Monday, February 13, 2023

Melody Jean Moulton of Trash Lamb Gallery

Melody Jean Moulton is the owner of Trash Lamb Gallery, an unconventionally curated gallery and giftshop located in San Diego, CA. 

Interview by Wendy Lee Gadzuk

Can you give us a brief introduction to your gallery- where is it, how long has it been around, and are you the sole proprietor?
Trash Lamb Gallery is a small, artist-run art gallery and unconventionally curated gift shop in San Diego, California. I opened in October of 2020 after having the opportunity to take over the lease of a building in my neighborhood. The landlord of the building was also the longtime landlord of my apartment, so the space was mine if I wanted it, as far as he was concerned (I’ve always been a good tenant).  

At the time, I had zero experience working in a gallery setting, curating art shows or managing a small business, but it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. I wasn’t sure if I’d even be able to get the finances together to do it, but once I was able to jump that hurdle, it felt like a sign that I had to give it a shot. Walking past the building everyday and wondering, “what if I pursued that thing?” seemed like a worse fate than giving it a shot and failing at it.  

I’m a little over two years into it now, and am still not 100% sure that I made the right choice... But it’s too late now! I’m in too deep to give up at this point, and while I am constantly on the verge of going out of business, I’ve somehow managed to keep it going this far.   

Although it took some financial help to get the doors open, I have done everything on my own (website, bookkeeping, marketing, social media, working the counter, hosting receptions, etc.), as well as curating all the shows myself. I can’t say that I excel at any of these particular things, but the fact that I manage to do all of them simultaneously, to a somewhat functional extent, does feel like an accomplishment. I have so much more to learn and many more mistakes to make! My business card says, “Owner / Lead Janitor,” which is meant to be humorous but is also an accurate description. Sometimes I feel like I’m constantly cleaning up messes- both my own and other people's.

When did you first realize your passion for the arts?
It was a slow build for me. I think there were a lot of contributing factors. I grew up outside of a smaller city, Eureka, California and while there was an arts scene of sorts there, it was never something I got super involved in. I do remember once in high school, putting up fliers all over Old Town during the monthly Arts Alive event. We went DIY and made my older friend’s apartment into one of the (unofficial) destinations, hung some really bad art on the walls, and offered people plastic cups of malt liquor (which we poured from a bucket of 40’s that were on ice). It was on the second floor, a few blocks off the beaten path in a part of town known for junkies and sex workers, so not a ton of people dared to venture up the stairs. I do remember at least a handful of different strangers coming by though, and us all being entertained by all the different reactions.  

In the late 90’s, before I dropped out of college and moved to San Diego, I co-facilitated a support group for children who were survivors of domestic violence for a couple of years.  That experience was also a big piece of the puzzle, in terms of my appreciation for how powerful art can be- both the creator and spectator of it.  Some people aren’t able to use their words to get things out, and that job was really eye-opening as to how art could be an alternative avenue for processing trauma.   

In the early 00’s, after moving to San Diego, I dated someone for a few years whose mother was an artist.  At that point I had made a few pieces, but because I'd had no schooling, I never dared to call myself an artist. She was really adamant about my being an artist too- she always raved about my art and made me feel like I was special.  It still took me years to start any sort of semi-consistent creative practice, and even longer to begin applying to gallery shows. But I’d definitely say that she was instrumental in my getting there and having the confidence to do it.

So, I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when art became a true passion for me, but all of these things combined were big contributing factors.  

What was the catalyst for establishing Trash Lamb Gallery?
It was kind of a fluke to be honest.  It was something I had always dreamed of doing but never really saw it in my cards as actually happening. Because of that, I never researched or took the steps to learn what it would take to get going.  

While also being an artist, prior to March of 2020, I had tended bar to pay my bills. For almost 20 years, that job had allowed me the flexibility to be able to take time to create, and to seek out creativity further by travelling for more insight and revelation. There are lots of things to enjoy about San Diego. However, after spending half my life here, I don’t find it to be exceptionally motivating or inspiring when it comes to my own creative practice. No offense, San Diego, I still love you, I just gotta get out sometimes!

About a year or so prior to the pandemic, I had made a commitment to myself to begin putting more energy into my artwork, and to slowly wean myself off the dependence of the bar to pay my bills. That plan was slowly starting to pay off for me, as I found myself accepted into some juried group shows within galleries I really respected, and was getting a commission here and there. In turn, these things made it so that I was able to go from needing to work 4 shifts a week to only 2 - 3 shifts a week, to get by.  
When the pandemic hit in March of 2020 I lost my job at the bar overnight. It felt like that just ripped the band-aid off for me, all at once.  No more the one-hair-at-a-time approach like I had been doing before.  

