Darkness calls

Rachel and Jami Odell

Photo By Larry Dalton

The Chamber Gallery is not as spooky as it seems. Sure, it’s only open at night, but that’s because its owners, Rachel and Jami Odell , both work day jobs. It’s located in the basement of 2307 H Street, a house that’s rumored to be haunted, but that’s what makes the rent so affordable. Yes, the Web site (at www.chambergallery.com) has an unsettling ambience, but that’s only because the Odells’ novice Web-design skills forced them to choose a pre-made scary template. And if the walls happen to be covered with monster portraits, drunken devil bunnies and other nightmare fodder, well … maybe the Chamber Gallery is a bit creepy after all. Rachel took a break from organizing the gallery’s January show, an all-girl art exhibit and fashion show called Sugar and Spikes, to explain the allure of dark art.

Why did you decide to open a gallery?

We were looking for a studio space for Jami. We had no intention of opening a gallery until we found this great little spot. Then I was hanging out here a lot, and I asked him if I could organize some shows and feature some other artists. He educated me about artists he liked, and I contacted them, and it started from there.

Jami was really turned off by the whole gallery circuit because the type of work that we like and that he creates didn’t really have a large audience. So, we thought we would create our own gallery, because we knew there were a lot of people who enjoyed underground art but didn’t have very many options.

How did you find the space on H Street?

We answered an ad for commercial space. It’s commercially zoned, but it looks like an apartment. It is in a residential area, so we had a time getting the city to make sure we were all clear to go. Because it’s the basement level, it garnered the name “the chamber.” It’s like a little dungeon.

I expected the place to be …

Very gothic?

Yes, and instead it has white walls and pink couches.

In our youth, Jami and I listened to a lot of dark, ambient music. We have some love and passion there, but as we’ve gotten older, our tastes have changed. But what we noticed, as far as galleries are concerned, is that there hasn’t been anything—other than a gallery that has since closed, called Dark’s Art Parlour in Santa Ana—that featured any dark art at all. The artists in the dark-art genre weren’t getting any representation. Outsider art is being represented in Sacramento, via the Toyroom and Ramshackle Farm and other spaces, so we were happy to join them and step up to represent those artists. There’s a lot of talent in darker stuff. Art is not all flowers and pears.

How have your neighbors responded?

We’ve met all of our neighbors on H Street. They’re great. A lot of people see the sign in the window and stop by because they’re curious. Some people are there because it’s right in the middle of their neighborhood and they want to make sure nothing seedy’s going on. Now those people hang out all the time. They’ve been really receptive.

We do get little old ladies who come in with their dogs, and they’ll look at the art on the walls and say, “Ooh! That’s … interesting.” They’re always very nice about it, though. We haven’t scared anybody off or made any babies cry. You know, my son is there all the time, so we try to keep that in mind. If it’s not something that I would put in front of my son, well then … we don’t go for shock value. It’s more of a fine-art nature.

How does the gallery’s print-on-demand feature work?

It was an inspiration from the Disneyland Gallery. We took a trip to Disneyland, and it was the first gallery we’d seen where print-on-demand reproductions of the work were offered for sale. Since we already had the printers and equipment available, it was natural that we’d offer it to our artists.

We give artists the opportunity, with our wall space, to have their original work exhibited, but the print service gives them the opportunity to make a little extra money. They also appreciate being able to share their artwork with a broader audience. Friends and family can have the art in their homes, while the artist keeps the original, if they choose.

Jackson Griffith, our former arts editor, used to live in your building and says it’s haunted. Have you seen anything supernatural?

I don’t like to be there by myself. It’s not that I’ve had any ethereal experiences, but if you’re there in the dark, you start to hear things. It’s an old building. It creaks. It’s windy. The lights dim randomly. It can be kind of spooky.

Our first show, we actually had a bunch of "ghost busters" come through with cameras in hand. They just wanted to catch a ghost, and I was like, "Go ahead! Good luck!" I’m a believer. I don’t believe we’re on this planet alone. So, I just hope they like the art and they approve.