Blue waters outside, blue art inside

An exhibit at the North Tahoe Arts Center celebrates the color blue

“Fish Over Troubled Waters” by Judi Hein.

“Fish Over Troubled Waters” by Judi Hein.

Photo by David Robert

I’ll be perfectly honest: Having an arts exhibit at Lake Tahoe seems kind of silly to me. I mean, what better visual stimulation is there on this planet than Lake Tahoe?

This was going through my mind as I approached the North Tahoe Arts Center, which is located in Tahoe City just off of the lake itself. I was busy gawking at the clear, blue waters, to the point that I was becoming a traffic hazard (the center is just off of a highway), not really wanting to go inside. But I did go in, and I am glad I did.

The bottom floor of the center is currently home to True Blue: A Celebration of the Color Blue. It is an exhibit that’s all over the map—29 artists have contributed mostly paintings, but it also includes photographs, mixed media works, a tapestry, even a lamp—with only one thing on common, that being the color blue.

One of the biggest pieces on display features one of the longest painting names I’ve seen in a while. Taking a page out of Fiona Apple’s naming book, Cate Loughran named it “While Diving Deep Into Her Psyche, She Got in Touch With Primordal (sic) Truth.” It depicts a strange underwater scene featuring a woman, a whale and a jellyfish. The whale fills up most of the frame, with one, caring eye visible. The whale is looking at the naked woman, who appears to be drifting downward toward the eye as if she were considering touching it. Meanwhile, a jellyfish is floating by, between the viewer and the woman—but we can see the whale and the woman through it. This is a scene of serene exploration, of complete calm. There aren’t even any waves or air bubbles in the water—which could seem kind of disturbing—but that seems OK. It’s a beautiful and calming, if a bit unnatural, piece of art.

Another impressive work hangs just to the right of Loughran’s painting. The much smaller piece, “Turquoise Waters of the East Shore,” by Melinda Plumbridge, shows a scene of a Tahoe bay. The viewer is standing on a rocky shore on one side of the bay, looking towards the lush, green mountain on the other shore. This painting depicts the colors that exist in Tahoe’s water beautifully: deep blue, with a lighter, aqua-blue underneath. In the shallower areas near the shore, however, there are yellows and greens masterfully blended into the mix. This is kind of alarming—seeing as Tahoe is known for not having that much algae that would create a yellowish color, although pollution is starting to change that—but it is beautiful, nonetheless.

Finally, I’d be remised if I didn’t mention the lamp. It ended up being my favorite item in the exhibit. By Judi Hein, “Fish Over Troubled Waters” is actually two art works in one. The lamp itself is made from what apparently used to be some sort of blue-and-white ceramic teapot. Shards of the teapot—including the spout—have been reassembled into the lamp.

Then, there’s the lampshade. It’s just a normal lampshade—with images of various fish imprinted in black ink. Apparently, the artist dipped real fish in the ink and then imprinted them on the shade, before touching up the details (the eyes, etc.). After viewing and analyzing the work, the title of the piece becomes really funny.

All in all, the exhibit at the North Tahoe Art Center ended up being appropriate—a study in blue along a shore of the lake that is known for that very color.