This article was originally published on Melhop Gallery º7077’s website and is republished here with permission.


alen Brown was the most humble, the most sincere, and the most generous artist I have ever met. I am so happy to have met him early on when I arrived in Nevada, 2008-2009. From the moment we met we have had a deep and trusting friendship. Galen’s compulsion to create, make, think, and endlessly work was more than remarkable. He was deeply invested in the arts and always showed up at all the regional arts events supporting other artists and their paths. While I was Director of the St Mary’s Art Center in Virginia City he made it his mission to help restore the historic building spending many many hours on his hands and knees hand sanding the original wooden floors from 1864 and bringing them back to life in the most beautiful and meticulous manner. He donated his time and skills to many projects and to many artists within whose careers and journeys he was an integral lifeline, support and force.

Galen Brown with one of the earliest circles in the series at his OCD OCD OCD solo exhibition. “Caught a very rare smile photo…although I remember him laughing and smiling all the time,” wrote Frances. Photo: Frances Melhop

With a very understated sense of humour Galen would often drop an odd sentence and then wait with a quizzical look on his face for the reaction. … I know that it tickled him when people realized he was joking. A deeply sensitive man with a passion for drawing and making by hand, he would never ask for help but gave without hesitation to many.

Until 2019 he refused to sell any of his art, preferring to keep the bodies of work intact and to continue working on each series over periods as long as 35 years. The day he agreed to join the Melhop Gallery roster was an enormous breakthrough. Although it was a difficult decision for such a private person, he revelled in the fact that people actually resonated with his work and wanted to live with it. He knew what he was doing was important but hadn’t had the feedback he needed to feel like it was safe to put it out into the world on its or his own terms.

He had 2 solo shows at Melhop Gallery º7077, OCD OCD OCD in 2021, and OCD,2, in 2022, his latest work is currently in the exhibition titled “Between Earth & Sky: Exploring the Great Basin through the Eyes of Northern Nevada Artists” taking place at Nevada Humanities Gallery in Las Vegas, curated by Rossitza Todorova,

Galen worked obsessively, continuously with honesty and love, he adored the process, creating mesmerizing artwork that could be viewed as meditations for dreaming on—but that is not how he would have described it. Although a professed non-writer, over the last years he has used his Facebook page as his repository for archiving his work and some of the history behind it. I love the way he went backwards and forwards in time looking at his life, his work, and the process of making art.

Galen grew up at Lake Tahoe. Water and the high altitude desert were in his blood and they appeared in abstract ways throughout his artwork. The day I mentioned that his Shadowcasters seemed like they must have been a direct influence from the pier he played on as a child, referencing the shadows that it cast, the look of revelation on his face was profound.

Detail of “Prime,” a Shadowcaster drawing, 6.5 foot x 4.5” x 2.5” Ink on museum board, steel metal support. Photo: Frances Melhop

A Pier at Kings Beach, Lake Tahoe, where Galen Brown grew up. The Shadowcaster piece, above, strongly resembles its lines and shadows.

I am so proud to have been able to represent him, help in any way I could to give him a tiny part of the accolades and attention he so deserved. Nothing could ever be enough to repay him for his earnest friendship, astonishing loyalty, support and help with any thing I ever endeavored to do, and the amazing deep and wonderful discussions we had about art.

One of my dearest friends in the entire world, I am reeling at this sudden loss.

“My all time favorite photo of Galen. … I see no change from then til two weeks ago when I last saw him,” wrote Frances. Galen’s caption for this photo: “GB 4 years old Kings Beach before the face hair.”

Recent small waves drawings at the Metro Gallery in Reno, in the group exhibition “Between Earth & Sky: Exploring the Great Basin through the Eyes of Northern Nevada Artists.” Photo: Frances Melhop

Galen Brown at OCD OCD OCD, his first solo exhibition at Melhop Gallery º7077 in Zephyr Cove in 2021. On the left is “First Aid” 83” x 83” x 3,” made of ink on museum board and an aluminum support. On the right Untitled #1 “Circle Series” circa 1990-1996, made of pencil and beeswax on white museum board mounted on a wooden frame, 19” x 16” x 1 ½”. These two pieces are no win a private collection. Photo: Frances Melhop

Galen Brown in his studio at Moundhouse in 2019. “He hated having his photo taken but I told him it was just for scale, so people could see the work in context with a human figure, so he allowed it this once,” wrote gallerists Frances Melhop Brown worked on this piece, “Sinecere,” over a 25-year timespan. Photo: Frances Melhop