Fast forward to May of 2020, I heard of the building being available.  Like I mentioned before, it was mine if I wanted it but I had to find some investors to get the place off the ground- honestly I didn’t think that I would be able to. When the finances did come together, it truly felt like a big, bright green light to go for it. I also didn’t have much time to think it over. From getting the funding together, to having to sign the lease, I only had a few weeks to decide. I often compare making that decision to jumping off a cliff without knowing how deep the water is below it… and then finding it’s not as deep as you had hoped, yet not so shallow that you break your neck and die. Now, I’m just doing my best to keep afloat. A lot of the time I’m frantically treading water, but sometimes I’m able to calmly float on my back, or someone throws a life preserver so that I don’t give up and go under.  

Is there a particular theme or aesthetic that you feel reflects what Trash Lamb Gallery is about?
Art that is not boring. I’m hesitant to say that I represent any specific style of art or medium. I think a lot of people place me in the outsider or lowbrow art realms, but I personally think I’m more than both of those very broad categories. I’m fine with being labeled as such, but don’t want to set any limits as to what this place already is or is set to become.  

I’m a collage artist and think that’s been key to my curation of the place.  While I didn’t have any curating experience before, in my own art practice I’ve been taking things from a wide variety of sources and piecing them together to make a cohesive vision for years. There’s a bit of skill involved in having an eye for something, mixed with a lot of intuition and a dash of damage control. At this moment in time, I think the way I curate directly relates to the way I make art.  

You are a working artist as well as a gallerist. How do you balance your role as an artist with your role as a gallerist?
Ha! I don’t. It is way off balance. A goal for this year is to schedule set time for my own art practice, that is sacred and untouched by other obligations, otherwise I will never get to it. If there’s no deadline or set time, it won’t happen.  

It’s been a constant struggle to make my own work. I have also had to learn to not resent artists when they don’t submit work on time, etc.  I have felt bitter at times because I feel I'm sacrificing my own art (and money, sanity, and free time in general), so that I can promote theirs. When an artist seems careless with deadlines, etc. it can feel really disrespectful to me. I have to remind myself to not take it personally. Patience has (and always will be) something I have to circle back to.

What do you find most rewarding about the curation process?
Getting to know the artists. I love hearing about where people came from, and the how and why- how they came into making art, and the background stories about how they came to be where they are today. The story-telling aspect is hands-down my favorite element. 

What are some of the other challenges that you face running a gallery, especially in regards to the recent uncertainties that Covid has brought?
I find all of it challenging! As someone who just dove right in without experience, it’s all a learning curve- the expected often arrives as unexpected. I’ve never dealt with certain things before and simply have to figure them out as they come up.  

As I didn’t exist before COVID, I suppose I was lucky in the sense of not having to suddenly adapt, after learning how to operate pre-pandemic. It really was a blessing to open during a time in which we were all operating at a slower pace.  

Sadly, and surprisingly, the first year was the easiest. I was really banking on it getting easier over time, and that hasn't been the case. When I first opened, people were stuck at home- no traveling, no concerts. They had lost the extracurricular activities that they normally spent their disposable income on. Lots of people were buying things like art to upgrade their homes since they were stuck in them. They were also watching lots of small businesses go under, and it was really apparent that you had better spend money at the little places if you wanted them to stick around. It felt like people were really making an effort to support small business back then.  Yet as things began to open up, I saw less art purchases and a return to the convenience and cheap prices of ordering crap from Amazon, rather than buying something special from, say, my gift shop. It’s depressing to think about. Next question...

How do you discover the artists that you showcase- do you seek them out or do they come to you?
It is a bit of both. A note to any interested artists reading this: Please don’t stop by the gallery with your art unless you were personally invited to do so (coming in and asking me to look at photos on a phone also falls under this category, please don’t do it). Emailing and/or submitting to an open call is the best and most appropriate way to get the ball rolling. There is a section on the gallery’s website for submission info. 

In addition to being an "unconventionally curated" gallery, some of your promotional methods are slightly unconventional. You have a Patreon where you post short interviews with the exhibiting artists, using the same set of amusing questions. How has that type of engagement been valuable to you in the work that you do?
While I do struggle to keep up with it at times, I do think that Patreon is valuable. The interviews are always interesting, even though it’s the same questions for each artist every time. Some of the questions are serious and some are very silly. I love reading each artist’s different responses. One of the last questions was “If I was doing this interview in person and there was a cake sitting on the table in between us and I politely asked you to smash your face into it, would you do it?” I always get a kick out of people’s responses to that one.   

Do you have future plans for the gallery beyond what it is today? 
Right now, my immediate goal is to not go out of business (Ha ha ha, but also, no joke). Finding more ways to boost income for a smidge of financial stability is the current focus. I know this will always be a chaotic ride, but I hope to get it feeling less desperate in the bill paying realm someday soon.  

