Transporting art

Izzy Schwartz

Photo By Larry Dalton

Izzy Schwartz doesn’t just curate Second Saturday exhibits; he carries them. This month, Schwartz begins his sixth season as the proprietor of Izzy’s

Mini Van-Go Gallery—the only Sacramento art gallery housed in a motor vehicle. A commercial photographer by trade, Schwartz maintains the gallery as a hobby. “The main reason I do it is for fun. I don’t take a commission off the art,” he said.

Schwartz will this month, however, because he’s showcasing his own work. Jerome Takes a Holiday is a series of photos taken on his recent cross-country vacation with Jerome the Garden Gnome. Schwartz advises Second Saturday patrons and gnome enthusiasts to look for the van this Saturday outside the Barton Gallery, the Art Foundry Gallery and the Gallery Horse Cow. As added incentive, he promised, “Ritz crackers and Cheez Whiz will be reinstated as the hors d’oeuvres this month.”

Why a mobile gallery?

Like a lot of things I do, it just sort of happened. I was involved with a Phantom Gallery event in Del Paso. Are you familiar with the Phantom Galleries?

Not really, no.

Well, I’ll give you a quick history lesson. The Phantom Galleries were out on Del Paso. They weren’t owned by anybody. They were put together by artists in spaces that were empty. They might be there one night or for one month, but the next month, they might be somewhere else. They had no budget. They existed just to get art out there. Eventually, they had a window space on a regular basis, where they were putting people’s collections of things. One of the things I collect is already-painted paint-by-number paintings. So, I went and looked at the space, and I knew it wasn’t going to hold all my paintings. So, off the cuff, I said, “I’ll just throw some in the van, drive around, stop, let people look inside and try to get them over here to this larger space.” The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. I have a little mini-van I use for work that has no seats. I put in walls, carpeting and track lighting. I put a little velvet rope across the front.

What happens when you go out?

Well, it only happens on Second Saturdays for a couple of hours. I pull up (usually where there are other art happenings), I open the doors, I set up a TV tray for hors d’oeuvres, I put up a few signs, and people hopefully look inside. After dark, the van just glows because of all the track lighting. There’s music playing. It’s cool, like a real art gallery, but very tiny.

How do people react to the van?

Most people who bother to look at it love it. Sometimes, because it’s not normal, people will just walk right by. You have to coerce some people into looking. “Come on! You wanna stop! There’ll be something here for you!” Sometimes I feel bad, though, because people are more intrigued by the concept of the van than the art. I’ll have the artist with me, and I’ll say, “No, no! It’s all about the art!”

Is the Mini Van-Go Gallery a seasonal event?

It’s very seasonal, since it’s an outdoor venue. Winter is not a great time for it. I usually go April through September or October. I stand outside, and I like to have the artist with me, so it’d be awfully miserable if it was cold.

How do you keep the art stable when you’re driving?

I’ve just been very creative. It has to be two-dimensional art, though. I can’t do sculpture.

How did you meet Jerome?

I met him at a thrift store. He was just hanging out. I had been looking for a garden gnome for my backyard. I tend to live in the land of kitsch. So, I found this small, 6-inch, pocket-sized garden gnome, and I had a space for him. We were leaving for a cross-country trip on the Green Tortoise from San Francisco to Boston.

You and Jerome?

And my wife, Nancy. I thought I would take Jerome and do photos of him everywhere.

Was Jerome’s trip inspired by the movie Amelie?

I’m sure it was subconsciously. I didn’t think about it until after I’d started. So, I took photos all over the country with this little thing, and people just did not know what I was up to. It was a great conversation starter. I met a lot of people on the trip who wanted their picture taken with him. He went everywhere I went. We went to the Badlands in South Dakota, Grand Teton, Niagara Falls, Yellowstone, Coney Island, the Statue of Liberty and Times Square.

What was Jerome’s favorite stop?

He really liked Grand Teton. It was very natural—a lot of peaks. It was organic-looking, and he seemed to fit in the best there.

Will Jerome be there on Second Saturday?

I imagine he will make an appearance. I hope nobody takes him.