by Laura Sidsworth
This is part 2 of a 2 part series about Sanger artist Kathleen Mattox. Check out Part 1 in last week’s issue.
As I journey about all of the towns that make up this Valley of ours, writing articles about our townsfolk, I am continually surprised by the things I learn, such as that Sanger is touted as the “Nation’s Christmas Tree City.”
I decided to delve further to find out why. Just as Fresno is known as the gateway to Yosemite, so is Sanger the gateway city to Kings Canyon National Park. And it is in Grant Grove that the General Grant tree, the largest giant Sequoia in the Park, and the second largest in the world, lives.
The tree is thought to be roughly 1,650 years old, and is awe-inspiring. It was named after our 18th President, Ulysses S. Grant, and in 1926 President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed it “The World’s Christmas Tree.” What inspired him do so? A Mr. R.J. Senior had visited the Park two years prior and was standing next to a little girl who exclaimed, “What a wonderful Christmas tree it would be!” Her notion moved him, so R.J., who was also President of the Sanger Chamber of Commerce at the time, brought it up to a Mr. Lee, the Secretary of the Chamber, and together they came up with the idea of an annual ceremony to be held at the tree, at noon on Christmas Day.
Mr. Lee then championed the idea to President Coolidge in a letter, and years later, in 1949, the U.S. Postal Service designated the City of Sanger as the “Nation’s Christmas Tree City.” The Sanger Chamber of Commerce continues to sponsor the annual trek to the tree, and many Sanger residents still exude the same spirit the tree is known to inspire.
One of Kathleen Mattox’s mottos is: “Sanger: small town, big heart, deep roots.” The third line is attributed to artist Paul Parchan. Kathleen says Sanger is a very special place, with very giving, caring people who have a lot of love for their town.
Kathleen herself has that love for Sanger, and incorporates a lot of the city into her work. She also brings together the work of many artists, showing and selling their work at her gallery/shop. Most are valley locals, and currently include:
Paul Parchan, who besides painting portraits, brings wire work to Kathleen’s shop: unique vases, lamps and bowls.
Terrance McArthur, who also writes for Kings River Life Magazine, has an entire little “tree” of interesting wire creations that he conjures up out of colored telephone wire. These are very popular items people buy, says Kathleen.
I noticed hand-made goats’ milk soaps, fresh from Jill Spruance’s Basilwood Farm, out of Prather.
Laura Fraedrich of Fresno, who loves animals and works on their behalf through the Bully Rescue Group, teaches ceramic classes at the studio, and offers up her own creations for sale in the form of teapots and animal plates (great for food bowls!)
Melanie Schow has offered wire-wrapping classes at Mixed Messages (for jewelry) and has her own designs, knitted scarves, and other items for sale there as well.
The class prices are very affordable, and with so many different things to learn—from the best artists in town—if one of your resolutions this year is to be more creative, I would definitely recommend Kathleen’s studio to help you become your best!
When I asked Kathleen how to grow as an artist, she listed what she does: reads watercolor magazines and professional art journals; explores new materials and techniques; and goes to workshops, such as the one she will be attending in January given by a world-renowned watercolor artist, John Salminen. She also enters juried shows that keep her motivated and driven; she recently won both a first and second place, as well as a small cash prize.
One of her most life-changing experiences was when she attended a Fresno State Summer Arts Program. For two weeks under the tutelage of five different, well-known curators, artists, and critics, she was able to visit the labs from 7 a.m. to 12 midnight daily and was free to create whatever she could imagine.
She found one particular critique to be very freeing as an artist, that a pre-conceived notion about the eventual size of a work can limit and dictate your style of art. Now, she explained to me in front of a very beautiful work of hers, she can tear edges, layer collage-style, and paint in any shape, or image she desires, oftentimes layering pieces one right over the other.
It is this keenly developed eye for design that I think is what attracted the National Audubon Society to commission her for her two works on birds. I just had to get a picture of one of them, “Birds of the Ponding Basin,” and I include it here. How often does an artist get the honor of her work being installed as a plaque in a public park setting?
This is Kathleen’s second year as President of the Downtown Business Association, and she is excited because the S.D.B.A. just signed a memorandum of understanding with the Sanger Chamber of Commerce that will allow the S.D.B.A. to work under the Chamber’s liability insurance umbrella, thus being able to sponsor more events and fundraisers in 2016.
The downtown business association has new Board members as well:
* Adam Albrecht, Vice-President (‘Tis the Season)
* Jacklyn Huerta, Secretary
* Debby Shafer, Treasurer
* Chieko Delgado, who is very active in all S.D.B.A. activities and events, and who advertised by walking with Kathleen and a group of Sanger High School students in the Sanger Toyland Parade this past year.
The board is planning (weather permitting) three more Sanger small business Saturdays with sidewalk sales in February, May, August, and another in November to correlate with National Small Business Day.
The Sanger Christmas tree challenge will continue (with various themes and colors) every other month starting in February, and is open to all businesses to compete for the title of best decorated.
Adam and Chieko of S.D.B.A. have also worked on a Bingo card promotion, running from the 15th of this month through the 30th. A visit to downtown businesses, a validated card with signatures on a finished line, and a card dropped off for a drawing at 1533 7th Street, Suite 309 can net a lucky downtown shopper a prize this month!
I enjoyed meeting and talking with Kathleen, and I wish her, her fellow artists, and the downtown businesses of Sanger, a happy, successful New Year!
“Mixed Messages” ART Studio/Gallery/Classes
1310 8th Street, Sanger, California 93657
Store hours: Wednesday – Sunday (11a.m. to 6 p.m.)
You may also reach Kathleen at kathleenmattox@gmail[dot]com
You can find the shop on Facebook as well.
If you haven’t read part one, don’t miss it as it goes more into depth about Kathleen’s art.