Five Car Garage celebrates the energy of artists in exhibitions
By Bridgette M. Redman
When everyone knows you and how to find you, you don’t have to put your address on the Internet.
Emma Gray has had her art gallery and energy studio in Santa Monica since 2012. A five-car garage off an alley with a beautiful view, she gives space to artists who share her vision of art and commitment to exploring energy.
The name of the gallery? Five Car Garage.
The garage is on the same property as Gray’s residence and she needed to take measures to separate the two. When people want to come to the gallery, she has them email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“There is no address in the alley, so people would come to my house,” Gray said. “So I send them a map and they come. People now know where I am and when. If they’re coming to the beach, they text me. It’s easy. I’m hiding in plain sight. I have more of an international presence than I do here.”
Gray came to Santa Monica from New York in 2003. She was pregnant, craving nature and, post 9-11, didn’t want to raise a family in New York. She arrived and was smitten with the area. Then, while walking around, she found a home near Sunset Park that had a large garage.
“The guy that owned this house worked in the music business and he spent all his money on cars,” Gray said. “He and his next door neighbor built five-car garages and got permits for it back in the day. When I saw the house, I said — this is a gallery.”
It gave her the opportunity to work from home while her children were growing up and her then-husband was on call 24/7. Now that the children are teenagers, Gray is considering opening a second space in town after the pandemic is over.
The garage is north facing, which allows for open-air, natural light exhibits. It is also large enough that she is able to host performances of music, dance and theater.
“I walk around a lot,” Gray said. “I walk the beach and I think the quality of air and the light here by the beach is different than in town. It is one of the things that is special.”
Gallery pairs with a meditation studio
Gray also built a meditation studio off the garage where she teaches and practices different forms of healing and meditation. It is that work which helps her determine which artists she is going to feature.
“I have this wide range of artists from across the gamut of painting, sculpture, ceramics, video and performance,” Gray said. “What connects them is their similar interests to mine, which would be energy — and some of them are interested in consciousness, not all of them. There is an energy that connects. I like a wide range of expression — I love video, sound and performance. I’ve done all of those things in the garage.”
While she had to cancel a lot of the planned consciousness workshops during the pandemic, she took her meditation and Tuesday night breathwork online and continued to see private clients online. The gallery itself was able to continue exhibiting.
“I have so much fresh air and open air, it’s been pretty well attended all year,” Gray said. “People feel very safe there. I don’t have crowds of people. I’ve done very well during the pandemic with people coming there.”
She said they were able to have a performance with Suné Woods who did movement work. They limited it to 15 people who stood outside the garage with their masks on six feet apart.
“She created her movement work inside the garage and alley,” Gray said. “I told the neighbors and she did it for 30 minutes. It was stunning. We videoed it, thank God, it was so beautiful.”
May features two-person exhibition
From now until May 30, Gray is exhibiting two artists’ work in the Five Car Garage. Their works are very different but complement each other nicely. Raychael Stine is displaying paintings in her exhibition entitled “Hedon Eden”, and David McDonald is showing his sculptures in a solo exhibition. Starting June 5, Gray will be showing Anja Salonen’s solo exhibition, “World as Lover, World as Self.”
Stine and Mcdonald have done two-person shows at the Five Car Garage before, a previous one being “Visions and Structures” in September 2019. An associate professor of art and art history at the University of New Mexico, Stine is an abstract painter who often paints a frame within the canvas.
“There is this real feeling of stepping into another world with her,” Gray said. “It’s a true portal. The vision is very much aligned with the abstract space which I’m interested in with meditation.”
Gray described her Stine as a strong, muscular painter, one who uses thick brush strokes to create compelling canvasses.
“(Her paintings) are very much about sensuality and spring, and it brings an ecstatic growth and joy,” Gray said. “The colors are wild. I think she particularly at this moment is feeling that emotion — post-pandemic, but also in her life. She is having great awakenings. That is the energy she is conducting that people love so much.”
McDonald is the abbot of the Dharma Zen Center in Los Angeles. A former Guggenheim Fellow and an artist in residence at 18th Street Gallery, he is showing a series of his sculptures. He has taught at the University of Southern California, California State University Long Beach, UCLA and New Roads High School.
“He and his monks have come in and done meditation in the studio before,” Gray said.
The sculptures on display are small ones — about the size of a hand or a little bit bigger, but highly detailed.
“He kind of oscillates between a very minimal Zen-like approach and a kind of wild one,” Gray said. “He battles it out with each sculpture. His colors will be perfect with Raychael’s pink, pale blues and pastel ice cream colors. One of the things I like about having artwork like that is…there is something very sacred about something small. It’s very intimate. When you go to smell a flower, you come up close. He’s very small and intimate. These are qualities we’ve all lacked and missed, and wanted after our lockup.”
Both works, she said, are meaningful and those who see them will find different things that are important to them.
Salonen, the other artist whose work will be on display in June, is a figurative painter and a mystic. Both she and Gray are Reiki masters.
“She has a strong musical background,” Gray said, adding that Salonen’s band performed at the Garage nearly two years ago. “I’m looking forward to a very strong, young painter.”
Gray said that when she went to art school, she was taught to think of artist careers in the realm of 100 years. She sees too much art today “churn and burn,” and said she is really about helping her artists build a life and a career that is sustainable over a long period of time.
“And you don’t have to compromise your ethics or soul in order to do it, because there is a lot of that compromise in the art world and it can feel very competitive and difficult financially,” Gray said. “The energy of the artists and people I work with, that’s what really counts.”