John Chiv/For the Times-Standard
A reception and the official kick-off to open the Melvin Schuler Court Gallery to the public will be held during the Eureka Arts Alive in April.
Schuler, an internationally renowned sculptor and co-founder of the Humboldt State University arts department, died last May.
While there are many places outside Humboldt County where one can see some of Schuler's work publicly, the only place locally that the public can view larger pieces from part of his personal collection is in the gallery created by Dan and Jayne Ollivier.
Located on the second floor in the Gross building, which is located on the corner of 5th and F streets, the gallery will be open to the public five days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. following the April Arts Alive event.
The Olliviers, who've known Schuler since 2000, invited the sculptor to be part of an art show to introduce the new Gross building. In 2011, Dan Ollivier approached Schuler to buy some of his sculptures. He said his personal favorite is “Thor,” which initiated a conversation about a permanent gallery for Schuler.
”I wanted a great artist in a great building,” Ollivier said. “Mel's sculpture has enormous presence. Mel would say to me, 'If it sings to you, it is a great work of art.”
”Mel was a very private man,” Ollivier added. “While many knew of him and his art, only his friends and those closest to him knew the man.”
A native Californian, Schuler graduated from the California College of Arts and Crafts and began his teaching career in 1947 at HSU. He was professor emeritus when he died. The national collection of Fine Arts at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and Kirk and Michael Douglas' private collections are just two examples of how highly regarded Schuler was in the art world, according to Ollivier.
While working as an art professor, Schuler developed a form of sculpture characterized by tall, irregular, solemnly monumental columns in elegantly carved and finished black walnut. Sometimes they were clustered and partly enclosed in racks, and gave a suggestion of archaic runes and totems. It was in the 1970s that Schuler originated his large abstract sculptures using old growth redwood carved into abstract forms clad in copper and fastened with bronze nails.
While internationally acclaimed, Schuler chose to make Humboldt County his home, and he shared it for 33 years with his partner Edward Oliver, who still resides here. "He chose to live here because he was happiest here,” Oliver said. “He was at his creative best here.”
Even though they had a condo in San Francisco and traveled extensively, they always returned back to Humboldt County "There is a lot of influence he drew from local work, and Reese Bullen is one of the people he respected a lot,” Oliver said.
Oliver reiterated that Schuler was a very private person. What many people don't know, because it was not something that Schuler chose share with anyone but his closest friends, was that he painted. The walls of his Arcata home are adorned by his paintings, and all throughout his home is art from his trips to Africa and India -- and his signature sculptures.
Oliver said Schuler loved to travel, and they took at least one trip a year. But, they always returned to Humboldt. "He built our house,” Oliver said. “One of the hardest things I had to do was the week before he passed away when I drove him back from our condo because he wanted to be at home.”
For more information on the Melvin Schuler Court Gallery, please contact Dan or Jayne Ollivier at 444-9056.
This photo was taken by Jayne Ollivier. These sculptures can be viewed by the public on the second floor of the Gross building in Eureka.