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Davis, California

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Paintings, pictures and Panama Roast: the café art scene in Davis

MUSE profiles the local artists whose work is on display at two Davis cafes. This week, Common Grounds and Mishka’s are featured.

Common Grounds

A reflection of tree branches in the water, all warbled and distorted. A close-up of a red rose. Snowy mountains that seem to pierce the sky. Take a stroll into this South Davis coffee shop and these are some of the photographs you’ll encounter.

The Woodland Photography Club provides Common Grounds with artwork once a month. The subject matter varies, said Common Grounds owner Son Chong, but the animal photos tend to sell the fastest.

“In particular I can remember this one picture of a dead bird that sold very fast,” Chong said. “But really all kinds of people buy the artwork here, and they’re all looking for different things.”

Chong said that he usually chooses the artwork based on its personality and how passionate the artist appeared with his or her material.

“You can usually tell if someone is just looking for dollars or if they are really fervent about their piece,” Chong said.

Common Grounds sells prints of artwork rather than originals, but if someone is interested in the original, they can contact the artist.

The current artist on display at Common Grounds is Prem Laumas, a Davis resident and retired professor of economics. Laumas is a member of the Woodland Camera Forum.

After moving to the U.S. from India in 1960, Laumas taught at universities ranging from University of Florida, Ohio University, New York University and Illinois University before coming to teach as a visiting professor at UC Davis from 1995 to 2004.

Although Laumas has been taking pictures for the last 40 years, he has only been active recently – during which he has won awards at the Yolo County Fair and Dixon May Fair.

Among the many locations he has taken pictures at are the UC Davis arboretum, North Davis pond, the San Francisco and Sacramento Zoos, New York City and the Taj Mahal in India.

In addition to having photographs up at Common Grounds, he also has work displayed at the Vacaville Art Gallery, The Winters Center for Arts, and Strelitzia Flower Company in Davis.

Laumas said that he enjoys taking pictures of a variety of subjects. Some of his most memorable photographs are one of his daughter laughing, of a tree reflection at the arboretum and of a lighthouse near Pigeon Point at Half Moon Bay, which Laumas said he made three trips to capture and is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world.

“There was also a picture of a flower from the UC Santa Cruz arboretum that I took on a cold December late afternoon,” Laumas said. “There was ice on the central part of the flower that glistened like a diamond in the fading sunlight. Surrounding it were droplets on the petals.”

“I enjoy taking pictures of nature, of human expression, of the local beauty. There are no limits, as long as it can evoke an emotion.”

Mishka’s Café – Jeff Raw Heart

Mishka’s features the artwork of one artist every month. Up until the end of last week, Jeff Raw Heart’s paintings adorned the walls of Mishka’s. Characteristic of his art are large canvases that contain floaty, cosmic shades of purples and blues working together to evoke ambivalent feelings and multiple interpretations.

“The inspiration for my paintings comes from wanting to bring something into the world that’s different and has a lot of energy,” Raw Heart said. “It’s mostly about blending and movement of colors.”

Raw Heart, who has been painting for 15 years, defines himself mostly as a writer and a lyricist. He said that he goes by “Raw Heart” because it is a good theatrical poetic name for his artistic identity and possibly career as a lyricist.

“Currently I’m trying to spread the word about what I think should be the world’s new default birthday song,” Raw Heart said. “I could never figure out why all this time the single most important event and all we could come up with was simple ‘happy birthday’ but this new one is so all-encompassing.”

“To spread the word, I’ve been handing out papers with lyrics that I hand-wrote, and information and artwork on the back.”

Although he’s possessed a zeal for lyrics and poems from a very young age, it wasn’t until Raw Heart met a girl in high school that he explored painting as a hobby.

In terms of his process, Raw Heart said that he generally wets the canvas before pushing the paint into a frenzy so that it will all blend together in a proper aesthetic way that works.

“It’s supposed to be spontaneous organic, like a child not really thinking, just doing for the sake of doing and it beings guided by the moment and the feeling of things,” Raw Heart said.

When he’s not painting, writing, spending time at Mishka’s or handing out flyers to promote the world’s new birthday song, you can find Raw Heart at the yoga studio or the Davis Co-Op. He also dedicates his time to the exploration of healing medicines and spiritual philosophies.

Mishka’s Café – Eugene Solomonik

As you sip your iced white mocha, you can sit down, look at the wall and simply forget that you’re in Davis as you behold beach scenes from Ukraine, an opera house in Milan, a tribal fire dance and a Pepsi can topped with cigarettes. Each photograph is courtesy of Eugene Solomonik.

Solomonik was born in Moscow and moved to Cupertino in 1997. After dropping out of UC Riverside, he attended UC Davis, where he received his degrees in economics and art history. He now works as Marketing Wizard for a retail start up.

It was not until 2006 when his friend gave him a camera that Solomonik became seriously interested in photography. He said that a lot of the inspiration behind his photography is a yearning to captures his experiences while traveling.

“What I like about photography is that it’s an image, people can see it, take it within themselves and then apply a whole story of their own,” Solomonick said. “Based on just one frame, anyone with an imagination can think of a plethora of different ways that frame came about. And I think that’s fun. Imaginative thinking … everyone should do it.”

He said that he doesn’t have a specific style, but he likes to capture emotion.

“For any shot you see in that coffee shop, I didn’t think much about. I came, I saw, I pressed the shutter. That’s it. Knowing that I liked what I saw when I saw it, normally the picture that comes out I also enjoy. And that’s all I need.”

ELENI STEPHANIDES can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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