I would also love to have a podcast. I’ve just begun to look into going about it and hope that I’ll be able to pull it off this year. I know I would really love doing it, as I said before, the story-telling aspect of art and the artists that create it are one of my favorite things about my role as gallerist. I’ve always been a sucker for a good story and seem to have a knack for getting people comfortable enough to tell them. A podcast seems like a good way to help get the word out about the gallery and the artists I get to work with, while thoroughly enjoying myself at the same time. A win win.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Viola Angiolini of Jeffrey Deitch Gallery

Viola Angiolini is the director of research, curatorial and European liaison at Jeffrey Deitch Gallery, a modern and contemporary gallery with spaces in New York and Los Angeles. 

Is there any particular moment you can remember of having first realized your passion for the arts?

I recall an afternoon at the Milanese residence of Giovanna Panza di Biumo, wife of the late Italian collector and champion of Minimalism and Land Art. She passionately shared enviable memories about her meetings with artists and travels through canyons and desert lands. As the hours passed by, the light in the apartment changed, affecting the monochromatic paintings in her living room and making the experience almost mystical. I was already studying art at that point but that was such a memorable encounter.


How did you initially get involved with curating at Jeffrey Deitch? 

On the second day of the BFA program I attended in Milan, the professor walked into the class holding a copy of Post Human, the catalog of Jeffrey’s landmark exhibition that traveled through several European museums in 1992 and 1993. I started working at his gallery after graduating from the Institute of Fine Arts in New York.


As director of Research, Curatorial, and European Liaison, you must have your hands quite full. What does a typical day in the office look like for you?

Typically, I spend most of the day doing office work in support of exhibition coordination, liaising with artists, collectors, curators and press. Studio visits with artists and exhibition walkthroughs are often on the agenda too.


What do you find most rewarding about being a gallerist?

Helping artists to realize their vision and gaining a deeper understanding of their work while doing so are the most fulfilling aspects of my job. For this reason, I especially enjoy the planning process and installation phase of an exhibition.


When selecting artists to work with, what kinds of qualities do you specifically look for?

It depends on the project, its context and theme, but generally I admire work that is personal to the artist but that also addresses pressing issues. I also appreciate an artist’s ability to dialogue with the history of art and other forms of expression in deep and unexpected ways.


Can you recall any experiences you’ve had with an exhibit and/or artist that were especially fulfilling to you?

I recently organized at our main Los Angeles gallery a survey of the late artist Rammellzee, whose estate we represent. The show featured over 200 works, including drawings, paintings, costumes and sculptures—some floating from the ceiling. It was possibly the most expansive exhibition of the artist’s work to date. Everyone involved – from the lenders to the installers – was exceptionally dedicated to the project and contributed so much to the show. It was a real team effort.


Do you have any upcoming plans for Jeffrey Deitch Gallery we should know about?

Besides the gallery’s dynamic program of exhibitions, we have been developing several book projects. I have been working with a number our artists on their first monographs, some of which will be coming out this year. I will also be editing a publication about Luncheon on the Grass, the exhibition of contemporary responses to Édouard Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe that I organized with Jeffrey at our Los Angeles gallery. The book will feature scholarly essays and interviews with the over 30 artists who participated in the show.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Quang Bao of 1969 Gallery

Quang Bao is the director and founder of 1969 Gallery, a contemporary gallery with two locations in New York City. 

Photo: Pau Atela

How did the launch of 1969 Gallery come about?
I returned from running an artist project space in Berlin in 2016, massively underemployed. People who loved me said that if I opened my own thing, they would support me. That thing could have been a magazine or might have been a store of another kind, possibly one that sells reading lamps. I had never worked in an art gallery before. I think if I had, I might not have opened 1969. I think a lot of gallerists fall in by accident.

You have two gallery locations and participate in international art fairs, among other community offerings (I believe I noticed some dinner party events?). How do you find the time to oversee so much activity on a regular basis?
“Oversee” is the key word. I try to give autonomy to everyone working behind the desk. Team '69 is a very committed lot. My colleagues bolt up from bed in the middle of the night about things that are or are not being taken care of at the gallery. And I have zero problem asking for help, especially off-site and at art fairs.

Next year, 1969 will also be doing a couple of book parties and artist talks. We are hosting a benefit for the National Book Foundation and a book party for a collection of writings by Vietnamese American authors.

Regarding the dinner parties - I believe every artist deserves a perfect drink. The gallery dinners are a way to acknowledge and celebrate the creative, personal and collective effort. In the beginning, my boyfriend, my assistant, and I were prepping all the food. Now, we have Benjamin. I also come from a family of drinkers and eaters - It is how I bond with people.

Your gallery seems to focus on works that are emotionally, mentally and visually challenging. What kinds of qualities do you personally feel make visual art most impactful in today’s world?
I know it when I feel it. Emotionally, challenging artwork does not necessarily require brain chemistry and language. Images can still be immediately and visually arresting.

