"The Mountain Man" is a bronze statue by Northern California artist Keith Christie. Many of his bronzes and oil paintings, as well as the watercolor paintings of Kara Castro, are on exhibit at The Gallery at 48 Natoma in Folsom. Photo by Susan Laird

Spotlight Columns

‘Equestrian Excellence’ raises the bar at The Gallery at 48 Natoma

By From page B2 | July 31, 2013

Folsom is always full of little surprises.

In many ways, it’s a microcosm of the Sac Metro area but with a fiercely pioneering and independent flavor. Let me show you the ways:

  • Sacramento has a zoo. Folsom has a zoo.
  • Sacramento has museums. Folsom has museums.
  • Sacramento has branch libraries. Folsom purchased and built its own library when Sacramento slated Folsom’s branch for closure.
  • Sacramento has live theater. Folsom has the Sutter Street Theatre.
  • Sacramento has a symphony. The Folsom Symphony celebrates 10 years this fall.
  • Sacramento has the Convention Center Theatre. Folsom has the Harris Center for the Arts (formerly known as Three Stages at Folsom Lake College).
  • Sacramento has multiple Rotary Clubs that contribute to the community. Folsom has Rotary morning, noon and night every week — three clubs, in fact.

I could go on and on. Folsomites appreciate the finer things in life, and they don’t like to be dictated to by the county seat. They like to engage challenges and control their destiny. It is still a city filled with the pioneer spirit.

One comparison I find most striking is: Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum gets high quality art shows and so does The Gallery at 48 Natoma in Folsom’s Civic Center.

The current show is nothing less than stellar, and it has echoes of that pioneering spirit that built the west. This is art by two Northern California artists that is both beautiful and honest as the day is long.

Equestrian Excellence features the oil paintings and bronze sculptures of Keith Christie and the watercolor paintings of Kara Castro.

Christie is enamored with the history and heritage of the American west — cowboys, mountain men, pioneer men and women, and the animals they worked with and encountered. He established himself as a world-renowned artist in 1972, when Wells Fargo Bank purchased his entire edition of 12 5-foot, 6-inch bronze stagecoaches. These art works are in the corporate executive offices of Wells Fargo all around the world.

There is a California impressionist feel to the coloring in Christie’s oil paintings. In fact, this exhibit brings to mind the California Impressionism exhibit at the Crocker a few years ago. The people in his paintings feel real, as do the animals. His color work brings an illumination to each piece that is romantic — yet gritty at times. Hard work and perseverance are qualities that are valued in his artwork. Compassion for the subject also comes through in both his painting and bronze work.

Castro’s watercolor paintings are almost photo-realistic. Visitors to the gallery comment, “That’s a watercolor painting? It looks so real!”

This is no surprise, as Castro is a three-time finalist in the prestigious international competition by the Art Renewal Center — an organization dedicated to promoting realism in art. She is also a Master Signature Member of the California Watercolor Association and a recipient of its 2005 National Exhibition Gold Medal Award.

The reality of ranch life is a favored topic in Castro’s art work. A horse isn’t just a horse. He has a personality in Castro’s world. No detail is insignificant, whether it is a brand, a strand of barbed wire along the fence or a piece of tack. One horse nuzzles another, and the viewer wants to reach out to touch the smooth necks of both horses in that encounter.

You can almost smell them — and I mean that in the best way. It’s gritty, good realism at its finest.

Each work by these artists invites the viewer to linger. And one does so, willingly.

This exhibit could rightfully have pride of place at the Crocker in Sac-town. But, no. It’s in Folsom. And Folsomites wouldn’t have it any other way.

Equestrian Excellence runs through Aug. 29.

The Gallery at 48 Natoma is located on Natoma Street in Folsom’s Civic Center. Hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesday evenings from 6 to 8 p.m. Call for occasional weekend hours. Admission is free.

For more information call (916) 355-7285. 

Send your event for consideration in Susan’s column to [email protected]

Susan Laird


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