. “So our race was seen as ‘healthy.’ It is really about old minds, even worse than Communist thinking, showing it had been a prejudiced society all along.”
Ning says that as a young person attracted to art, he was looking for a way to survive. “Because of my background of educated people with money, I was already seen as the rotten part of society. Neighbors did not trust us.”
His father was considered to be in the intelligentsia class, “like teachers or anyone with a brain to use for his own way to think. We couldn’t escape. For me it was a prison. My family was continually investigated. They broke into our house and sealed off antiques, the piano, gold, money into one room. “
Ning recalls the day that President Nixon visited his school. Curtains were drawn on all the school windows so that the important visitor would not see anyone peeking at him, and he would think all was being run properly. “As a young person of 16 or 17, I was very confused. The U.S. was called a dismissive name, the Paper Tiger, but when Mao was so polite to Nixon and we couldn’t even look at him, I thought he must be a god from the West coming to us. I couldn’t say this out loud, of course.”
Ning saw examples of what he didn’t want to have happen to him. His friend’s father who had been a scholar was forced to become a carpenter. “He used to be high ranking in geometry. Suddenly he could only use his knowledge to make furniture,” Ning says. “My friend was one year older and always doing paintings. I tried copies of the things—Communist Party designs—but he always said I was doing it wrong. He is the one who taught me color, how to mix it right.”
When Ning came to the U.S., he lost track of his friend. Later he heard that he stopped painting. He had been studying art, but there was no future in it. “He was locked outside society. He couldn’t marry. I could never find him. I lost my best friend.”
Getting to United States was no simple matter. There were lots of hurdles, major ones within his own family. It was partly because Ning had a “famous fight” as a freshman in high school with an adult over the issue of knowledge and whom it benefited. Ning pointed out that the riches stayed with the government. His father told him not to speak out any more because he was always politically incorrect. “They can put us all in jail and I could be executed,” his father told him.
Since they lived in a tiny house now and Ning was the youngest of four, he slept in the same room with his parents. Many times at night he heard their arguments over his fate. His father took the position that this son would not fit into Chinese society. His mother may have agreed but was reluctant to have her youngest removed from her.
Ning met a “blond haired, blue eyed, skinny, American-looking” neighbor who had documents allowing him to leave China. He was just divorced, had no kids and said he was going to the U.S. to look for his own race and wife.” Ning’s father said, “Don’t talk to him. He doesn’t like China.” Ning said, “I don’t either.”
There was one more “secret midnight conversation” about Little Bear (Ning’s nickname). His mother relented and a student nurse his father had employed in the 1950s became Ning’s sponsor.
He had an aunt who worked in San Francisco. He was allowed to bring a mere $37.50 with him from China so he was dependent upon his relatives. His aunt and uncle sent him to another uncle’s house in Philadelphia. He was a painter, supposedly a well-known artist from China, but he was upset with Ning. “You use too much paint,” he told Ning. “Put it on too thick. You’re an idiot artist like Van Gogh.”
He told Ning, “Go outside and make money.” Ning did hit the streets and painted people’s images for money. One day he made $100 and was proud. His Philadelphia uncle was mad at him, though. He said he forgot to turn the gas off and he ate all the food in the fridge. He never could please his uncle, it seems. He came back to San Francisco.
There he stayed at a hotel on Broadway, the Big Al. “My room was above a porno shop. It was the only place I could find for $150 a month. Eight by six with one sink. No mirror. A bed. I had one suitcase. That is how I started my independent life.”
In China he had been studying at a Shanghai artists’ school in graphic design but had not completed a major. He went to the San Francisco Academy of Art and took all manner of art classes for his liberal arts degree. Meanwhile, he charged $2 per drawing at the wharf, doing likenesses of the tourists. Because he had no license and was getting more popular than many of the regulars who did portraits, someone called the police on him. He was very nervous because this would be a major infraction in China, cheating the government, but the San Francisco police told him to go home and not come back. “But there I had already earned $400.”
After his graduation, he applied to the Academy to be a teaching assistant and work toward his master of fine arts. He received a scholarship for eight semesters and taught with Thomas Mache, the director of the sculpture department.
He finished his MFA in two years but only had a work permit for one year. He wondered how he would get a green card. His advisor introduced him to City College of San Francisco where he took his portfolio, the same one he later carried to New York City. There he met future wife. I took her to Chinatown, which she loved, particularly when it closed down at night. You could hear the Chinese voices and violins. We had a very nice dinner.”
When his future wife found that he lived in a dumpy place, she said she would help him move. He moved to Chinatown, a fourth floor place on Clay and Stockton. “But I spoke Mandarin. They spoke Cantonese. I had moved to another foreign land,” he laughs. He soon married and moved to his wife’s apartment.