What do you love most about running your gallery?
The relationships, and directly experiencing how they deepen or altogether disappear over the course of time. I have this highfalutin sense that the work we do is contributing to culture and a broader contemporary conversation concerning meaning and truth.

What are some of the challenges that you face?
1969 has been in a protracted, intense period of expansion and growth. Publications, participation in more international art fairs, year-round exhibitions and programs for the main gallery and project space, residencies for our artists. The administrative pile-up is unbelievable, shipping absolutely sucks and nothing in the work load ever repeats - no two PDFs, installation designs, artworks and exhibitions are ever the same. Like other galleries our age, we need more staff.

Do you have plans for 1969 Gallery beyond what it is today?
One word: Barcelona

Friday, August 26, 2022

Craig Krull of Craig Krull Gallery

Craig Krull is the owner of Craig Krull Gallery, located at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica, CA.

When did you first fall in love with the arts? 
My Mom is an artist, so that is where my interests began.  As a young person, I would sit in her studio having long conversations while she made art.  It was engaging, meditative, peaceful and quietly bonding.  Her love of Pre-Columbian art opened my eyes to that work and to art in general, then it just became a voracious appetite to see and learn about all the arts...Minoan and Manet were first loves.

What was the catalyst for establishing your gallery? 
Studying art history in college, I was considering teaching, writing, museum work or galleries. When I became director at Ace Gallery in 1985, I started meeting key figures in the artworld on a daily basis and knew this was my future. (Billy Wilder walked in on my first day). Owning one's own gallery allows for one's personal vision to be manifested more immediately than in a museum context. No need to ask permission.

Your exhibits have a focus on “place oriented” works. Can you explain why this theme is particularly relevant to you, and the kind of response you wish to evoke in your audience? 
I have always been drawn to places.  One of the first questions that I ask an artist is where they are from, where they have been, where they are now.
The poet, Gary Snyder said, "Our place is part of what we are." 
Our climate, community, daily travel patterns, language, culture, historical contexts all combine and sometimes become reflected in who we are and what we make and do.

What do you find most rewarding about the curation process? 
Curating is rewarding because it affords the opportunity to draw linkages between artists and ideas. One of the great pleasures in operating a gallery is the installation process, deciding what goes where and how unforeseen dialogues start happening between artworks.
A couple of recent curated group exhibitions that I organized included "Narrative Painting in Los Angeles" and "of rope and chain her bones are made." Read the exhibition statements on my website.  Beyond assembling artists and works around a specific theme, these exhibitions also were the basis of a couple dozen new friendships and even new gallery representation of several artists.

What are some of the challenges that you face running a gallery? 
There are challenges every day. Representing 65 artists who I want nothing more than to please and expose their work to the world is a full time psychological, diplomatic, and inventive process, and constantly thinking about collectors and museums that the work would connect with. Although that part is fully rewarding... The challenging parts can usually be the mundane daily logistics of things like shipping and following up on requests or "favors" from all corners of the art world. One of my mottos is that every situation is different. Every exhibition, every sale, every transaction in the gallery is unique and characterized by its own special context, which of course makes it wonderful, but sometimes challenging because there is no one approach to anything.   

How do you discover the artists that you showcase- do you seek them out or do they come to you? 
It just happens. If one is curious and has an open mind, the opportunities are boundless. What I do not have is an agenda, or checklist or wishlist, or set of criteria, and I certainly do not hunt - discovery is the right word. And yes, they come to me as well, and that has been going on for years... Luckily they still come, so hopefully that means I am still relevant, but the hardest part of my job has always been saying no to hundreds of artists. The artists that I have represented over the years are like family, so beginning a relationship with an artist goes much deeper than "business."

Do you have future plans for Craig Krull Gallery beyond what it is today? 
I have been doing this since high school, and operating my own gallery for over 31 years (28 at Bergamot Station). Probably because I like "place", I also like the consistency of my location. Being a native Angeleno and showing LA artists in LA is important to me. I will continue to explore the rapidly expanding art community of Southern California with no other goal in mind but that.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Bardi Tosobuafo Matilda & Bardi Osobuanomola Catherine of The Huts Magazine

The Huts Magazine is a contemporary art magazine co-founded by Nigerian sisters, Bardi Tosobuafo Matilda and Bardi Osobuanomola Catherine.

You are a sister team based out of Nigeria, both with a strong passion towards the arts. When did you first realize your love for art, and have the two of you always collaborated on creative projects?
Honestly, our love for art goes way back, when we were much younger – secondary school actually. Catherine was always the creative one like our uncle, always drawing and painting with whatever she had, while Matilda stayed back watching, wanting to learn the craft. Then university happened and Matilda magically got whisked to study Fine art and Catherine, Theatre arts with an elective in Graphics and textile design. So, art has always been a part of us from the onset.

