Young at Art


Meet six up-and-coming local artists to keep your eye on.

If you’ve ever joined the throng at Second Saturday Art Walks, you know that Sacramento’s art scene is on an upward swing. We introduce you to six artists who are riding this wave—and creating some throngs of their own.

Robert Bowen, painter

For someone who started out making graffiti art in high school, Robert Bowen, 32, has come a long way. While he still describes his work as “for lack of a better word, lowbrow,” his paintbrush proficiency has garnered raves across the country, from Sacramento and San Francisco (where he now lives) to Phoenix, Chicago and New York. The writing is on the wall: This urban artist is sure to make his mark.

Why Sacramento?
I moved here for cheap rent and the worst reason for a guy to move anywhere—a girl.

Why did you stay?

The art scene: It’s small enough that almost everyone knows everybody, but [it’s] really diverse.

My grandma used to paint; I guess seeing her is what first got me into it. And [my interest] in urban art opened the door to all fine art. I’m just a big fan of color, turning a blank surface into an image in my head.

Who’s your favorite artist?

Francis Bacon. The emotional content of his work is always something I strive for. And my favorite local artist has got to be Kim Scott.

Where do you see art in 50 years?

With the exception of digital art, mediums haven’t changed much in, well, forever. It would be a shame to see [them] change. I like looking at art that is physically in front of you. Sometimes I think digital art doesn’t really exist until you print it out.

Where can we see your work?
Various galleries in California, including Archival Framing (1709 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento).

Carrie Cottini, painter

Carrie Cottini knows a thing or two about media, and not just of the paint and pencil persuasion. As a press release distributor and former staffer at both the Solomon Dubnick Gallery and the Crocker Art Museum, Cottini knows how to see and be seen. But it’s her art that really gets this 30-year-old noticed. With a Pop Art palette (she “starts almost every painting with cadmium orange”) and an edgy whimsy, Cottini has perfected the art of “made you look.”

What drew you to art?

I was fortunate to have some inspiring art teachers early on: Melinda Johnson in grade school and Dave Ewing in high school. Mr. Ewing took [us] on a school trip to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. We were there for several hours, and I never made it past the first floor.


Many of the objects I concentrate on embody different people in my life. I think that objects lead their own lives, and I like to consider the effects that time and wear have on them.

How so?
I love collecting—the chaos of a huge Salvation Army store or an antiques fair. I like to find picture frames and objects to paint on because I like to wonder where they came from and who the former owner was.

How is Sacramento changing?

I think the shift is that more outsider and nontraditional art is finding its way into museums. It’s smart when a gallery space doubles as a venue for other events or is paired with another business, like Archival Framing.

Where can we see your work?
I’ve shown throughout California, including Tower Framing (now Archival Framing).

Julie Madden, painter/drawer

If art imitates life, Julie Madden’s could be from the cosmopolitan school. The 39-year-old “avid drawer” has put pen to paper everywhere from Japan to Germany to Carmel Valley. As a teacher of kids’ art classes and college art history, and a commissioned portrait artist, Madden just can’t seem to sit still. It may come as a surprise that her greatest inspiration comes from “the quiet moments of every day.”

I have hundreds of drawings of my life over the past 17 years—[drawings like] my running shoe while waiting for an eye exam; the view of New York City from my production office of “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart”; Kings games here in Sacramento. I’m inspired by the choreography of the body implementing gestures as it interacts with its environment. I force friends and family to pose.

Where do you show?

I really enjoy showing in cafes, restaurnts and non-art-related places of business. Outside of Toyroom Gallery, I’ve had the best traffic and exposure for my artwork at La Trattoria Bohemia restaurant, The Streets of London Pub, and Temple Fine Coffee and Tea.

Why are you an artist?

My earliest memories are of Spain, where my family lived when I was a child. I was exposed to the culture and art [it] had to offer.

Where do you see art in 50 years?

In [that] time, I’ll be dead—and when that happens, hopefully my art will increase in value for all those who own it.

