Jean Chen’s Inkblot Gallery is a small but mighty space. Facing south on Alameda’s Central Avenue, shaded by sycamores between Ninth Street and Caroline Street, the gallery is a tiny mid-century addition to a Victorian home tucked around back.
Inkblot started out as an art collective in 2016. In March of 2020, the gallery closed to public entry, with shows appearing in the windows. Chen went solo with Inkblot in fall of 2020. Since then, Chen has hosted artists such as David Moore and Amanda Gonzales, who branched out from tattoo art into ceramics; Chrissy Collins’ cartoons along with Chen’s own cartoons and illustrations; and Jenn Heflin Wit’s portrait photography.
In an interview with the Alameda Post, Chen lamented, “I miss Second Friday events; they were fun. To keep public interest going, we did Inkblot Livestream Videos with interviews and discussions. We had as many artists and art supporters participating as we would have had at Second Friday events. Of course it’s not as fun and festive as in person, but we’ve been able to make do.”
Inside the gallery, Chen gestures to the large street-facing windows. “We have an advantage, because we’re easy to access, not tucked away, and people feel happy about it. I feel so lucky to have this street exposure and windows. So many people started walking during the pandemic, and it’s a pleasant surprise for people to walk by and find a storefront gallery. We did hit a sweet spot before Omicron, reopening in December with limited admittance and social distancing. Then we had to shut down again, but we still had people walking by and getting in touch online to ask about the art.”
The gallery is currently hung with a series of colorful, framed landscape oil paintings by artist Karen Roze. “Most of the artists have been Alamedans, but the current exhibitor, Karen Roze, is from Berkeley. Karen has a really interesting background and history. She’s an awesome artist and person.”
Roze is a gifted tattoo artist with a great reputation. Her business, Sacred Rose Tattoo, has served many satisfied customers over the years, and was the first woman-run tattoo shop in Berkeley. From 2006-2009, Chen worked for Roze at Sacred Rose as a tattoo artist, before she opened Inkblot. As the pandemic eased, tattoo parlors were the last businesses permitted to reopen. While Roze awaited reopening, she turned her artistic skills to a more care-free pursuit.
Chen said, “Karen and I started talking about exhibiting her paintings when Omicron hit. She had used Bob Ross as a launch point for years, putting her unique spin on them. He wasn’t her introduction to art. Since the shutdown, Karen has created over 60 of these paintings to de-stress.”
Roze’s work is indeed faithful to the Bob Ross aesthetic in terms of composition, but her color choices are more vibrant. In some paintings, she’s added dinosaurs, mythical creatures, or elements of surrealism. Ross’s mellow influence works well with Roze’s playful, meticulously-rendered additions.
Chen said, “We have a rotating collection; Karen has at least 60 completed. I love the colors! She’s also able to do custom work, so if you want a Yeti in your snowy landscape or an X-wing fighter in your swamp, just ask. You can see more samples of her monster paintings on her Instagram feed, as well.”
Chen added, “We’re excited to be hosting a reception for Karen Roze’s work here at the gallery. It’ll be a daytime event, utilizing the outdoor patio space next door for refreshments and socially-distant discussion. Everyone is invited.”
Happy Little Paintings by Karen Roze, May 7th – June 25th
Come to the opening reception for Karen Roze at the gallery, Saturday May 21 from 3-6 p.m.
All paintings are oil on canvas and come framed. $300 each. To purchase an original painting and to view the entire art collection visit: @karenrozeart on Instagram. Commissions and custom art in the style of Bob Ross are available. Email: [email protected].