Until the birth of ‘The Huts Magazine’ we have never really collaborated on any other creative projects.

It’s wonderful that you were able to launch something as proactive as The Huts Magazine during the unsettling time of the pandemic. Can you share with us what sparked the idea, and what it was like to initially get this project off the ground?
The Huts Magazine was Catherine’s idea, but teamwork made it into a reality. You must know, the magazine started when the pandemic was at its peak, where fear was our daily bread and lockdown placed us in inevitable jails. And we wanted to get out of it, badly. Matilda went to her canvas while Catherine went to her laptop, writing stories she would one day share with the world. Combining our talents, we thought we could assist individuals during the bad time, while taking care of fear problems. This was our way to escape the harsh reality of life. When we started, our target was Nigerian artists specifically but so many were unwilling to respond to our emails, text, dm… it was an emotionally damaging moment for us. We cannot really pinpoint what led to our next move, but somehow, we found ourselves messaging international artists – Emerson Wang and Jessica Schweizer. We can never forget their names. They were our ticket to starting our journey and we thank them for that. They gave us the confidence we needed to pull it off.

In the beginning we made mistakes of course. Everyone makes mistakes, it’s your ability to grow from them that creates the real magic. We were going hard at everything without taking a moment to reason that things needed to jump on water stones to get to the end. We were flying without walking, and this took a toll on us. It was overwhelming. So we took a break for over four months to plan and get our heads out of the sand. So yeah, we had a rough start and we learned how to get out of it, and we’re still learning to improve on what we already have.

What kinds of qualities, aesthetic or otherwise, do you look for when selecting the artists that you showcase?
Actually, we don’t ask for much. Almost all of our showcased artists are gotten from Instagram, since that’s where we began. At first, we just chose whatever upcoming artist who would show up at our doorstep needing exposure, and we were always happy to place them in our magazine. Then we grew up mentally. We became mature after a long break to finish up school. We realized, these artists needed the right exposure, and we weren’t giving them that. So, we messaged galleries, magazine stores in Europe willing to accept a hard copy from us. It was at this time we knew what truly makes art, art. You can scribble whatever you want on a canvas and throw in colours and name it whatever you want without realizing the lack of connection those two substances have. So, looking past the beautiful visuals, we personally look for the emotional connection of the works, the overall theme, understanding why the artist does what he/she does. There should be a sort of unique voice, originally to the piece presented to us. We do not like it when young artists copy, because they want to achieve the same glory another artist has, and they fail, woefully in fact. They miss the whole essence of art creation. So yeah, we just want to see a promising art piece that speaks visually and creates a connection with the audience.

What do you find most rewarding about the curations and editing process?
We get to learn. Sitting and going through all those numerous artworks gives us an opportunity to learn about art styles we’ve never seen or heard before. Reading through their statements open new doors to connect with the person behind the words – what they’re feeling, what they’re going through, how they perceive society and what not. We get plugged into whatever they have to say and charge up (100%) at the end of it.

What are some of the challenges that you face? Currently we are facing a handful of challenges in our current stage. It is quite difficult balancing our personal work with the magazine. Until recently, both of us have been the editor, social media manager, curator, designer, and technical director- it was hectic. We’ve recently employed a social media manager and co-editor to lessen the work overload, even at that, we have to make sure they do it right. We would stay up late at times, but we always enjoy the process as long as we achieve our goals in the end.

Do you have future plans for The Huts Magazine beyond what you are doing today?
Yes. We certainly have plans for the future. Big ones in-fact. So this year, we are holding our second international virtual exhibition for artists in June, curated by Gita Joshi. After this, we plan to take a break from exhibitions and focus more on competitions. We feel that would help build and encourage emerging artists from our local communities, here in Nigeria. We also want to bridge the gap between Nigerian and international artists – a method we would employ to help make locally made works reach their peak. There will be interactions provided to educate and communicate and know more about what the outside Nigeria looks like. So basically this is us bringing Art home and taking Art outside.

We have made plans to contact more galleries in the future that are in line with our niche, attend more physical shows and exhibit to broaden our exposure and get people to understand what our magazine is truly about.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Danijela Purssey of Beautiful Bizarre Magazine

Danijela Purssey is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Australian based international contemporary art magazine, Beautiful Bizarre Magazine.

What got you started along a career path in the arts?
I have always had a deep love of the arts! My personal experience with visual art began with my studies in high school, where I did Fine Art studies in my senior year. This then progressed to my joining the artist platform DeviantArt – at the time there were over 20 Million artists all sharing their work online. It was a wonderful community for creatives. I created a group on this platform to share my favourite artists works and grew this audience over some years. When Facebook launched I moved the group to Facebook – actually March 2022 was the 10th anniversary of the Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Facebook account! I was spending much of my time sourcing and sharing artwork on this page whilst still working full time in my non arts related day job. In 2013 I decided that I needed to find a way to pursue my passion full time.

