All good things come in threes, they say, and this year it appears the trinity’s influence extends to the Wood River Valley’s art community. This year, three new venues complement the valley’s sophisticated gallery scene.
As I am something of an artistic neophyte, I wander into Gilman Contemporary with a little trepidation. The gallery’s interior is an unintimidating urban mixture of glass and concrete; yet, I am reminded of a trendy Soho space, complete with haughty director swathed in black, sighing at my deficient knowledge of the contemporary art scene.
Once inside Gilman Contemporary, however, I am greeted by owner L’Anne Gilman, an unnervingly tall brunette wearing bright colors and a warm smile. She excuses my dilettante-like mumblings and guides me reassuringly about the gallery’s current collection. I ask Gilman about the gallery’s vision. She responds, “Our goal is to find emerging and midcareer artists . . . from all over the world, nationally, and locally . . . artists whose work is innovative and unique . . . who push their medium to a new level but who are accessible to a wide audience.”
As I wander around, I am particularly struck by the work of Southern California native, Alex Couwenberg. “I saw his painting online and fell in love” says Gilman. “He pushes the envelope with color, technique and form.” Reminiscent of hot rods and California pop culture, Couwenberg’s pieces are iridescently multilayered and startlingly finished like a custom surfboard.
This fall, Gilman Contemporary exhibits works by Robert Atwell, Amy Bird and Mike Stilkey. An example of Stilkey’s work hangs in Gilman’s office: a melancholy figure painted on a pile of antique books.
“Stilkey is a key emerging artist,” Gilman informs me. “He paints on vintage paper, record covers, books . . . he did an incredible installation at the Rice Gallery (in Houston, Texas)—wall-to-ceiling characters and animals painted on stacks of books.” Indeed, Gilman’s Stilkey offers a whimsical promise of what is to come at Gilman Contemporary.
So what other exhibitions can potential collectors look forward to this fall? “In October, we are showing local photographers,” says Gilman. “In November, works on paper, and, in December, ‘Small Wonders.’ Everything will be under 36 inches . . . works that are accessible and financially viable.”
As we talk, I get the feeling this gallery is Gilman’s dream come true. Yet, the dream was put on hold while “life” happened. Gilman got married, had three children, and worked in Ketchum-based galleries—for Gail Severn and Barbi Reed—on and off for 16 years. Gilman is forever indebted to these two women: “I would never be here if it wasn’t for them,” she says. However, the overwhelming desire to own her own place prompted Gilman to take the next step: “The children got older, and my husband said, ‘It’s your passion—go for it.’”
Gilman smiles with an air of incredulity. “Once I made the decision to go for it in February, we opened the gallery on May 26th . . . My husband Nick and Tom [Liston] worked around the clock to get it finished before the opening . . . we finished mopping the floor on the 25th and then we were hanging all night.”
The opening, with the help of Gilman’s director, Casey Hanranan and assistant director, Raine Kidder, was a major success. “You just don’t realize how supportive this community is,” laughs Gilman. “I was walking on air that night.”
I ask Gilman what it’s like to be living her passion. “If I can do my job and further an artist’s career . . . ” she smiles, “well, that’s the fun part.” >>>
Crisp, fresh, and unexpected, Green Antelope is located just off the bike path in Bellevue. It’s a perfect setting for potential collectors who, after a pleasant tree-lined stroll in old Bellevue, can wander around the gallery, and sit and enjoy the tranquility of the sculpture garden.
Green Antelope is a new endeavor for Brooke and Helen Bonner—a charming mother/daughter duo. The gallery—which is situated in a gorgeous whitewashed Victorian house—opened in December of last year. “The house was pretty dilapidated,” says Helen. “We had to refinish the original hardwood floor and we ripped layers and layers of paper off the walls.” Their hard work paid off . . . Green Antelope is simply beautiful.
Originally opened so that Helen could have a space to show her work, the gallery is also home to primarily local artists although Green Antelope does show the work of longtime family friend Dinah Cross James, whose work is shown in the Seattle Art Museum and many galleries in the West. Brooke clarifies: “We feel that local artists are underrepresented, so there is a niche here . . . all the time, local people were showing us their work but did not have a venue . . . ” Helen adds,
“We had no idea how talented our locals are.”
