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The Backstreet Art District, tucked away against the mountains off East Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, may be hard to find, but once you make the discovery, you will encounter a diverse collection of galleries where you can meet artists, wander through working studios—and possibly find that perfect piece of art.

The various galleries on Cherokee Way have their own hours and showing times, but they all come together to hold an Art Walk on the first Wednesday of every month, from 6 to 9 p.m., bringing together artists, gallery owners and prospective patrons.

Kelly Truscott, from Artize Gallery, explained how this collective got started.

“Backstreet was born by accident in the year 2000, when three artists had left their door unlocked one day, which resulted in people coming into their space,” she said. After meeting the artists and getting the backstory behind the art, these intruders bought some pieces. This chance occurrence launched the location as an art district—a place where a diverse collection of art and artists can be found off the beaten path. The available spaces are leased only as artists’ work spaces and galleries. If a gallery or art business leaves, another art gallery will take its place.

Annette Marie, a painter and jewelry designer at Studio 13, has been at Backstreet for 11 years. “There is constant change here rather than growth,” she said. “It started out and remains an intimate group of artists.”

Melanie Brenner is a gallerist at the newest member of Backstreet, Rebel Art Space. She emphasizes the diversity and evolution that is at the heart of the district.

“The art changes here every month,” she said. “We’re not curators; we are here to sell art.”

Rebel Art Space is a collaboration between Brenner and two friends who share a Southern heritage and a desire for emerging artists to be exposed to the “burgeoning art world of the Coachella Valley.”

At the Tom Ross Gallery, you’ll find works by the artist known as Rosenberg, who moved to Palm Springs in September 2016 after 25 years in Santa Fe, N.M. Rosenberg works with large-scale paintings on clear acrylic panels, using a process known as reverse painting.

“With this technique, there is always an element of surprise,” said Rosenberg, aka Tom Ross. The work is a visual adventure, often surprising the artist himself with the direction of the final piece.

Fusion Art was started by award-winning artist Chris Hoffman to “promote and connect emerging and established artists with collectors and art enthusiasts.” Originally started as an online gallery, it opened as a physical gallery at the Backstreet Art District in May 2016. “We are fully committed to exposing new artists to Palm Springs on a regular basis,” he said. “We’ll be here doing this every first Wednesday—even in July and August”.

Other worthy galleries include the David A. Clark Studio, featuring a namesake who teaches encaustic printmaking across the United States and in Europe; and Maxson Art Studio and Gallery, featuring the paintings and ceramic art of Palm Desert artist Linda Maxson.

One notable thing about the Backstreet Art District is the wide range of prices—including a lot of great, affordable, original art. Many galleries connect the artist to the buyer in a way that is both personal and immediate.

The Backstreet Art District is located on Cherokee Way behind the Mercedes Benz dealership. The city has even provided a directional road sign now, so there is no longer an excuse not to stop by and open an unlocked door.

The next Backstreet Art District Art Walk will take place from 6 to 9 p.m., Wednesday, June 7. For more information, visit www.backstreetartdistrict.com.

Published in Visual Arts

On one hand, Mark Harm Niemeyer creates fantastic creatures. On the other hand, he is a skillful landscape painter who specializes in desert scenes and Joshua Tree ambiance.

“There are two sides to my work,” says Niemeyer. “There is the landscape side and the dream-bird side. Whichever way the pendulum swings and the hand points, like an inner voice, is how I paint. Now the pendulum is in the middle. I am painting at a frantic pace—big, new pieces at 4 1/2 by 4 1/2 feet in less than two weeks.”

Artize Gallery owner Kelly Truscott has been representing Niemeyer’s work for almost a decade—and will be spotlighting it during a January show. Truscott has a strict policy to only exhibit artists she herself collects.

“I have represented Mark for approximately seven years now,” Truscott said. “I grabbed his card in an art store and was going to call him, but before that could happen, he came into my (previous) gallery in Sacramento.”

In Niemeyer’s dreamscapes, his human-like creatures have striped heads; some appear so real and natural that it almost looks like he had live models.

“I think the main inspiration was from Aboriginal and Maori warriors who tattoo their faces,” Niemeyer said. “… I also liked how a stripe on a figure could help define a contour, with highlights on one side and deep shadow on the other; that really helped with the 3-D modeling. I also like the added color the stripes bring. One of the things I try to do is to make each new figure or face uniquely different, and the stripes help with that.”

His other magical creatures are dream birds.

“The dream birds are mainly from my imagination—a small blend of bird and human, with their human feet and human eyes,” Niemeyer said. “I try to make them unique, but it is hard to outdo Mother Nature when it comes to coloring birds. The stripes help give them that dream quality.”

His other skillset involves painting the beautiful landscapes of Joshua Tree.

“I like to paint landscapes that I have experienced, and that I have walked around in and that I have photographed,” Niemeyer said. “I went to Joshua Tree expecting to paint the trees there; nobody told me about the wonderful rock formations!”

Now his magical creatures are entering these landscapes—opening up a new world of artistic adventure.

“I have always felt like my art swung like a pendulum between landscapes and dreamscapes,” he said. “It is only recently that the pendulum has stopped in the middle, and the dream creatures are starting to walk into the landscapes. You can see this in my latest series, Creatures on the Path.”

Niemeyer’s work has been at galleries since the 1980s, starting at a co-op in Omaha, Neb. Friends advised him that his work had more of a California style; later, in Sacramento he showed at two galleries, one of which was owned by Truscott. Niemeyer was one of her best-selling artists, so Truscott kept him when she relocated to Palm Springs.

“When she opened a new gallery in Palm Springs, I was happy that she wanted to show my work there,” he said. “I currently live in Omaha. … All my work gets shipped out to the Artize Gallery in Palm Springs!”

A printmaker in college, Niemeyer utilizes “swirling strokes and the building up of overlapping color.” In all of his work, the “swirling stroke” is prominent.

“I think I have found a way of laying down color that is uniquely my own,” Niemeyer said.

The show at Artize Gallery will encompass decades of Niemeyer’s work.

“I came up with the name Circular Polarity because of Mark’s distinctive circle/swirl style and the interesting (love/hate) way people react to his subject matter,” Truscott said.

Circularity Polarity, featuring works by Mark Harm Niemeyer, will open at Artize Gallery, 2600 S. Cherokee Way, Palm Springs, with an artist’s reception during the Backstreet Art District Art Walk, from 6 to 9 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 4. The exhibit will be on display through Sunday, Jan. 29. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. For more information, call 760-459-5344, or visit www.artizegallery.com.

Published in Visual Arts