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Owning A Gallery

Two Laguna artists navigate the ups and downs of owning one’s own gallery.- Section by Hannah Ostrow

Marc Whitney, owner of Whitney Gallery

I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and I still haven’t figured it out.

I started working this way out of necessity. Twenty years ago my wife and I came back to Laguna after studying in Philadelphia. Originally, I tried to find a gallery to represent me, but most galleries wanted paintings in pickled white frames, and they didn’t get my work at all. One morning, I was walking down South Coast Highway, and I saw Vincent Ferrell sweeping out in front of his gallery. He sat me down and explained why, in Laguna, it makes sense just to operate your own gallery. I’ve followed his advice to the letter all these years, and the few times I haven’t, I’ve regretted it. Historically, many important Laguna artists have operated their own galleries—William Wendt, Paul Blaine Henrie, Marco Sassone, Vincent Ferrell. I once saw a 1947 map of artist studios in Laguna, and there were many that appeared to have operated as studio-galleries.

That said, I would not advise this course for someone who was not a mature artist because you wind up operating in a critical vacuum without the feedback and criticism that can come from a knowledgeable gallery director. In my case, I had a very prolonged art education, starting at Laguna College of Art & Design, then the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and years of private instruction. On matters of taste, I trust my own judgment.

As far as the business of running the gallery, that is another matter. Operating a gallery and painting are two full-time jobs, so if you do both, you wind up working two jobs. The upside: lower costs and getting firsthand knowledge of how the public perceives your work. The downside: long hours and caring too much about how the public perceives your work.

Lu Martin, owner of Lu Martin Galleries

The chasm in the brain (between left and right side) isn’t as large as one might think if you perform the business part in a creative way and love what you do. Passion, planning and focus are the keys, I believe. I am not a “salesperson” trying to convince a looky-loo to buy a product. I don’t think I could do that. I really am a matchmaker who loves to connect a potential collector with something beautiful in his eyes that will last a lifetime. Our gallery is large, so we can present many forms of art to suit many tastes. I get a lot of joy from that happening, and I do use creative ideas to accomplish that.

I also cherish the times I put aside each week to paint. I discipline myself to keep that time for my productivity, whether I’m in “the mood” or not. Once I start, I’m hooked. The creative juices flow and I’m happy doing that. I know that, in the end, someone will have the art in their home and enjoy it. That makes me happy too.

The difficult part for me are the times when the overhead is over my head, and, for some reason, nobody comes through the door, even to enjoy the hard work we have done—let alone to acquire it.

That’s when I pray. My son Greg and I have had the Lu Martin Galleries in Gallery Row for 23 years—so, I guess God hears our prayers. We cherish all our collectors and visitors who have made it possible.

The Permanent Collection

Relish a unique opportunity to see highlights from Laguna Art Museum’s permanent collection, which consists of more than 3,500 works. The museum’s executive director, Dr. Malcolm Warner, curated the exhibition, drawing on the museum’s vast collection of California art from the last 150 years.

“I’m still relatively new to the museum, and taking the lead in selecting this show is a wonderful way for me to get to know the collection,” says Malcolm, who came to Laguna Art Museum in January from the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. “Hopefully I can bring a fresh eye to the process and bring out some unexpected gems as well as the familiar favorites.”

With works from Orange County mainstays Frank Cuprien, William Wendt, Clarence Hinkle and Joseph Kleitsch, the exhibition occupies the main-level galleries throughout the winter and spring, continuing through April 28, 2013. The show also features venerated artists from the latter part of the 20th century—artists like minimalist Craig Kauffman, pioneering installation artist Ed Kienholz and abstract expressionist painter Hans Burkhardt.

Something Old, Something Borrowed 

Laguna Art Museum’s main fall exhibition, which opens Nov. 4, sheds light on the museum’s substantial permanent collection, running alongside two solo shows from painter Timothy J. Clark and sculptor Macha Suzuki.

Timothy J. Clark

The museum’s upstairs gallery features work from contemporary noted watercolorist Timothy J. Clark, who works out of Capistrano Beach, as well as New York City and West Bath, Maine. In the style of 19th century American greats John Singer Sargent and Winslow Homer, Timothy’s landscapes and still life paintings are representative, not figurative or abstracted, yet through his mastery of color and light, he manages to get at the underbelly of his subjects.

