Recently, on an almost-chilly evening in late September, I parked my car outside Caldera Gallery. The sun was setting for a drive-in viewing of E.T. Twilight lingered on yellowing leaves as the zesty smell of green chiles roasting perfumed the air: staples of Santa Fe’s autumnal exuberance. In the downtime before the start of the movie I stepped inside Caldera to look around. The shop in the back is full of cheerfully colored ceramic figurines and teacups, decoratively adorned wooden blocks, miniature houses, and t-shirts. A series of photographs of diaphanous objects on velvety black backgrounds by a visiting artist hung in three neat rows in the main room. As I perused the space, two ladies arrived with a cooler and began serving drinks and popcorn balls to moviegoers out of a window in the back of the building.
Caldera Gallery is owned by Crockett Bodelson and Sandra Wang; together they make work under the handle, “SCUBA”. Their work is characterized by blithe yet vibrant scenes of people, animals, and city life. The couple came to Santa Fe via San Francisco where they sold artwork on the street in Hayes Valley. Back then, they would line their paintings up side-by-side in a long row down the block. Many of their patrons were locals from the neighborhood who, in purchasing a SCUBA piece, became unlikely first-time art collectors. At Caldera, Crockett and Sandra showcase their own work as well as others’ in addition to hosting a number of light-hearted community-oriented events including a recent treasure hunt in which participants used maps and clues to uncover original artworks by SCUBA and several other artists that had been buried in locations around Santa Fe.
As the opening of E.T. projects onto a large whitewashed board, a group gathers to take a peek at Inside the Outside, a SCUBA installation that is presently occupying a vacant warehouse across from Caldera Gallery. Inside the industrial space, a large figure eight-shaped track made from strips of laminate is suspended from the ceiling. The track is frosted with a loop of translucent buildings, each of which glow from within. The light cycles through a series of oceanic colors: blue, green, purple, and pink. White paintings in enamel, acrylic, and iron tattoo the surface of each structure. The piece was originally conceived of for an exhibition at And X Gallery in Fort Worth, Texas and was inspired by SCUBA’s roots: rows of paintings lined up on San Francisco city sidewalks. In Inside the Outside SCUBA has taken the essence of their past work and translated it into a three dimensional, architectural space.
The viewer can walk around and through Inside the Outside, as well as peer into the buildings to see the LED light strips beneath them and inside their smooth, seamless bellies. Sandra and Crockett painted the buildings in tandem, working in different yet complementary styles. Sandra’s paintings are more controlled and utilize soft shading. Crockett’s work is more improvisational and jangly. Together they populated Inside the Outside with a variety of scenes that befit the breadth and scope of a metropolis. There are scenes of joy, chaos, repose and activity. There are cozy domestic tableaus, sleepy looking fish with heavy lidded eyes, tiny jewel-like landscapes, and recurring geometrical patterns. The buildings themselves look lithe and friendly, appearing in a variety of experimental shapes and configurations.
Shrouded in the darkness of its warehouse space, Inside the Outside reminds me of strolling the streets of a city at night. Like any city you might explore under the cloak of darkness, windows are lit, offering you glimpses into the lives of the occupants therein. There’s something to find behind every stoop, parapet, wall and window. Be it warmth, despair, joy, loneliness, or spookiness. Taken together, they represent the richness and multifariousness of urban life, all on a figure eight track.
(All Images: SCUBA, Inside the Outside, 2012; Courtesy of Caldera Gallery.)