Serendipitously self-publishing became a reality at this time. Prior to this, in order to publish a magazine one would have needed to collaborate with a large publisher and distribute through traditional channels which is a huge up front investment. One I could never have afforded at the time. With the availability to self-publishing Beautiful Bizarre Magazine was born! I published the first issue in July of 2013, by December of that year the 3rd issue was released with Audrey Kawasaki’s work on the cover, our Facebook account was around 50,000 followers

by this stage. By the end of January 2014 – just 2 months later we had grown to 250,000 followers! From this huge growth in such a short period of time [I remember the days before the algorithm very fondly! If only we could still achieve the same level of organic growth] I knew we had found our niche, and that our community needed a magazine like Beautiful Bizarre Magazine – that showcased emerging and mid-career artists working in all static mediums including painting, drawing, collage, sculpture, photography, digital art etc – and across all styles from traditional realism to lowbrow and pop surrealism.

In 2016 I was awarded the prestigious AMP Foundation ‘Tomorrow Makers’ Award, which
included grant funding to expand Beautiful Bizarre Magazine [AMP is one of Australia’s largest financial institutions]. This was given in acknowledgement of my dedication, tireless hard work and support of young and emerging artists locally and internationally. AMP's Tomorrow Makers Fund provides acknowledgement, support and funding to extraordinary change-makers, who are positively impacting communities - individuals who are creating a better tomorrow. This grant allowed me to quit my day job and work full time for Beautiful Bizarre Magazine, which enabled me to grow and expand the business. This recognition and grant funding was a pivotal turning point and one I am deeply grateful for!

Since, I have gone on to publish 36 issues of Beautiful Bizarre Magazine. Our 9th Anniversary Issue 37 will be released on 1 June 2022! I have also been able to bring the pages of the magazine into the real world by working with our partners in leading galleries in the United States, Europe and Australia on Beautiful Bizarre Magazine curated exhibitions - which have included the best representational artists from around the world. Our next curated exhibition opens at the New England Regional Art Museum in Australia on 13 May! This exhibition is our lucky 13th and our 2nd Museum exhibition. I am personally very excited about this special exhibition because it exclusively includes local Australian artists. It is a real joy to bring to Beautiful Bizarre Magazine brand aesthetic to my own country through the work of 70+ of the best representational artists working across styles, media and genres in this country.

We also host our own non-acquisitive international Art Prize – the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize! Now it its 5th year, we are giving away over US$57,000 in cash and prizes, generously donated by our incredible sponsors. The Grand Prize Winner will receive US$13,500 cash and prizes! The Prize is open to all static mediums and styles, I strongly encourage artists of all ages and stages to enter at – I would love to see their work!

In 2013 you co-founded Beautiful Bizarre Magazine - Have you always imagined it would
become the outlet that it is today?

I remember when I won the AMP Tomorrow Makers Award I said that, I want Beautiful Bizarre Magazine to be like Australian national radio station TripleJ, who are an incredible platform for musicians to have their work discovered, and shared with a national and international audience – to help their careers grow. I believe this is what we have achieved through our various projects including the magazine itself, the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize and our curated exhibitions.
We of course are always striving to help our community. Every single day we post 12 artworks on our social media to over 1Million followers – most of which is simply work that we have found and love. It is purely to give the artists the visibility they deserve. We also have a regular call out - ‘Submission Sunday’ allows our community to have their work chosen and shared every Sunday just by hashtagging #beautifulbizarre on their posts in Instagram. Some of these works are also published in each issue of the magazine in the regular editorial called ‘Join The Tribe’ - our socials community feature.
I am also deeply honoured and grateful to curate a platform which enables me to raise the voices of women and minorities, both through my staffing choices and Beautiful Bizarre Magazine projects.

I can also now reveal the most exciting news ever - 20 issues of Beautiful Bizarre Magazine from Issue 17 [June 2017] to Issue 26 [March 2022] are being archived and sent to the moon next year as part of the Lunar Codex project! Yep literally to the moon! Check out the details here.

"The Lunar Codex started as a project to spread hope during a dark time - the years of the Covid-19 pandemic on Earth. The Codex instills the Moon with some of the heart of humanity, our art, so that when we look to the sky, the Moon is a tangible symbol of hope, of what is possible when you believe. The Codex is also a message-in-a-bottle to the future, so that travelers who find these time capsules might discover some of the richness of our world today. It speaks to the idea that, despite wars and pandemics and climate upheaval, humankind found time to dream, time to create art."