Organized by the museum’s Curator of Early California Art Janet Blake, the Timothy J. Clark show runs through Jan. 20, 2013.

 Ex-pose: Macha Suzuki

The second installment in the museum’s new contemporary art series showcases mixed media sculptures from LA-based artist Macha Suzuki. Taken together as three-dimensional narrative installations, Macha’s current work focuses on the idea of failure—what it means, and what it means to accept failure as a given and to move on from there.

Yet while storytelling is key to Macha’s art, understanding the underlying narrative is secondary to the aesthetics of the sculptures, he says in an artist statement. He works in materials that range from clay to plastic to fluorescent lights, making for tactile and experiential work that exists somewhere between reality and fiction.

“I tell stories, real-life stories about my experiences: what I have done, what I have seen and what I have heard,” Macha says. “I do not necessarily convey these experiences factually. … I am not interested in telling a boring true-life story loaded with meanings and lessons. I am more of a pleasure seeker.”

Macha’s installations are on view in the museum’s basement galleries through Jan. 20, 2013. (949-494-8971; lagunaartmuseum.org)

Gallery Events

The George Gallery

October’s “Found and Broken” features work from Chilean artists Soledad Pinto and Livia Marin, who enmesh the everyday with the creative using found objects. In November, “Floating Explosions” features abstract painters Bobbie Oliver and Mary Jones. (949-715-4377; thegeorgegallery.com)

AR4T

The artists of “Futureland 2012,” October’s group show, adopt the American flag as inspiration, each providing a riff on the emblem. The first week of November features “Futureland: Elephants & Asses” emboldening artists to express their partisan ideals on today’s political climate. (415-690-6180; ar4t.com)

JoAnne Artman Gallery

Through November, “Romancing Imagination” from British artist Peregrine Heathcote showcases works evoking the glamour and cinematic romance of an idealized prewar era. (949-510-5481; joanneartmangallery.com)

Sue Greenwood Fine Art

November at Sue Greenwood includes Mary-Austin Klein’s photorealist landscapes of the American West; John Brosio’s tornado studies; Jason Kowalski’s paintings of manmade signs, buildings and cars that have long been forgotten; and Kenna Moser’s quirky collages. (949-494-0669; suegreenwoodfineart.com)

Dawson Cole Fine Art

Fall is dedicated to Richard MacDonald, whose bronze sculptures demonstrate a mastery of the human form. Sources for the sculptures range from circus performers to ballerinas. Stop in the weekend of Nov. 10 – 11 for an artist reception. (888-972-5543; dawsoncolefineart.com)

Sandstone Gallery

October features Anne Moore’s enigmatic monotypes in “Beauty Under Pressure,” alongside an exhibition entitled “Solitary Places,” with Anne Marie deJony’s muted, figurative landscapes. (949-497-6775; sandstonegallery.com)

Pacific Edge Gallery

Opening Oct. 20, “Abstraction/Realism” highlights local painters Brenda K. Bredvik and Tom Swimm: The two have painted the same subjects, foregrounding Brenda’s figurative approach alongside Tom’s experiential style. On Nov. 10, Maria Bertran unveils new oils painted on location in England and France earlier this year in “European Impressions,” running through the end of 2012. (949-494-0491; pacificedgegallery.com)

LGOCA

October’s exhibition, “Emotions of Light and Dark,” showcases Michael Chomick’s provocative mixed media work and Steve Snyder’s metal sculpture à la Giacometti. November’s show explores spatial relationships, with Neil Russell’s large-scale geometric works and Chris Barnickel’s oil paintings of a manmade stratum beneath natural landscapes. (949-715-9604; lgoca.com)

Saltfineart

Two large-scale installation projects from Ronald Morán and Priscilla Monge take over the Salt space this fall. The artists imbue everyday objects with deeper meaning, questioning the complexities of power relations and the role of violence and aggression in contemporary life. (949-715-5554; saltfineart.com) LBM


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