Brooke explains how local artists respond to the gallery’s needs: “Ask and ye shall receive,” she laughs. “We wanted big metal sculpture for our garden . . . next day, Mark Sheehan calls out of the blue saying, ‘I do big metal sculpture.’ We couldn’t believe it!”
I ask about the current exhibition. “Sonja Allender has lived in the Valley for 30 years,” says Brooke. “She does mixed media collages . . . incorporating gold and silver leaf . . . I love her sense of color and balance. She layers so much, creating unbelievable depth. It’s subliminal.”
Another artist, Sharon Payne, works in found mixed media. “That is,” says Helen, “she puts ‘found’ items in her work. Her pieces are also multilayered with antique ledgers, diaries, and books from France, keys, and clocks . . . You can sit and look at her work and come up with all kinds of stories.”
Along with the works of sculptress Sarah Long, British-born artist Katie Flood, animator Mary Ellen Mahar, and silversmith Aimee Commons, Green Antelope features Helen’s own distinctive artwork.
“I only paint subject matter that I have an emotional response to,” she tells me. “My work is not detailed realism . . . I try to capture the spirit of the animal or person I’m painting . . . I examine the relationship between the animal and earth or animal and animal.”
Brooke and Helen’s support for each other and their generous pride in their artists’ achievements is infectious. Several days later, I meander down 2nd Street to purchase one of Helen’s exquisite nudes. Surrounded by Green Antelope’s clean whitewashed walls, inviting collection, and tranquil garden—perfect, incidentally, for a party or wedding reception—it’s hard to tear myself away; indeed, much about Green Antelope encourages one to linger. >>>
Husband and wife, R.C. Hink and Lynn Toneri, are no strangers to the Valley art scene. If you drive on Sun Valley Road, you can’t miss the huge fluorescent flamingo in scarlet cowboy boots which has beckoned art collectors into the couple’s vivid gallery for some years now. Deciding to add their unique flair to the South Valley, Toneri and Hink opened a second gallery in Hailey last spring.
Toneri—a striking redhead whose artwork reflects her personal “color”—tells me that the second gallery was a consequence of her decision to open their frame shop to the public.
“Donna Payne has been framing for me for 27 years,” she says. “She’s a perfectionist and we felt it was time to share her with the rest of the world.” After making the decision to open the frame shop, the Toneri/Hink duo decided that another small gallery in Hailey wouldn’t be a bad idea.
“Sometimes the local people who live in Hailey don’t want to make the commute up to Ketchum,” says Hink. “We wanted to cater to locals’ busy lives and have them be able to find us in Hailey.”
I ask Toneri what customers can expect from their Hailey location. “We show a taste of what’s popular in the Ketchum gallery” she answers. Without a doubt, that “taste” is extensive.
As well as their own work, Toneri and Hink represent 70 other artists. Included are “two dozen glass blowers as well as a couple of dozen jewelry artists,” says Toneri. The gallery’s jewelry collection is definitely stunning: “Our work is powerful,” continues Toneri. “And we want all the art work to be able to stand out and complement it.”
Toneri and Hink’s own work is certainly splendid and larger than life. Their sense of humor breathes a special kind of vibrancy into their chosen medium, be it Hink’s carved wood furniture or Toneri’s stunning animal paintings. Toneri tells me, “Both our work is inspired by our adventures. We don’t paint or carve anything we haven’t experienced.”
Their experience translates into their work in different ways. Toneri’s animals and landscapes are infused with an ethereal quality. As Hink points out, “Lynn’s paintings are a wonderful stylized interpretive dream of what she has met in real life.”
Toneri agrees, “I like to make things more intense than reality.”
Examples of Toneri’s trademark intensity are richly depicted in her “Yellowstone” series: my particular favorite is Toneri’s “Raven.” “He was so mischievous” she says. “I wanted to glorify his personality in reds and purples.”
As for Hink . . . “I love wood,” he grins. “I want to take it to an art form through humor.” Hink’s sense of humor is revealed in his delightful “ceiling” art (“we are so conditioned not to look up” he says), and his astounding furniture. Hink shows me pictures of some of his loftier pieces: huge, elaborately-carved beds, a cowhide-lined bar, an enormous chair . . . all breathtakingly hand-carved and “finished” with a pair of his signature cowboy boots.
“He’s like I am,” laughs Toneri. “He magnifies things . . . makes them dramatic . . . everything is bigger than life.”