As Silicon Valley’s next-door neighbor, San Jose is often considered prime stomping grounds for techies and corporate desk jockeys — not necessarily the sort of place one would expect to find a burgeoning underground art movement. But in 2001, a program called Phantom Galleries began filling empty downtown storefronts with the work of local artists, and San Jose has since become one of the Bay Area’s most art-friendly cities.

One of the most recent venues to open as part of the Phantom Galleries program is the Kaleid art gallery. This once-empty space in a downtown parking garage now shows the work of 60 local artists and holds a monthly reception for featured artists during the city’s ongoing South First Fridays Gallery Walk. This provides artists in and around San Jose with an opportunity to exhibit and sell their work close to home. Spark visits with two of these artists while they prepare for an exhibit at Kaleid.

Longtime South Bay artist and educator Charlotte Kruk N’Kempken’s dresses and capes made from thousands of candy wrappers may have yielded cease and desist letters from candy corporations over the years, but her intricately tailored designs have also won her myriad fans. “It sort of seemed to work for me to express some ideas that I had — kind of looking at our society and the way that we package everything and the way that we package ourselves to present ourselves to society,” Kruk N’Kempken says of her art.

Ema Harris-Sintamarian, a recent transplant to the Bay Area from Romania, works with another kind of recycled material — ideas. Inspired by magazine advertisements and popular culture, Sintamarian employs a variety of techniques, ranging from graffiti to architectural composition, to create larger-than-life drawings that are narrative and imbued with dreamlike fantasy.

“We were really pegged as software companies and a bunch of techies who stayed in our cubicles from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., but the truth is that a lot of these people who work in those corporations are also artists,” says designer Cherri Lakey, one of the founders of Phantom Galleries.

Kaleid and the Phantom Galleries program are produced by Two Fish Design in partnership with the San Jose Downtown Association and the San Jose Redevelopment Agency. The South First Fridays Gallery Walk also includes Anno Domini, GreenRice Gallery, MACLA, San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles, Works San Jose and various other Phantom Galleries’ locations.

Kaleid 19 January,2016Spark
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