Curiouser in Big Sur

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Published April 8, 2014

ABOVE: SELF PORTRAIT BY NANCY BERRY FROM “CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER” AT THE VENTANA INN.

Lorrie Kempf had long dreamed of living in Big Sur. “Since I was 12,” she laughs. A few years ago, the visual artist finally moved from her longtime home of Sacramento. Soon after her arrival, the Ventana Inn, a hotel built during the ’70s by Hollywood producer Lawrence Spector (Easy Rider), invited Kempf to curate their permanent gallery.

As an artist, Kempf work is largely figurative; as a curator, her background is in public art. “I’ve curated dozens of shows for the city of Sacramento,” she says. “I’m not interested in showing my own work. I’ll let other people do that. I love championing other artists and helping them to grow and excel in what they do.” Before becoming an artist, Kempf led another life as a California Highway Patrol Officer. “I had an accident on duty and had to retire. I was wandering around trying to figure out what to do with my life, and I stumbled across this epic painting at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento.”

Kempf’s vision for the gallery is simple, to stay true to the “bohemian spirit” of the Ventana’s surroundings—after all, Big Sur has been a free-spirited escape since the Beats—and showcase local artists. “People buy art and it becomes part of their family. I encourage our collectors to think about pieces, imagine it on the wall, live with it a little bit so that they know this is a piece that really belongs in their home. A home is such an intimate space—artwork really needs to reflect that for them.”

Over the weekend, the gallery opened a new solo show by photographer Nancy Berry, “Curiouser and Curiouser.” Like Kempf, Berry had another career before entering the art world; Berry spent over 22 years at Virgin Records, finishing as the Vice Chairman in 2001. “She’s been photographing for about six years, and she’s using all kinds of cameras—pinhole, polaroid, even an infrared camera,” says Kempf. “It’s a venue for Nancy to sort of come out in Big Sur and show this community her work in a bigger way. ”

FOR MORE ON THE GALLERY AT THE VENTANA INN, VISIT THE HOTEL’S WEBSITE. FOR MORE ON NANCY BERRY, VISIT HER WEBSITE.