Where can we see your work?

The Toyroom Gallery and Temple Fine Coffee and Tea (1014 10th St., Sacramento).

Chris Richnak, painter

Art from the heart is what it’s all about for Chris Richnak. As an instructor at the nonprofit Short Center North in Sacramento, Richnak, 39, teaches classes in painting, stained glass and ceramics to mentally and physically disabled adults. The former commercial artist now uses his talent to introduce these students to what he calls a “whole field of creativity”—and he still finds time to paint breathtaking Sacramento cityscapes. Talk about art and soul.

For the past five years, I’ve been [painting buildings] like the Renaissance Tower, the Governor’s Mansion and the Greyhound station. I really like [local artist] Ray Franklin because he shows people who are down and out, waiting to go anywhere, without any money, thinking they are arriving at a new destination when the street life has overtaken them.

Why cityscapes?

I worked at a commercial gallery in San Francisco that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1949, and I really admired the building. And skyscrapers were always inspiring—coming from Tahoe to San Francisco, I was blown away by all the architecture.

What is the future of art?

Maybe people will want giclée prints or holograms of the “Mona Lisa”—and they’ll sell the original on eBay!

Where can we see your work?

Mostly at Phoenix Framing & Gallery (1801 L St., No. 211, Sacramento), the Toyroom Gallery and through the Short Center North.

Mark Niemeyer, painter

Mark Niemeyer finds art everywhere—even on a plate. At his day job as a prep cook at The Supper Club, the 51-year-old artist blends a palette for the palate. “I look at it like I’m giving [the chefs] the building blocks to make their creations,” he explains. Whether he’s chopping up chicken, painting with pastels or forming a photomontage, you could call him the midtown master—just don’t call him late for supper.

Why Sacramento?
I moved here in 2003 specifically to be part of the art scene in midtown. You could just feel the energy in the group of galleries clustered in this area. In the last four years, I have watched the art scene grow and mushroom into a wonderful place to show and look at art. [Now] Sacramento has that “urban cool.”

This might be a real stock answer, but Van Gogh. [I love] his frenzied attack on the canvas. I work the same way; it just pours out of me, and at times I have to tell myself to slow down. I think artists’ brains are wired differently from everyone else’s.

Any gripes about contemporary art?
It all seems to have this slick quality where the artist’s touch is absent. A one-of-a-kind drawing—where a human being has put his mark down on a
surface to say “This is me, I was here”—will always make [original] art a priceless part of humanity.

Where can we see your work?

I show exclusively at Phoenix Framing & Gallery in midtown.

Lonn Stern, metal sculptor

Although Lonn Stern can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound, he’s still a man of steel. As a full-time metal artist, Stern, 62, builds everything from furniture to garden sculptures out of steel, copper, aluminum and brass. This alloy allure has taken him from auto body shops to the Air Force, for which he repaired damaged planes. With all that metal madness, he’s become a fixture himself—of the local art scene.

Why Sacramento?
I love the trees and I like the seasons we have here; [it’s] very much like my hometown of Spokane, Wash. [Sacramento] is a city that is steadily growing. When I moved here, I was very impressed with the city’s support of public art, both the level of art displayed and the quantity.

Why metal?
I was originally inspired by custom-car builders such as Bill Cushenberry, Darryl Starbird, Gene Winfield and George Barris—these master craftsmen built some of the most beautiful cars ever made. As a teenager, I was really into model cars; I won “Best of Show” at the Oakland Grand National Roadster Show in 1965. Then I did specialty metalwork [on full-size cars] as a Dent Doctor in Los Angeles. I use all those techniques in my art.

Why do you enjoy galleries?

A gallery isn’t just a place to go see art. A gallery creates an environment for people to be touched and warmed through all of their senses. Galleries give you the opportunity to slow down and just stand there and take in the entire experience.

Where can we see your art?
Primarily at Phoenix Framing & Gallery.