Livermore artist Carolyn Lord draws inspiration from local architecture and the vernacular landscape to bring her watercolors to life, which often feature city landmarks past and present.
Originally from Southern California, Lord moved to Livermore in the fall of 1980 with her husband. Although she said it took time for her to adapt to her new surroundings, her artistic talent helped her immerse herself in the community.
“For me, moving to Livermore was like being in the Midwest — because I had spent four years in southern Illinois for college — and Elko, Nevada, where my dad and his wife were living,” Lord said, noting how remote Livermore was. was at the time relative to major cities in the Bay Area.
She said that in the beginning she spent a lot of time traveling to San Francisco to buy materials for her works and became involved in the artistic community there.
When her son was born, she said she fell in love with the whole Bay Area as a mother as she joined the Livermore Moms Club and discovered different places and adventures in the area to take her son, like Children’s Fairyland in Oakland. and Happy Hollow Park & Zoo in San Jose.
“I wanted to be able to say, ‘yes, I really raised my son and got involved’ and that’s part of what made me feel more comfortable about getting involved,” Lord said. .
While his son is now an adult, Lord still remains involved in community issues. She said that more recently she attended and contributed to Livermore Cultural Arts Council meetings for the redevelopment of the city’s cultural arts vision plan.
She said that in Livermore she found that the visual arts and fine arts scene is not as strong as the music and performing arts, which is part of why she engages in the cultural arts plan redevelopment process. Lord said she wanted to see more effort and support behind the visual and fine arts. For example, she said that Livermore did not have adequate gallery space.
“I’ll ask people to ask me why I’m not showing in the lobby of the Bankhead – I’m not showing art on brick walls with sloping floors,” Lord said with a laugh. “The thing is, I know the space was not designed to display art,” she added, noting that there are other spaces in the San Joaquin Valley that are better suited. at art exhibition, such as the Grand Theater Center for the Arts in Tracy. and the Carnegie Arts Center in Turlock.
She also said another reason she thinks visual and fine arts aren’t as robust as music and performing arts at Livermore is because of the different experiences they provide.
“Theatre and music tends to be a group event,” she said. “You audition, you rehearse together, everyone’s excited and it’s kind of like being part of a team, whereas the visual and fine artists – like what I do – we do all the work on our own. and all we do is show up for the show and it’s just not as exciting,” she added.
Lord – who, in addition to art, is also passionate about climate action – weaves her community involvement into her work. She paints where she lives, including her own garden with persimmons and lemon trees, among other plants and flowers.
Beyond its front yard, many of its paintings depict the architecture of downtown Livermore, such as the garage bays of what was once the site of the Groth Brothers Chevrolet dealership at the corner of First and L streets. is currently being developed into a mixed housing and retail development.
“So here we have Livermore — with its historic downtown — and what did they tear down? California’s first fireproof auto store,” Lord said of Groth Brothers’ former location.
She said her paintings not only pay homage to the town’s rich history, but also reflect her perspective on sustainability and her belief that many of Livermore’s older buildings could have been saved and reused in community spaces such as a science museum or youth centers or art galleries.
“I know in the green economy, with a building already built, you’re further ahead than tearing it down and building something new,” Lord said.
Some of Lord’s works also depict the former Valley Pool Center on Railroad Avenue as well as a strip of buildings on North Livermore Avenue, which have housed various businesses over the years but are currently occupied by a martial arts studio, The Good Time Tavern and the City Housing Services Center.
Lord of the Band’s painting is titled “Livermore Tattoo”, in reference to a tattoo shop that once existed there but moved in 2008 after the owner said he was told by the town that a tattoo parlor did not correspond to the vision of the city center. redevelopment plan, according to an East Bay Times report on the matter.
Although Lord’s paintings of the various buildings do not include signage indicating what they are or were, the buildings are recognizable as visual downtown staples, especially to long-time residents of Livermore who lived in town when many of these old businesses were still operating.
Lord also paints houses in Livermore that showcase an older style of architecture, including the many duo-style houses and duplexes in neighborhoods around town.
“When people say, ‘We don’t want change, we just want single-family homes in Livermore,’ it’s like, no, if you go to the older neighborhoods, it’s fine here,” Lord said. . “It’s part of our tradition, to have duplexes and multi-family homes. It’s been around us forever,” she added.
Lord also incorporates environmental concepts into his work. In one of her paintings of the waterslide on the roof of the Valley Pool Center, she said she chose to paint it in the winter with clouds above to indicate that “we need our clouds are raining to put snow on the Sierras, so we can have pool water,” she said, adding that she titled it “Chutes and Ladders” after the board game to represent the ups and downs of the water cycle.
Although Lord said she would have preferred the city to preserve and reuse more of its historic buildings, she supports the development of affordable housing downtown. “My feeling is to bring it in because the ship has already sailed, the train has already come out of the station,” Lord said.
Lord’s art has been exhibited in museums throughout the Bay Area and beyond, including the Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara, the de Young Museum in San Francisco, the Elliott Fouts Gallery in Sacramento, and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, among others. .
More information about Lord and his work is available at carolynlord.com.