arts

“Dorothy 1,” a mixed media work by Kelly O’Connor of actress Judy Garland (best known for her role as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz”). (Courtesy photo)

“Scattered in storefronts and light industrial buildings around Los Angeles are gallery exhibitions trapped in suspended animation,” LA Times reporter Carolina A. Miranda observed earlier this year.

“The fully installed shows had opened — or were about to open — when California’s governor issued a stay-at-home order on March 19, and now sit in the dark, under lock and key until the Covid-19 pandemic abates.”

The pandemic has not released its grip on daily life, of course. Yet in recent months many galleries have cautiously reopened, safety protocols firmly in place. Yet as Eva Chimento, owner/founder of the gallery Chimento Contemporary, observed to the Times reporter: “No one is coming out of this unscathed. That’s the sad truth.”

Chimento’s exhibit space was on West Adams, in the center of the city’s then-thriving museum area (near the Underground Museum, and the L.A. County Museum of Art). She’d just featured a show that had proved so popular — of Dutch painter Michael Tejda’s works — that she had extended it.

Then the virus arrived.

“Bad timing,” Santa Monica gallery owner told the Times. “We narcissistic art dealers will have to take a backseat to the reality of life.”

Or, find a different life — which is exactly what Chimento has done. She took the job opening at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art, and she is starting over in the box canyon, a place she perceives, as so many do, as safe.

It’s a fitting spot for someone who calls herself “an adrenaline junkie,” and is more than a little jazzed about skiing this winter.

The move seems an ideal fit from an artistic as well as athletic point of view, too: Chimento, being from the Southland, and specializing in contemporary art, knows Telluride Gallery owner Ashley Hayward’s father — abstract artist James Hayward — and his contemporaries, and has worked with many of them. She has a personal connection with Ashley Hayward: “Ashley and I spent the majority of our time in Malibu,” Chimento said. The connections continue: the museum’s current show, Works On Paper, was organized in advance of Chimento’s arrival. There are six artists whose pieces are on display in the show: Charles Arnoldi, LeAna Clifton, Caleb Cain Marcus, Kelly O’Connor, Lisa Pressman and Edwina White. “I grew up down the street from Charles Arnoldi,” Chimento said.

She’s glad she made the move. Many gallery owners contacted by the Times declined to be interviewed. “I went on record (in the LAT) saying things have to shift” for local galleries to survive, Chimento observed. (The virus has rocked California, and L.A. County in particular, where lockdown has seemed interminable.) “I started realizing, things aren’t going to change. I was working from home, blah blah,” she went on. “I came out here, and realized people are respectful of what’s going on in the world. It was beautiful. And it feels safe to me. My daughter said, ‘Mom, close your gallery. Move to Telluride! Take the job! We’ll have season lift tickets!” Chimento recalled with a laugh. “And my parents have attended the Telluride Film Festival for years. They were like, ‘So, when are you moving?’ I’ve felt so welcomed here,” she added. It all fits: “It’s funny, I was known for works-on-paper at my gallery. I’m glad this is my first show here. Works-on-paper are where it all starts. Usually, they’re studies for bigger things. They’re the blueprints of an artist’s intention.”