About Sandy Erickson
After studying painting and art history at UC Berkeley, Sandy Erickson began her career in the art business in San Francisco in 1975, first working for a large gallery and art publisher, then opening her own gallery on Sacramento Street. The gallery eventually moved to Sutter Street, exhibiting painting and sculpture and publishing limited-edition prints. International Fine Art Exhibitions primarily in New York and/or Los Angeles were a yearly event.
In 1997, wishing to seek a more rural setting, she opened the gallery at 324 Healdsburg Ave., operating both galleries for a few years, then choosing Healdsburg exclusively.
Daughter Danielle Elins, who studied Fine Art at UCLA, joined her in 2006. Next year Erickson Fine Art Gallery will celebrate 20 years in Healdsburg.
You were in the art business in San Francisco for 22 years before opening your gallery in Healdsburg in 1997. Why did you choose to work in the art business—and for yourself?
I must have been nuts! No, really, I remember asking my Dad if it was a good decision to study fine art. He said, “If you love something, then you’ll be good at it.” What do you do with an art degree? I actually started as a shipper and inventory clerk for a large gallery in San Francisco. I learned all aspects of the business and wanted to represent artists I admired.
How would you describe your area of expertise and your main interests?
My passion is contemporary artists from Northern California. I studied under some very talented people, painters, art historians. Exciting things were happening with the figurative artists in the Bay Area, the painters and sculptors in Davis, pop, funk, realism.
How do you decide which artists to represent?
That’s another conversation entirely, and most of it is difficult to articulate. Art is a visual experience but there is a lot of logic and common sense in the selection process.
You said three people—your mother and two art instructors—“taught you how to see.” Could you please elaborate on that?
I am right-brained, I have a big appetite for the visual world. So I have always been oriented that way. But formally speaking, there were two art instructors that truly changed me. I took drawing classes from Joe Draegert when I was 18 and 19. With charcoal or pencils, he would have his students draw a saddle that he would place on the floor, or a saltine cracker that he would give each student to draw for hours, hours! You knew every stitch in the saddle or each bump and crystal of salt on that cracker and would be totally absorbed by it. (He would also read to us, which helped immensely in staying focused).
I was also fortunate to study with Elmer Bischoff, the Bay Area figurative painter at Berkeley. I had several figure drawing classes from him. At the end of each class he would put up all of our drawings, good and bad. He would critique each one, teaching us equally from all the drawings without judgment. He had us looking so hard, I could not read a book for the rest of the day.
My mother had an eye for beauty, in objects, but more importantly in life. She marveled at nature and enthusiastically pointed out extraordinary moments or details. On long cross-country road trips, she would not hesitate to wake us up in the wee hours of the morning so we would not miss the color of the sky as the sun came up over the hills in Wyoming. Fleeting moments like that.
How can people nurture their own ability to see things around them, and how does this tie into people selecting works of art for their homes?
Unplug for a day and just use your eyes, no devices, no television, no books and use your eyes to get information about people, nature, everything. Just look. Go for a hike, a drive, visit galleries and museums. We all see things differently and have our preferences. We take it home with us.
Your daughter Danielle Elins is your business partner. What perspective does she bring that you truly appreciate and enjoy?
She grew up in the business, her instincts are invaluable. She came to her first show in New York with me when she was only 3 months old, visited all the museums and galleries for many years after that. She gets it. I enjoy her energy and enthusiasm and fresh way of looking at things, ability to work with people and technology. She also brings a new generational eye to the gallery.
What excites you most about the future of the art scene here?
It’s growing. It’s becoming an integral part of the attraction of Healdsburg. Along with the great wine and food, there is great art! SD