Lucas Lamar and his Why I Love Carmel evokes town’s original art scene.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Cymbals crash and a bass line pounds as an impromptu music jam erupts in the loft above Lucas Lamar. A cigarette dangles out of his mouth as he nonchalantly adds more paint to a realistic rendering of Carmel Point’s Walker House. A few seconds later, a ringing telephone adds to the growing din in the Carmel art studio/apartment. No one answers.
“For some reason, when there’s so much going on, I can focus,” Lamar says. “Especially when the band is going and people are coming in and out.”
Currently, 29-year-old Lamar’s focus is on completing his 25 oil-on-linen paintings for his Why I Love Carmel exhibit, which has its grand opening this Saturday, Nov. 6, at the Sunset Center’s Marjorie Evans Gallery. The show will feature paintings of Carmel landmarks including the Carmel Mission, the Carmel City Hall and the Carmel Firehouse. Each piece is accompanied by a bit of background information written by Rose McLendon, the local history librarian for the Harrison Memorial Library.
“Every scene I’m doing has a historical reference or some significance for the area,” Lamar says.
Bearded and wearing flip-flops, Lamar stares at the painting in front of him. “As I’ve been painting these things,” he says, “I’ve discovered a newfound appreciation for Carmel and its culture.”
Lamar says he learned some of his skills from his father Howard Lamar, who used to own a studio in Carmel. “My dad showed me how to flow,” he says. “How to sit in front of an easel and make things happen.”
It seems to be a pretty conventional undertaking for Lamar and a team of unconventional Carmel artists, which includes his roommates Dan Herron, 49, and Marlin Basco, 44. Herron and Basco will also be showing three pieces each at the Why I Love Carmel show.
Herron is the owner of The White Rabbit, a Carmel shop that sold Alice in Wonderland items before moving online, while Basco spends a lot of time in the apartment’s loft, where he has hours and hours of the trio’s sessions recorded.
“When we get tired of painting, we run up and record,” Basco says. “It’s entirely improvisational.”
There seems to be a constant flow of people coming in to contribute. “We have poets that come off the street and record with us,” Basco says.
The housemates all view making art as a compulsion rather than a money-making endeavor. Herron notes that his own girlfriend refuses to stay overnight in the studio and apartment space, because someone is always up adding paint to a canvas or a sound to a recording. “Luckily, everyone here puts up with the constant racket,” he says.
With yellow paint spots on his face, Herron speaks excitedly about Carmel’s artistic past and inadvertently reveals how he and his roommates might be the appropriate people to do a series of Carmel works: The upstairs apartment where he lives was once owned by the Carmel Art Institute and may have housed surrealist Salvador Dali when he came to this area in the 1940s.
“The way we view ourselves is the new Carmel Bohemians,” he says. “We’re interested in portraying the town how it is, not the Thomas Kinkade style.”
Herron then elaborates on his belief that he and his housemates fit into Carmel’s tradition of artists and writers that stretches back to the early 1900s, when George Sterling, Jack London and Upton Sinclair lived here. “We also took a vow of poverty and have an addiction to one of the seven arts,” he says.
Luckily for this crew that addiction is being fostered by David Williams and Beverly Wilson, a San Carlos-based couple that commissioned the Why I Love Carmel series. After going to Carmel for their honeymoon in 2009, the newly betrothed were hoping to purchase a painting of the town. “We couldn’t find a single painting that said Carmel to us,” Williams says.
A year later, Williams and Wilson returned to Carmel for their one-year anniversary. In front of the courtyard by Portabella Restaurant, the couple met Lamar, who was unloading paintings from his truck. After striking up a conversation, they commissioned a piece depicting Carmel’s Court of the Golden Bough. “It was a quintessential Carmel scene,” Williams says of Lamar’s work.
Williams and Wilson quickly hired Lamar to paint the Why I Love Carmel series. A quarter of its profits will be donated equally to the Sunset Cultural Center, the Carmel Public Library Foundation and the Mayors’ Cultural Improvement Fund. The price of Lamar’s pieces at the show will range from $750 to $3,800. “We are trying to do something commercially successful and a little philanthropic at the same time,” Williams says.
While Lamar thrives in the chaotic atmosphere of his apartment, Williams and Wilson appreciate Carmel for different reasons. “It’s an enclave of calm,” Williams says, “in a busy, busy world.”