Dr. Peralta, physicist, film producer and novelist has digitally archived a diverse collection of contemporary culture from 91 different countries - including art, literature, music, and film - onto nickel-shielded memory cards that will be placed into three different time capsules headed to the moon. Twenty issues of Beautiful Bizarre Magazine will be included in the Lunar Codex Polaris time capsule which will head to the south pole of the moon in Autumn 2023 via the Astrobotic Griffin/NASA VIPER mission.

This is truly the most incredible legacy for Beautiful Bizarre Magazine, and the artists and contributors inside these special issues – I am very grateful and deeply honoured. To think that future generations of humanity, and perhaps sentient beings from other worlds will one day read Beautiful Bizarre Magazine to understand our culture is totally mind blowing! You can read more about this amazing project here on the Luna Codex website.

Can you explain why one of your motives is “to help shift the paradigm in the global
contemporary arts industry regarding what is defined and accepted as contemporary art”?

As a leader and advocate for the arts, Beautiful Bizarre Magazine champions emerging and mid-career artists. In the 9 years since our launch, Beautiful Bizarre Magazine has proudly become a voice, a tribe, and a platform for creatives whose work doesn’t always fit neatly into the traditional fine art “box”.

When it comes to the valuing of figurative and representational art in Australia we are still decades behind the United States and Europe, particularly when it comes to surreal work. Australia, sadly, has been slow to accept this resurgence of work that focuses on technical mastery, preferring to continue largely down the old path of conceptual and abstract art. So too our Art Schools and Arts Degrees in Australia. In almost all of our institutions we no longer provide practical training in the technical aspects of painting, drawing, sculpture etc. So students who wish to learn these skills must look elsewhere, often overseas. Many Art Academies all over the world have taken up this mantle and are now teaching the next generation of artists the skills they need to create the kind of work that is now the focus of the new generation of creators and collectors. This situation is a huge loss for Australian art and Australian artists. Through our various projects I have the ability to help shift the focus of the visual arts landscape in this country and internationally, and to give the practices of representational artists validation and visibility, particularly in the commercial gallery and museum sector where it is still hard to get representation. Beautiful Bizarre Magazine has become an important and influential part of the conversation regarding what defines “new” contemporary art in today’s

I personally agree with Beautiful Bizarre Magazine June 2018 issue cover artist Malcolm Liepke, who stated in his interview, “I saw a piece of art one time that I didn’t like and didn’t understand, but next to the painting was a page long description of what I was supposed to get from it. I remember thinking ‘this person should have been a writer!’ Art should be visual! If you don’t get that understanding just by looking at it then it misses the point.”

Considering that creative expression often reflects our zeitgeist, how do you feel about some of the recurring themes showing up in contemporary art?
The spirit of our age continues to shift and change. However I have seen a huge increase in artists using animals and the natural world as their subjects over the last several years. I believe this is because the sensitive souls of artists are very in tune with the escalating devastation that is occurring to our environment and the planet as a whole. I think they wish to draw attention to the climate crisis and its affects, and wish to inspire the viewer to form a deeper connection with the non human animals of this world – because it is through this deeper / more personal connection that we will feel moved to take action to protect them.
I feel the same. A number of our curated exhibitions have focused on this precise ‘theme’. Our first museum exhibition in Berlin in 2019, our exhibition in New York last year, and to some extent our next exhibition in Australia all explore this theme. The upcoming Australian exhibition’s theme is ‘Interconnected’. Of course we will each have our own thoughts and opinions about what Interconnected means to us in 2022, however I believe that the last few years of the global pandemic, draught, fires, floods, and now the war in Ukraine has made evident just how interconnected we are as a species – no matter our geographical location, society, ethnicity, or religion. The climate crisis is also affecting Australians in extreme and devastating ways, making the fact of our interconnectedness to nature glaringly obvious. Sadly we are not doing enough, quickly enough, to make real change in this area. My hope is that this exhibition will also shine a light on the importance of change now – not just for our environment and nature, but our human populations too. To find deeper meaning in the current challenges we face, to reach out to those in need both locally and globally, and to demand change of our governments in order to save ourselves and environment for future

What do you find most rewarding about your position as editor?
I particularly love hearing about the experiences of the artists who have either won or been finalists of the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize. It feels so wonderful to know that Beautiful Bizarre Magazine has had a real and significant impact on their lives and practices. I also really love curating the exhibitions and the magazine itself, and of course going through all the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize entries – it’s always a wonderful resource for our various projects!

Alternatively, what do you find most challenging?
Emails! I get so many – hundreds a day! This often feels overwhelming, and the task of responding seems never ending. I have now set boundaries around my email to help me
achieve balance. I now only respond to emails from Tuesday to Thursday each week – this allows me to work on non email related tasks as well. It seems to be working well.
The importance of work/life balance is also something that I learnt the hard way. As you can imagine starting a business, while still working in another full time job – so working 70-80 hours a week takes its toll! I am very grateful that I have been able to understand the importance of rest and unplugging, and to prioritize it for my physical and mental health. This is also something I strongly encourage for my staff.

