A tour of Quicksilver Mine Co. with Khysie Horn, owner of the downtown Forestville gallery, goes beyond looking admiringly at paintings, collages and sculptures. Walking among the assemblage pieces, ceramics, pen- and-ink drawings and paintings feels like attending an elegant and spirited party, one populated by Horn's friends and mentors spanning decades.
She points out an assemblage piece of wood, nails and a baby shoe, by Raymond Barnhart, the Sebastopol artist who died in a car accident in 1996. Next, an abstract painting by Horst Trave, Healdsburg artist and co-founder of the first Beat gallery in the Bay Area, who died this year at age 94. Younger artists like Hamlet Mateo and Kai Samuels-Davis also take part in the exhibit.
Horn talks fondly of this art, her voice tinged with nostalgia; after 30 years of existence, Quicksilver Mine Co. will permanently close its doors on Dec. 31. "The Last Hurrah" exhibit, showing now, features nearly 90 artists and craftspeople, just a fraction of the 600 that have exhibited in the gallery since 1983.
It's a bittersweet time, Horn admits, sitting on a finely crafted wooden bench in the Quicksilver sculpture garden. The space has been a prime location for gallery talks, literary events, concerts and community gatherings. And though Horn remains passionate about the work, the gallery has taken up half of her life, and it's time for a change. "There's nothing I can imagine that would be more interesting than to work with all of these people that do all of the amazing things," she says, "But I can't really go anywhere or do anything; I'm essentially married to it."
Quicksilver's origins go back to the early '80s and its initial incarnation as a Guerneville gift shop stocked with Sonoma County food products and crafts (long before "local" became a buzzword), along with original art displayed in the hallway of the Cinnabar building. Soon, Horn expanded into a space that provided for a "true" gallery. A committee of local artists, including John Chambers and Bonnie Smith, helped Horn curate shows. Later, she moved into a third location in Sebastopol. In 2001, Horn bought a building in Forestville, transforming the space into a sunlit, white-walled professional gallery.
"It is a special place she's designed for artists," says Janet Charnofsky, a Sebastopol artist who has both exhibited and purchased work at Quicksilver. "If you want to see everybody, you come to one of the openings. The artists gravitate toward Khysie."
Satri Pencak, West County artist and independent curator, commends Quicksilver's professional installations and Horn's willingness to give artists their first solo shows, always open to emerging artists as well as those with international reputations.
"Over these past many years, the Quicksilver Mine Co. has been one of the best art galleries in Sonoma County, and perhaps north of the Golden Gate Bridge," says Pencak.
If she had the energy to run the gallery forever, Horn says, she probably would.
"I love hanging shows," she says with a wistful smile. " I love working with the artists. I love the part of being in business for myself. But I really know it's the right decision for me."