COURTESY J.J. L'HEUREUX
J.J. L'Heureux's series "Etichette," is named for the Italian cheese labels she uses in her mixed media pieces.
Dealer brings art across the sea
Deanna Miller has lived her life following her intuition. So far, so good. She's hoping her instincts will serve her well again as she prepares to introduce a notable roster of seven California artists to Hawaii through a landmark exhibition, "California Dreamin': LA to HI," opening Wednesday at Nuuanu Gallery at Marks Garage.
'California Dreamin': LA to HI'
Featuring work by Charles Arnoldi, Bill Al Bengston, Ilana Bloch, Laddie John Dill, J.J. L'Heureux, Andy Moses and Ann Thornycroft:
Place: Nuuanu Gallery
When: Opening reception 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, continuing 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays to Fridays, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays through March 1, plus 5 to 9 p.m. Friday.
Special: Walk-through with Deanna Miller at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 21
The show marks the first time such a large group of California-based contemporary art luminaries will be shown in a local commercial space, in keeping with the Nuuanu Gallery's aim of connecting Hawaii artists and collectors with the larger art scene across the U.S.
The show materialized when local artist John Koga, who works at The Contemporary Museum, met Miller, a museum volunteer who had just moved to Hawaii after a longtime career as a Los Angeles gallery owner.
"I woke up one morning after dreaming I was moving here, and six weeks later I was here," she said of her arrival two years ago, on Oct. 1.
It was only when she decided to move that she found a storyboard she had made years earlier, detailing a lifestyle she had envisioned for herself, "and there were all these things on it, like aloha and fish and palm trees, though I never thought I could move here. But my kids are older now, my grandkids are older; I decided it was time for myself."
Within days she closed her Deanna Izen Miller Gallery in Los Angeles, although she still maintains a Web site at www.izenmillergallery.com, representing the artists who have grown with her.
She hadn't expected to become involved with the local art scene beyond volunteering at the contemporary art-oriented TCM -- which has shown the work of many of the artists she represents -- but Koga opened her eyes to Hawaii's untapped potential.
"It would be nice for Hawaii to be a destination for fine art," Koga said. "Most collectors here already support the local art scene, but they're also going out and buying art elsewhere. Why not bring the artists here so local artists can also view the work, meet other artists and talk story?"
As an artist who has been able to show in New York, Koga said contacts with the larger art community are important for any artist seeking a long-term, nonstarving career.
"We're taking small steps, but it's important to have that vision. That's how this place came about," said Koga.
COURTESY ANN THORNYCROFT
Ann Thornycroft's "Blue" oil on canvas is one of her works combining the formality of the grid with expressive elements.
MILLER UNDERSTANDS what it means to start small, having grown up without a clue about art. Her first exposure came as an adult, with a visit to the Tel Aviv Museum in Israel, where a Picasso exhibition kept her captivated for hours. When she returned to Los Angeles, she enrolled in art studies and later moved to San Francisco, where she took a job in the bookstore at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and worked as an assistant to gallerist Tobey C. Moss, who focuses on California modernism from the 1920s to 1960s.
Applying what she had learned to the business world, Miller followed her instincts to put together art presentations and approached corporations about establishing or building their own art collections. This was in the early 1980s, and the economy was about to boom, carrying the arts with it in a decade of acquisition. Among her clients were AT&T, Bank of America and Magic Johnson.
Her hunches were right again when the economy imploded in the early '90s. By then she had opened her first gallery in the back of another gallery and was positioned to deal with the dismantling of collections. Her gallery Web site went online in 1998, and while she continues to maintain the site, she said, "Now I don't take on any new artists.
"It's a hard road to be an artist, to market your work. I get inundated with slides, but in all my years of representing artists, there were only four or five who just walked in the door, who had that spark."
Looking around the Nuuanu Gallery while we speak, she said, "This space, I think it shows art so beautifully, and it holds people nicely. It's a great space to show this kind of art."
Then she smiles, a mysterious Mona Lisa smile, as if she's had a vision of bigger events the rest of us have yet to see.
"Flatline" acrylic on canvas by Charles Arnoldi, known for his colorful abstract paintings. He has received many awards, including two National Endowment for the Arts grants, and his work is housed in museum collections across the country, including The Contemporary Museum.