One of Sacramento's oldest art galleries is hidden in plain sight.
The entrance is down a neatly paved alleyway in Curtis Park. Neighbors know it as "The Dragon House."
"There is no theme. Just a fantasy," says artist and homeowner Carolyn Belmore.
Dragons, tigers and hundreds of mythical creatures cover the side of Belmore's home. The canvas to this masterpiece is a failed construction project: poorly installed Stucco.
"The installers didn't do a good job, it pealed and we had dry rot," Belmore said. Carolyn and her husband spent a fortune on the bad stucco job back in the 1970's, but unfortunately there was no warrantee.
Belmore and her husband started looking for a solution to the construction disaster. The two were on a limited income back then and needed an affordable fix.
"I liked tile, but tile was expensive. Then I thought maybe clay. So I took a couple of classes and that's when I met Ray," Belmore said, adding she knew very little about clay tile at the time so she enlisted the help of Ray Gage, a World War 2 army vet, retired art instructor and kind of an expert in clay tile.
"He taught in Elk Grove for many years. A lover of art," says Steve Gage, Ray Gage's son. Ray passed away in 2003. The "Dragon House" was his biggest art project.
"You can see the traditional work that he would have done," Steve said.
With Ray's expertise and Carolyn's drive, the two worked to create a story with the tiles that can only be told by those who view it.
"It’s not based on anything factual so anyone can make up a story," Gage said.
It took a mix of science and art to form each one of the handmade tiles, but trial an error often came into play.
"I would make a mistake and sometimes l like it so much I tried to duplicate it," Belmore said.
Carolyn would often spend hours by herself creating the tiles in her kiln and her husband helped with much of the stain glass. Placing the finished pieces on the wall required a large stencil pained on the wall and lots of grout.
"When I first started it was just two ladders and a board. I was up 12 feet. I got dangerous so i got scaffolding," Belmore said.
From disaster to art, this artwork took devotion of an art student and the guidance of a teacher to complete. The home is now covered inside and out with tile and glass. Belmore doesn't mind people looking at the home, but enjoys her privacy.
Out of respect for her, we are not giving the exact address of the "Dragon House."
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