In the past four years we have seen at least five art galleries close in the Jackson area. It is a tough business, both the selling and making, that is set aside for the exceptionally determined and thick skinned. We have also seen the rise of some alternative and temporary exhibition spaces like those in the Mid-town area. Bryant's, Nunnery's and Jackson Street Gallery were all well established galleries to close, and Lisette's barely opened before they moved out to Canton. But this year saw the passing of the staple gallery in downtown Jackson, Gallery 119.
Local photographer James Patterson opened Gallery 119 on South President St. in 1999 in the building that was formerly the MSU architecture school. James had a gallery just around the corner in the Capitol Towers building called Suite 103 for several years prior to the move. Marcy Nessel was working with James at Gallery 119 where they maintained a high standard in both what work they showed and how they presented the work. Add to that the incredible atmosphere of the building with its high ceilings, north light, and hardwood floors, and it became a space that would arouse envy in the trendiest of New York galleries. Sales wouldn't sustain it for long. Watching the renaissance of the Fondren neighborhood, James moved Gallery 119 to North State St. in Fondren in 2003. The downtown space was not used as a gallery again until 2005 when Marcy opened it back up as Highland's Fine Art Brokers. In 2008, Marcy also felt the pull of Fondren and opened what is now one of the most respected galleries in the city, Fischer Galleries. Highlands Fine Art Brokers, however, stayed open this time. James Patterson closed Gallery 119 in Fondren deciding to dedicate himself full-time to his photography again, which allowed Highlands to change its name back to Gallery 119. It was under the direction of Ellen Bordeaux when Marcy left, and then in 2010 Mike Nunnery closed his Meadowbrook Dr. gallery of repute and merged with Gallery 119 downtown. Mike brought with him his frame shop in an attempt to make it through the severe downturn of the economy, but it wasn't enough. Gallery 119 closed its doors in March of this year.
This may sound like a snafu of gallery openings and closings, but it was really a beautiful baton passing by a few people that know the importance of art to a community and have a passion to help distribute it in our society. News alert: they aren't doing it for the money.
Gallery 119 may be closed, but the baton continues to be passed. Mike Nunnery, following suit from his 119 predecessors, has moved back to Fondren and joined forces with what has to be one of the oldest art establishments in Jackson, Brown's Fine Art and Framing. This is actually a return for Mike in more than one way. Before he opened his own gallery on Meadowbrook he worked at Brown's for many years. There is no question that he is now going to be a great asset in his new position.
Hanging at Brown's until the 15th of this month is an exhibition of paintings by Jackson artist Chad Mars. This is actually Chad's first solo show. Having experienced in the not so distant past the nervousness, confusion, and excitement of a first solo show I know that it is something that should be celebrated and encouraged. Chad's work is worth a gander. These non-objective paintings are all about texture, and Chad is enthusiastic about it. His approach is completely intuitive and responsive to the medium. He claims inspiration from the work of Gerhard Richter and Mark Rothko, but stresses that he wants the work to have a very natural organic feel.
Chad expressed concern to me about people not understanding his work, and therefore it might not be easy to sell. In response to that I will pull a quote from the book I am currently reading God in the Gallery by Daniel Siedell. "... art is too often assumed to be merely verbal communication pursued by other (and inferior) means, that the artist is trying to send 'messages' that we as viewers must receive and understand linguistically. This is distinctly not the case with art. Art requires contemplation that focuses attention on the viewer developing a relationship with the work of art, not merely passively receiving a message."
Until we can convince our fast paced society to slow down and contemplate, galleries will continue to close around us. Let's hope not. Here's some of Chad's work...