Any advice for aspiring artists looking to be featured by BB, or elsewhere?
Invest in yourself! If you can afford it then please enter the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize, for just US$40 you get your work in front of me - I curate every issue of the magazine and our exhibitions. The Winners and Finalists of this years Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize will participate in the Beautiful Bizarre curated exhibition at Modern Eden Gallery later this year. So not only is this an amazing opportunity for me to see your work, it is also your opportunity to exhibit with a prestigious US gallery and to form a relationship with them. This is a super affordable way to invest in your practice and have your work seen by the right people. Of course the cash and product prizes are also amazing!

If this is out of your budget there are other ways to have your work seen – I have mentioned

some above in relation to Beautiful Bizarre Magazine specifically.
More generally, make sure you are on social media and regularly sharing your work to create a community of people that love what you do. Make sure you also have your own website, just social media is not enough. Your website is a permanent catalogue of your work and very important. It should also have a form allowing people to be added to your email mailing list – this is your greatest asset.

Finally here are a few simple pieces of advice to always keep in mind:
1) practice, always make time to practice your painting/drawing etc, to learn, experiment and
develop your technique and your unique vision
2) create work that brings you joy in the process and the outcome
3) create work for yourself and not for an audience.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Rom Levy of Volery Gallery

Rom Levy is the founder and director of Volery Gallery, a gallery focusing on new contemporary art in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. 

Let’s get straight to it: Why do you love Art?
It is just something uncontrollable for me, like a visceral feeling that takes over my heart and invades me with all its might.
I grew up with no art education and did not have parents interested in Art, galleries or museums.
My first memory of Art appreciation was in Paris in 1997. Going to school, I walked daily through an area called “La Butte Aux Cailles” - this was where the first street pieces of Paris popped up, and it was the highlight of my day. Every day, I looked forward to this moment like a hunt to see if any new works had appeared.
That was a true revelation for me; it touched my heart and emotions, gave me answers to questions I had, and decided that Art would be all my life.
Growing up now and with 15 years of experience, I have no idea what else I would be doing if it was not for Art. It has fulfilled my life, and I will be forever grateful to Art for what it brought me.

Having established various successful platforms such as a pop-up gallery and online art journal (to name a few), what compelled you to open your brick-and-mortar Volery Gallery?
I have been living in UAE for the past seven years. I have always been interested in exploring new artists and seeing works that I would see in international art fairs and galleries. I always felt the need to create a place that could offer exposure to the contemporary artists that the galleries in Dubai were missing. I always thought that Dubai, being the megalopolis that it is, should have the same experiences that I could have in NYC, London or HK.
Covid-19 accelerated the process as I could no longer easily travel to see exhibitions. Therefore, I decided to launch Volery Gallery at that time in an effort to bring the Art I love to Dubai and develop what the art scene in the city had to offer.
The acceleration of the city’s growth and lack of variety in the art scene made me feel that it was the perfect place and location to create something new.
It has been quite exciting to discover that many people had the same feelings and were satisfied and happy to discover Volery Gallery.

What are some of the qualities you look for most in the artists that you showcase, aesthetically and professionally?
I am looking for feelings and emotions. The artwork has to trigger my instincts and touch me emotionally.
To me, the in-depth relationships with the artists, getting to know them, hearing their story, following their creative processes and seeing the results of their works is everything. I love the meaningful relations that go beyond those first studio visits when I can observe their work and reach a deep understanding of the artist and the artworks. Exhibiting their creations makes me
the mediator of their practice, which requires comprehensive knowledge and insight.

What do you find most rewarding about the curation process?
Curating is rewarding to me at a fundamental level because it’s the perfect mix of academic rigour and practical application.
It is an honour supporting artists in developing their visions and making them happen, from creative brainstorming sessions to the final exhibition. I will never get bored of getting a glimpse into the minds of artists who have the imagination and know-how to create new and visually stunning works.
Each exhibition is different, the process can remain the same, but the experience and emotions are always new, which is probably the most rewarding for me.

On the contrary, are there any challenges that you face?
There is a significant challenge due to being in the Middle East. My curation has to consider and respect the local values and customs. For example, things like nudity are not easy to show; however, the art scene in Dubai, being an international hub, is becoming more accepting, and the boundaries are gradually lifting. Until then Volery Gallery will continue to appreciate the freedom of creation and support artists in delivering their concepts in every way and form.

Are there any upcoming events or plans for Volery Gallery, beyond what you are doing today, that you are excited about?
Yes, I am working on expanding Volery Gallery with a second location in Saudi Arabia. More
details soon!