Photo courtesy Trotter Galleries.
By Mark C. Anderson
At their creative lairs, gallery owners Terry and Paula Trotter curate a dream team of late, great master artists from generations past that put the present into powerful historic perspective.
The late, great S.C. Yuan, one of many beloved, historic artists on display at Trotter Galleries, noted that “art should have something to say to the viewer, and only then is it honest art, which has permanent value.”
Terry and Paula Trotter take that to heart. The couple have been at the helm of their local gallery since 1980. Now in two locations — Pacific Grove and Carmel-by-the-Sea — they have managed to offer a dramatic and impressive representation of something unique: artwork that reveals how Monterey County, from its Junipero Serra–seeded missions to Monterey’s Colton Hall, where California’s first constitution was signed, managed to stand out historically more than any other place in the Golden State.
“We’re coming from a background of appreciating the rich artistic heritage of the West Coast,” Terry says. “We realized early on that we wanted to selectively collect paintings representing formative [Monterey Peninsula] artists, as well as historically significant and beautifully rendered artworks in general.”
The resulting exhibitions communicate a wealth of both time period and texture. At the couple’s Pacific Grove venue, Samuel Bolton Colburn’s colorful and evocative representation of net menders and Cannery Row water towers gives Steinbeck a run for his scene-setting money with accessible color and charismatic shape. Savant etcher Armin C. Hansen, the subject of a forthcoming book, gives the Carmel gallery a master class in realistic scenery with unforgettable frames like The Little Pier and Sardine Barge, inspiring art critic Anthony R. White to write that Hansen “had achieved a mastery of the medium and a maturity of expression that he sustained and refined.”
In Hansen’s hands, White adds, “Monterey Bay yield[s] a natural and unaffected harmony of light and mass.” The artist’s acolyte Jeannette Maxfield Lewis adds more inspired drypoints and etchings at the Carmel gallery; her Bay Shore is the type of site-specific masterpiece that makes time stand still.
Yuan’s paintings, meanwhile, challenge Mother Nature to be as beautiful as his portraits of her, including redwoods, Point Lobos, fishing boats, and a cast of characters casting rods off Wharf II in Monterey.
Across the vast range of time-traveling work, two things become clear, at least to those who have fallen for the Monterey and Carmel Coast: The Trotters are deeply in love with the place themselves and thankfully have the acumen to express it triumphantly, and this collection could — and maybe should — be in a museum of the highest order.
Award-winning public institutions have consistently sought out their contributions and counsel. The Oakland Art Museum, San Diego Museum of Art, Pasadena Museum of California Art, Hearst Art Gallery, and Leland Stanford Governor’s Mansion, among many others, have all requested their collaboration. And paintings from the Trotter collection have been published in books on art including California Light and Six Early Women Artists: A Diversity of Style.
“We’re always willing to share,” Paula says. “It’s gratifying to see pieces meaningful to us be meaningful in major exhibitions and give the public a chance to see some of the best work they might not otherwise be able to witness.”
When Terry is pressed to illuminate why the California perspective matters, he adds, “Rendered in the direct context of the era represented, [Early California art presents] an emotionally stimulating and insightful glimpse into the landscape’s natural beauty while evoking a historical romance in the last frontier of the continent’s end, which inspired not only the artist’s imagination but also endeared so many to migrate to the Golden State of California.”
It also plays a necessary role in communicating.
“Especially,” Terry affirms, “to the younger generations of our residents, the need to protect both the rich and varied heritage of our state, as well as … its natural wonders.”
8 Gallery Stops in Monterey Bay
Peruse these outposts for paintings, photography, and other works of art.
Carmel Art Association, founded in 1927, is stocked and staffed by a loyal collective of gifted artists from painters to printmakers who fill the gorgeous venue with diverse work.
Photo-lovers should bookmark Center for Photographic Art. One of the oldest members’ photography gallery organizations in the United States, the center was founded by Ansel Adams, Cole Weston, and Wynn Bullock and remains as stuffed with arresting images as ever.
Monterey Museum of Art, or MMA among locals, fills the mind with so many far-ranging artists and mediums it requires two sizable locations. The airy spaces host rotating contemporary and international art exhibitions, which complement permanent collections of California and regional photography and paintings.
Pacific Grove Arts Center boasts 10 major openings a year across four big spaces, plus a full slate of regularly scheduled art classes and workshops.
Photography West in Carmel pays homage to the masters of black-and-white photography with special rooms dedicated to Ansel Adams and Brett Weston, plus other galleries showcasing female and contemporary imagery, among other works.
SOMOS Gallery of Salinas gives the area’s art a much-needed jolt of graffiti, urban, street, and underground expression.
At times classic, at others whimsical, Carmel’s Winfield Gallery enjoys both range and gravitas without sacrificing its love for the “bizarre;” exhibitions spotlight sculpture, paintings, ceramics, and more.
Monterey County art writer extraordinaire Walter Ryce calls Westbrook Modern “one of the most interesting galleries in Carmel” for its thoroughly contemporary and unique selection of colorful artists.
Carmel Art Festival
The 25th annual art soirée features sculptures, a juried pleinair painting competition, a variety of art activities for children, live performances, and more. Take note: Local galleries will host special receptions and demonstrations during the fest.