Get out and get seen
Richard St. Ofle, co-curator for the gallery at Bows and Arrows
Artists have a special place in Sacramento. With a thriving Second Saturday tradition and numerous galleries open around town, the art scene is lush with new talent crying out for a chance to be seen. That’s where Richard St. Ofle can help. St. Ofle spends a good deal of his time co-curating the art for the gallery at Bows & Arrows, located at 1815 19th Street, along with Trisha Rhomberg and Jesse Vasquez. He’s also an artist himself, the author of the memoir No Wolf and the father of a 2-year-old. SN&R got the chance to sit down with St. Ofle, and find out more about being a curator and artist.
Why do you think Sacramento needs art?
It would be devastating not to! Our id, as a city, has to have this enjoyable expression. I think artists are the ones that provide the social commentary. They’re the ones who provide the id and the smile and the passion. It’s like the philosophical narrative for a city. It’s done in a way that [Mayor] Kevin Johnson or [Councilman] Steve Cohn don’t do.
Tell me your thoughts on the local art scene.
I think that the art itself, in Sacramento, is great! It’s so inspiring, and these people are doing an amazing job, but no one ever sees it. So, I think the art scene in Sacramento needs a little push. Within the last couple of years, people are starting to come out and are starting to push each other and connect with each other.
As a curator, what do you look for in potential artists?
It’s a hard mix of things that we look for in artists. We have to like the art, but then there are artists that aren’t into self-promoting. If we were a nonprofit and we didn’t have any overhead, and we were hanging it on the outside of my garage, it’d be different. We have to look for these artists that are a good combination of self-promoters and really motivated, good people to work with—and have amazing art! It isn’t easy to do.
How do you find new talent?
I just went to the Midtown Business Association Gala, and one of the keynote speakers was saying that as a person who works in the artist community, your job really isn’t to stay at home and watch reruns of Law and Order. Your job is to go out and be a politician almost. That’s how you go about doing it. You go to art openings, you go to shows, then talk to people and ask them, “What’s your art like?” or, “Oh, wow, you’re an artist! Send me your website or portfolio!” You kind of have to stalk people.
What is the ultimate goal for the gallery?
We’re really concentrating on making it the next step up. We’re selling prints. We’re getting together bios. We’re giving you great press. We’re giving you a press release. So we’re really trying to be the step above that Second Saturday hobby art that has been the curse of Sacramento so far.
What would you say is the gallery’s message to potential artists?
We’re serious. We’re not even serious for ourselves; we’re serious about you. We’re not playing games. This isn’t our hobby, and we’re not doing this to make money or a name for ourselves. We’re doing this to make Sacramento a better place to see art.
What is your biggest pet peeve as a curator?
People that don’t care about other artists’ opening, that don’t care about Second Saturday ever. Art to me is not something that is done in your bedroom with the lights low and John Coltrane or the Cure playing.
Describe your art.
I really like abbreviation in art. I really like it when things aren’t spelled out a lot. I started off doing these drawings that were really abbreviated, and then I moved into more abstraction. What people know me for artistically is my coffee and pigment paintings. I had this idea that we’re all these giant consumers, and my vice is coffee. I started pouring coffee on canvas and added raw pigment to the canvas.
Where do you get your inspiration when it comes to writing?
I feel like it comes from the same place as my painting. I don’t feel like there’s much difference between it. If you have something to say, you have something to say. If it takes a lot of words to say this, it takes a lot of words. I’ve always been a writer, and it was something I did more in secret, like a journaler. Then I had this amazing summer [in 2008], and I felt like, “I never want to forget this!” I feel like, to understand me as a human, you have to read [No Wolf]. It’s something that is an experience that shaped me like nothing else has shaped me since being born.