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A new home for marginalized fantasy art



Donato Giancola, Taming of Smeagol (detail)
  • Donato Giancola, "Taming of Smeagol" (detail)
The sign outside Atlas Fantasy Art House depicts the titular Earth-hoister — one of the primordial Titans of Greek mythology — looking buffer than the buffest Marvel Comics superhero. As it happens, the sign's illustrator, Boris Vallejo, known for his depictions of John Carter of Mars and Tarzan among others, is also among several artists whose fantasy art will soon be available in the gallery, opening this week in Carmel under the direction of a certain William H. Niemeyer III.

Just as a populist artist like Norman Rockwell didn't get his due from the critical establishment during his life, Niemeyer believes that science fiction and fantasy art get a bad rap from the intelligentsia. He's working to facilitate its reappraisal — both through his gallery and a forthcoming film, Fantasy Art: A Journey into Creation, currently in pre-production. The gallery, smack dab in middle of Carmel's Arts & Design District, will showcase the work of a dozen artists whom he represents, including Donato Giancola, the featured artists for Friday's grand opening ceremony.

The lines between fine art and fantasy art indeed blur at Niemeyer's gallery: While, for instance, Giancola’s painting “Taming of Smeagol” refers to a very specific scene in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, the beautiful woman in profile in his painting “Autumn” is the subject of no particular narrative. Both paintings come alive using classical techniques concerning proportion and portraiture. In Olivia DeBerardinis's “Sweet Nothings” — which appeared in a 2008 issue of Playboy — the same caliber of technical mastery is deployed to evoke a male see-through lingerie fantasy.

Originally from New Jersey, Niemeyer has served in the Air Force, worked as a weather forecaster and, most recently, as a physician’s assistant. But his real passion has always been science fiction/fantasy art. I spoke to him Thursday, as he prepared for the opening.

Boris Vallekjos sign for Atlas Fantasy Art House.
  • Boris Vallejo's sign for Atlas Fantasy Art House.
NUVO: How did you get interested in science fiction/fantasy art?

Niemeyer: I grew up reading literature. Camus and Dostoyevsky are some examples, but I also liked science fiction, and sometimes the cover would tell the story or draw you into the book. Michael Whelan had the gift for doing that, as well as Boris Vallejo, and I’ve bought so many books just based on the covers. So I’ve always loved the art itself. And it’s just a peculiar thing to be representing [Whelan and Vallejo] now.

NUVO: How did you get started in the business?

Niemeyer: Well, I started off with high-end comics. I used to see things like Spider Man #1, Fantastic Four #1, the high end stuff. And then I got a piece of original art and I never went back because the books can come and go. You’ve probably heard of Action Comics #1 going for one and a half million. But there’s only one piece of art for that particular book. Back in those days, no one thought about keeping the art.

Grand opening calendar:

March 9, 11 a.m.: Ribbon cutting ceremony with Mayor Brainard and featured artist Donato Giancola; 7-9 p.m.: Opening reception with Giancola
March 10, 4-10 p.m.: Painting demonstration by Giancola


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