Thursday, May 2, 2013

Don't pass this one by!

Meet Still Life Gallery's... 
Sara Arditti  
Fine Art & Custom Framing

When you go into Still Life Gallery and meet Sara Arditti, it's a wonderful and unforgettable experience.  Of Greek heritage...but says she hasn't yet traveled to the Greek Isles...her style is broad-brush, lightly humorous, anecdotal, and, at the same time--when asked anything specific about an artist--sharply detailed. She is a story teller, a raconteur. Being in the Gallery with Sara is like having the walls and art come alive. She is happily married to David Dempster, co-owner of Still Life Gallery, and, when I asked, told me she has two sons in their 20s. I sent Sara a few questions by e-mail and received the most readable and entertaining text; it went far beyond my questions in interest. In short, I was in direct touch with energetic spirit.  Rather than make changes, I'm presenting Sara Arditti to you--in her own words:

Q:  Sara, please tell me a little about your journey across “time and space” that resulted in a move to Ellicott City’s Main Street in our Historic District?  For instance, have you always been attracted to small-scale areas with history…and a river? Where else have you lived?

Sara:  I spent almost my entire life in Los Angeles, where there is little in the way of visible history; it is something people do not value there. I have always been strongly attracted to places that take me far back in time, especially where you can walk around and see interesting sights all around you. 

In 2007 my husband and I sold our house in LA and left for good. We stayed in Paris for a year;  it was a fantasy come true.  We lived in an ornate 1882s Haussmannian stone building with a view of Sacre Coeur Basilica, walked every inch of the city, drinking it all in, and immersed ourselves in the art, architecture, food and culture. 

Sara's design

After that we lived in the United Arab Emirates for 18 months, which I did not like, but it was quite an adventure. Dave had a job managing construction projects for one of the oil-rich Sheiks of Abu Dhabi. 

When we returned to the US,we decided to settle on the East Coast. We lived for a year in Washington DC, which I loved for its European style-charm, arts institutions, and walkability.  In 2010 we moved to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, to give country living a try. The Civil War history there is fascinating, and we were able to visit the preserved historic town and its many small museums many times. When I first saw Ellicott City’s Historic District in 2012, I was charmed by its intact historical atmosphere and beautiful setting by the river and decided it really suited me. 

Still Life Gallery is located at 8173 Main St, Ellicott City, MD 21043.

Q:   I am most interested in your selection of items to show in your storefront window and how people respond.

Sara: The display window is critical. I always have several pieces of art and lots of out-of the ordinary jewelry in it. I used to work in the display department at Saks Fifth Avenue, Beverly Hills. You have to have elements that grab people, stop them in their tracks to look, and make them want to come in.  I watch people stop in front of my window all day long and point things out to each other, and sometime take pictures on their cell phones of the things in it. I like to have a large variety of colorful, artistic, non-mainstream things that you won’t see anywhere else. 

Everything I have in the window--and inside the Gallery--reflects my own personal taste.  I have a preference for jewelry that looks somewhat exotic, and quite definitely nothing that you would find in the mainstream jewelry stores. I do not follow trends. I have never been a person who follows trends in any aspect of my life. I like to set my own trends.

Another element in my window is something my gallery has become known for- the Travelling Mice. These are small white hand-felted mice that stand on two legs and wear various accessories such as acorn hats, crocheted bags and tiny backpacks. Before Christmas last year I succumbed to my passion for certain artistically cute things and ordered various critter ornaments.

The Travelling Mice took off like mad! I have sold over 200 of them and decided to keep them on permanently. I call them my ambassadors and they beckon people from their position in the front of the window. Some people have told me they come into the gallery because the signal from the mice is that the gallery owner is not a typical one, but someone who is warm, non-pretentious, and accessible--which I definitely am.  

Q Sara, one more question. When you select an artist or artists to be featured in your gallery, what are the three most important criteria?  

Sara:  First,   I have to really like it a lot. I am the sole curator and will not carry anything in my gallery just because I think it will sell, because it caters to the mainstream, or because it is the current fashion. I think of my gallery as a mini-museum. I also do not carry mass-market production art which unfortunately is so popular in some galleries, but which I find completely unappealing. Even the prints I have are from local artists.

Second, artists who are local. I like to have the artist be able to come into the gallery and bring their work in person. I have been very happy to discover that there is an enormous amount of art talent in this region, and I am dedicated to promoting it. So far I have not had to look further than about  90 minutes away.I, like most gallery owners, prefer artists who have a large, cohesive body of high quality work. If they are versatile- which is rare- that is a huge plus. For example, one of my more popular artists, Dottie Dunsmore, an instructor at The Zoll School, is amazing in landscape, portraits, still life, and realistic sculpture.

Third, and really the most important thing is what I call “mojo”, that hidden spark, the intangible factor that gives the painting or any work of art a soul and makes it come alive.  Mojo exists (or not) in all forms of art, whether painting, photography, sculpture, drawing. It is a matter of finding the art that has it. It is not a matter of technical ability- there is a lot of art that is technically perfect but soulless and has no mojo at all. I am a trained artist and have a very keen eye for spotting  this. Most art does not possess it. 

For example, I represent an emerging artist, Nancy Van Meter, who is a fourth year student at The Schuler School of Fine Art. She is trained in the Classical Realist style, my favorite genre of art. Over the past six months I have sold about a dozen of her paintings- still lifes, landscapes, animals. People love her work because it has an inner spark, an aesthetic quality, similar to the works of the great master painters such as Rembrandt.  

More Mojo.  Sara's current favorite is called Soleil Du Matin (Patapsco River, Ellicott City) a pastel painting by local artist Maria Marino. The dramatic colors are phenonmenal, and it has a visceral sense of space and distance. Says Sara, "This piece scores high on the "MojoMeter"!

Custom Framing at  Still Life Gallery 

"When we do custom framing here we adhere to the absolute highest standards, using only archival, museum-quality conservation materials from the mats to the adhesives, which are reversible. In recent years some amazing high-tech materials have been invented that prevent fading and deterioration of art on paper."

When I design framing, I strongly believe in doing what best enhances the piece itself, and try to stick with classic moldings in styles that will not look dated 20 years from now. New molding styles, like fashion, come out once or twice a year, and we of course carry them. Right now among my clients there are certain trends: non-ornamented modern simplicity in silver, copper, cherry, or black; rich, somewhat rustic woods; and the ever-popular wide gold "plein-air" style frame. I always work with the client and show them at least three or four different options and of course they are welcome to pick out whatever grabs their eye from the sample wall and try it out. It's a process that can be quite fun and something I really enjoy.

The best part is seeing my customers' faces light up when I present their beautifully framed art, given new life.

One client I had actually started crying. She had brought in an old, stained, neglected piece depicting a praying Madonna that was done in some sort of shiny raffia-like material. She explained that her grandmother had given it to her before she passed away. It originally came from the church of her village in the Old Country, in Hungary. The fingers and some of the rays of light behind her head were bent, so we fixed them, cleaned it up, and put the piece into a gorgeous delicate gold frame that made it glow. It looked like it was ready to be re-hung in the church. She was in kind of a state of shock when she saw it. I was thrilled that I could make her so happy by framing something that meant so much to her."


 Visit the Gallery soon! I go back again and again...

8173 Main St, Ellicott City, MD 21043

Phone: 410-461-1616

Gallery Hours: Wed-Sun 11:00am-6:00pm

Feature content/photos: Kay Weeks & Sara Arditti


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