Cabo’s Unique Light
Artist Leah Porter has exhibited work all over the world and made Cabo her home in 2006. We talk to her about the process of starting Casa Dahlia Gallery, what’s in store for the year ahead, and why Baja is such a special place.
How did Casa Dahlia come to be? Does the name of the gallery have a special significance?
I’ve been visiting Los Cabos since the early ’90s and was immediately drawn to the light of the Baja and beautiful people who lived here. In January 2006, while living in Portland, Oregon, I decided to take a painting sabbatical in the bright Baja sunshine. After a few months of painting with a renewed enthusiasm and a successful exhibition in a local gallery, I realized that not only did I enjoy painting here, but there was also a market for my work. Then it happened: I fell in love with a historic little adobe house, with original green doors and shutters, right behind the Mission in the Gallery District. After some work and a lot of gardening, Casa Dahlia Gallery and Café opened its doors in December that same year. We represent the minimal contemporary work of eight artists as well as my own paintings. “Casa Dahlia” is a play on words—“Casa de Leah”—as well as a reference to a favorite flower of mine.
Is there anything you get particularly homesick for? Likewise, do you miss anything particular when you leave Cabo?
The Mexican culture is so warm and inviting that I have gained an entirely new community and family over these past 13 years. I am currently spending summers in Oregon, where I have a new appreciation for the lush Pacific Northwest. But when I’m away from the Baja, I quickly miss the warmth of the people, the desert light, the epic sunrises and sunsets, the moon rising over the ocean, and fresh fish tacos, avocados, and mangos!
What are you looking forward to this year?
This year we celebrated the completion of our new home. I’m looking forward to painting a great body of work in my new studio!
What should visitors do to make the most of their time in Baja?
Historic San Jose del Cabo was founded around the mission that dates back to the 1700s. It is sometimes missed by visitors to Los Cabos because Cabo San Lucas is a famed party town. I recommend taking an evening to walk through San Jose’s main plaza, sit on a bench, and experience the pace of the life here. The Gallery District is not to be missed. It’s located on the four blocks behind the Mission and hosts more than 16 galleries, as well as several boutiques and restaurants. Each Thursday between November and June the Gallery District closes its streets to traffic for Art Walk, a popular and lively cultural event.
I enjoy taking my guests to the small towns near Los Cabos. Miraflores, Santiago, San Bartolo, and El Triunfo are a beautiful string of small authentic towns worth experiencing. My husband and I live and spend a lot of time on the East Cape, where life is still off the grid, and water arrives in a truck. Heading East, the dirt road that parallels the Sea of Cortez is a glowing ribbon of white sand. You’ll be greeted by burrows and empty beaches as far as you can see. It’s true Baja style!