Erik White has been an artist for as long as he can remember, and for many years he and his wife have dreamed of opening their own gallery.
That dream came true last week when Erik and Christi White opened The Smiling Frog Gallery & Boutique in North Bend. The gallery showcases the Whites art as well as that of several other local artists. The boutique side is highlighted by homemade lotions, soaps, bath salts, scrubs, optimizing sprays and even dog treats Christi makes.
And while The Smiling Frog is an art gallery, it bends the rules a little, opting for colors, lights, music and an atmosphere more in line with a party rather than a museum.
That’s perfect for the White’s, who are finally able to embrace the home they moved to right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“I used to show in San Francisco, and then we had a kid,” Erik said. “So, we moved up here. We moved here right before the pandemic, so we were basically inside for a year.”
Erik has been a professional artist for many years, but he has long dreamed of having his own gallery. Shortly after his 5-year-old daughter, Sally Joe, was born, the Whites were on a trip through Oregon when they decided to open a gallery named The Smiling Frog. The name comes from six tree frogs the family owns.
“I used to show with lots of other people, but it’s always at the behest of others and what they like,” Erik said. “We set it up with all the cool lights. It’s like it’s always a party in here.”
That fits Erik perfectly. Even as an artist, he stands out by being different. At The Smiling Frog right now, he has many pieces of what he calls gravitational art on sale. By mixing different colors of paints, White comes up with one-of-a-kind creations. He admits he doesn’t even know what the final product will be when he starts working on it.
“It creates a unique pattern I could not even paint by hand,” he said. “It’s not copyable.”
Erik has tried other kinds of art and also paints other ways, but the gravitational art has become his primary focus. He said he moved toward the modern art look during a rough time in his life.
“I’ve been doing this since 2003,” he said. “I was going through a time a depression, and I couldn’t paint characters and faces because it made me sad. So, I was copying Jackson Pollack paintings.”
That led to his own style where he layers paint and lets it drip into shape. The end result is a surprising look at colors, shapes and lights and dark.
“I paint with overlapping drips of color, so it’s like looking through a tree at the sun,” he said. “Not only can you not find another on, I can’t make another one.”
Because of the layers of color, his paintings also come to life when wearing 3-D glasses. At the gallery, the Whites let guests look at the art in 3-D, which showcases movement as the layers of color ebb and flow.
When the Whites decided to open a gallery, they knew it would be for more than just their work. As they met other artists in the area, they offered them space to showcase their work, as well. On opening day, the work of half a dozen artists hung on the wall, and Erik hopes that number grows.
“I want to get more and more people involved,” he said. “I’m also starting the North Bend Community Art Project.”
That plan will bring artists together to visit schools and talk about art. White also hopes the artists will team up to paint murals in North Bend to beautify the community.
The first mural is planned on the side of the building where The Smiling Frog sits at 1810 Virginia Ave. White said the building owner has given approval, and he hopes to get different artists to pitch in on the project.
Inside the gallery, the art is front and center, but Erik wants it to be a fun place to visit. In the middle of the floor sits three egg chairs, where guests are welcome to relax and admire the art around them. While Erik’s gravitational art can be seen at the gallery, there is also work from other artists, including metal sculptures, photography and a variety of painting styles.
The artwork ranges in price from less than $100 to more than $5,000 depending on the piece. In the boutique, items can be purchased for less than $10.
Erik has plans to build a small stage, so he can have live music, adding to the fun.
Currently, he and Christi are working to host a concert July 30 and July 31. Many of the artists with work at the gallery will be in attendance at the event. Those interested in attending can get tickets by stopping by The Smiling Frog.
“I want people to see and feel as much art as possible,” he said. “Also, we’re going to change the show every month. So, if you see a painting you like, you should grab it. We want to get people in here to enjoy the beautiful experience and make themselves feel good.”
The Smiling Frog Gallery & Boutique is open from noon to 7 p.m. daily and is located at 1810 Virginia Ave. in North Bend. It can be reached at 541-808-0170. In the coming weeks, the gallery will unveil a website, thesmilingfrog.com.