Ning got a traffic ticket and had to go to driving school. As luck would have it, the first night he met a woman who was a French teacher in San Mateo and had lived in Paris for two years. She made connections for him so he could take his portfolio to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Because he had copied the masters so well, the museum thought he had stolen Cezannes and Matisses from them.
When he said they were his, they told him he was a very good copier, in that case. No galleries in New York wanted to work with even very good copies of masters, Ning relates. One said, very simply, “Where is the you?”
At the Gallerie Rienzo, they asked what painting Ning had done in this country. He showed them a few pictures he had of Golden Gate Park “and they said ‘sold!’ That is how I got my first paintings in a gallery in New York. But I thought I had better find a local gallery in San Francisco.” He was able to sell three watercolors to the Maxwell Galleries, each for $1,500. “I was moving up in price,” he says, “even though the paintings didn’t even have frames on them.” He also retouched some paintings he had done on Broadway and sold them for $3,000 and $5,000. He has much gratitude toward Maxwell Galleries who jumpstarted his formal painting career.
Ning joined competitions and won best of show at the Santa Rosa show. He was invited to have a show at the Concord Community Center with two other Chinese painters. He also showed at Fairfield and Walnut Creek. It was in Walnut Creek that he was told there was a place called Locke in the Delta. “When I came to Locke, I came to the River Road Gallery and saw Connie King (the woman who helped preserve Locke after many other Chinese died.) I asked her if she sold any other than Locke artists. She told me, ‘This is a membership. You also have to sit here.’
“When I told her I was from the Bay Area, she said there was a house for sale here. My wife had always wanted a house. We bought one that Ping Lee (the unofficial mayor of Locke) had owned. My wife loved Ping Lee’s garden. We asked him if he would please take a loan. We had no history of owning a house, only of renting. Our housecleaning money would never buy a house.”
Ning has fond memories of Ping who let them pay him for nine years. “He was a very kind and honest businessman,” he says. “Later Connie introduced me to this studio.” He looks around at the Locke Main Street gallery he has created in the old Happy Café and dance hall. It is chock a block full of his strong, colorful and skillful paintings of the Delta and California scenes, the animals he so admires—both wild and tame—and a variety of other themes.
He says most of his clients are from San Francisco, New York and Europe, people who are familiar with him since his Maxwell Galleries days. He sells more locally as well, in Walnut Grove, Santa Rosa, Sacramento, Fairfield and Concord. He has paintings in a gallery in Tiburon.
He knows Danny Glover, who has visited him in Locke. Ning was once part of a gallery that Glover owned in San Francisco. Eddie Murphy came to use Ning’s Locke building in a movie and Ning earned $700 a day just for the setting.
The artist works on his “sculpture paintings” avidly every day. “I call them that because they have a high posture, lots of paint, lots of mixing which I combine in every stroke. Every stroke is like a carving. Some I do smooth like the Renaissance painters but I fully understand the difference between the two- and three-dimensional.”
Ning, who has taught art history for a number of years, has ambitions to rewrite an artist catalogue. He sees this as a way to dissolve the problems of prejudice and racism he thinks has affected the world’s art. “We all live under the same blue sky. We need to stop all this nonsense of denying different people and their environments. We are brainwashed in our backgrounds to judge others. My solution is to respect the others: the people who we are not familiar with.
“Locke is a good place for a painter,” he says, “even if you don’t receive a big value selling your paintings like you do in the city. It’s a good place to live, where the Chinese transition has been to a beautiful land. California has beautiful light. A symphony of color. The bottom line is how we see color.”
I’m excited to invite you to the opening reception of my new gallery and home of Home Free Publishing beautiful downtown Isleton, California. Save the date and join us for an evening of art, music, food and fun. Everyone welcome!
Grand Opening Reception of the F and Main Gallery
Featuring works by these Artists:
Painter, Gregory Crawford
Painter, Sally Ooms
Photographer, James Motlow
Photographer, Keith Palmer
36 Main Street, Isleton, CA
(on the corner of F St.)
Saturday May 16, 2015
5PM – 8PM
Hors d’oeuvres from local purveyors Local wine and other beverages Live music
That means by human beings. Human beings whom we rarely think about as we decide what to eat every day.
For me, this comes on the heels of having seen the movie Food Chains which now is airing in 50 cities in the country as well as being available to watch in iTunes for .99 cents. This is an important documentary about farmworkers in Florida who take on the supermarket industry. It is about their attempt to lead fellow farmworkers, who are suffering subhuman working and living conditions, out of poverty.
Maybe it’s a good opportunity for us this week to read a bit about what farmworkers are enduring and think about our sources of food. It doesn’t stop with the farmer. Someone has to pick it. The producers of Food Chains have done a great job with their website and social awareness campaigns. Check out their Take Action page to get involved.