Recent smallest waves drawings at the Nevada Humanities Gallery, Las Vegas, “Between Earth & Sky: Exploring the Great Basin through the Eyes of Northern Nevada Artists.” Photo: Frances Melhop

Galen Brown during a residency at St. Mary’s Art Center in Virginia City in 2015. Photo: Frances Melhop

Galen Brown at OCD OCD OCD with the first ever large Circle drawing. “I have been sneakily trying to document Galen and his work even though he wasn’t keen on photos,” Frances wrote. Photo: Frances Melhop

Detail of “First Aid,” which Galen said was made to the scale of a human body. Photo: Frances Melhop

“I took this photo at the Nevada Museum of Art, it was one of the photos Galen particularly loved,” Frances wrote. “To the left is ‘Sinecere,’ 8 foot x 8 foot, (acquired by the Nevada Museum of Art) and the artwork on the right is ‘Smoulder,’ 13 foot x 13 foot. Both are pencil on museum board, completed over a timespan of 30 years. All of the circles are freehand drawing. There was no spinning table or any way to make things easy. He worked from the inside to the outer edges adding more and more museum board to the front and back as each circle grew.” Photo: Frances Melhop

Doors series, mezzotint on Somerset Satin paper, image area: 6 x 4”. Print size: 12.5 x 10” (approx.) Edition of 10. Galen had a great passion for mezzotint, the slowness, the painstaking process and the ability to mix drawing with the backwards and forwards of lightening and darkening of a rocked plate.

Walls and doors series #01, Mezzotint on Somerset Satin paper. Image area: 7 7/8th x 26” Print size: 11 7/8th x 30” (approx.). “Galen told me that he spent a day inking and wiping the plate for each print. I think only printmakers will understand this level of dedication,” Frances wrote. Photo: Frances Melhop

A shadow of Galen Brown on his first of many “Circle” pieces, “Square circle drawing,” a 5×5-foot square made with pencil on museum board, mounted on panel, which is now in the collection of the Clear Creek Golf Club in Carson City. “The center panel was of deep significance to Galen. It was the first drawing he made after one of the employees at his Dry Ice framing studio in the Bay Area experienced a horrifying accident. It was the initiation of all of the circles,” Frances wrote. Photo: Frances Melhop

About Galen Brown

Galen Brown was born in Reno in 1959 and raised in both Reno and at King’s Beach, Lake Tahoe. He was a dedicated junior ski racer on the Reno Falcons ski team and later the Lake Tahoe Ski Club, and a quiet loner in school who lacked direction until a ski accident rendered him immobile for six months. He began drawing from his bed while healing.Brown commenced classes at the San Francisco Art Institute and stayed for the duration of his formal art education, earning a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts in 1988 and a Master of Fine Arts in 1990. He continued studying in China and New York, and for the following 20 years Brown resisted selling his work to collectors, preferring to keep his bodies of work together.In 2019 the Nevada Museum of Art installed his solo exhibition Sine Cere, across 3 of their expansive gallery spaces and purchased Sine Cere, the title piece, one of the large 8 foot radius circle drawings for their permanent collection.A large body of Brown’s work was featured in Tilting the Basin, the Nevada Museum of Art survey exhibition of contemporary artists working in the state of Nevada in 2016, which also traveled to a second Museum location in Las Vegas in 2017. His work is also in the permanent collection of the Nevada Arts Council, and the newly founded Clear Creek Collection at Lake Tahoe.The quality of Brown’s work was acknowledged with the prestigious Joan Mitchell Foundation artist’s award in 2017.

Galen Brown’s work is part of the group exhibition Between Earth & Sky, celebrating Nevada landscapes, on view at the Nevada Humanities Program Gallery though Jan. 24.

Cover photo: Frances Melhop

Posted by Frances Melhop

Frances Melhop is a visual artist, curator and gallery director, born in Christchurch, New Zealand, living and working at Lake Tahoe, Nevada. She works in tactile mediums such as photography, printmaking, hand embroidery, sculpture and oil paint exploring the tensions between the virtual and physical ways we experience the world. Her work has been exhibited worldwide. She has received several awards including the University of Nevada, Reno, Outstanding Artist Award, 2019, NNDA Innovator of the Year 2014 and Luerzers Archive World’s Best Photographers 2009/2010.