By GWEN OREL
Women buy art in Montclair.
That’s one of the many insights Montclairite Jen Wroblewski (pronounced Ro-blev-ski) has gained since she opened her gallery, Gold/scopophilia*, in July.
The asterisk links to an explanation of the word: “deriving pleasure from looking.”
“I was an artist for 20-some years, and I made a body of work called ‘Gold/Scopophilia’ which featured a lot of gold,” Wroblewski said. She loved the name, which stayed at the back of her mind.
Wroblewski’s business model is “big, beautiful homes in Montclair.”
The new gallery had what she describes as a “soft opening” in June, and has had two shows.
“Already Gone,” an exhibition which opened on Sunday, Nov. 11, is the third show at Gold/Scopophilia*. It features five large paintings on linen by Brooklyn artist Patricia Satterlee.
She always loved the room that is now her gallery. It used to be a yarn store.
“It’s silly, maybe, but my kids are 8 and 10, and they went to Music Together, next door. I always loved this courtyard. I thought it was this magical place in Montclair,” Wroblewski said. “I bought yarn there, and the owner would talk to me about retiring.”
When the room became available, she decided to create a place where she could showcase the work of her friends, all mid-career American artists.
About a year and a half ago, Wroblewski said, she stopped making art. And in her downtime, with that pressure gone, she began looking at art again and visiting her artist friends. The love of art returned.
So when Wroblewski opened a gallery to showcase her friends, everyone was enthusiastic. “Artists that I never thought would bring their work to Montclair, like Patricia, are completely on board,” she said.
What Wroblewski is doing is “incredibly brave,” said Satterlee. “Brick and mortar right now is endangered. It’s real estate. She has said ‘No, people still need to see this work.’ And here’s this place, next to a large metropolitan area, and as these commutes get more and more difficult, how wonderful to have this work brought to a place where people can see it in their down time. We all feel, when she asked us to show with her, incredibly encouraged. It just doesn’t happen that way. Also, the fact that Jennifer’s an artist, this is her soul. Working with someone like that, there’s so much shorthand involved. It’s easy and it even goes over and reminds you of why you wanted to do this.”
MOM AND MANAGER
Having been an artist for many years, Wroblewski understands first-hand some of the things artists come up against. “Artists have to do a lot of hard work that isn’t making art,” she said with a laugh. She knew about hanging art. She knew about insurance.
Even so, the learning curve was steep.
Managing personalities of collectors and artists can be intense.
“I’m working with a lot of people who have never collected before,” she said. “So they’re writing a check for something, that’s legitimate art, with the provenance and a resume. They’re really excited to do it. And that’s exciting for me, but it’s also intense, because these are not people who have art collections. It’s just a big step, I think, for a lot of people. Trying to be present for that… I don’t spend $10,000 easily,” she said with a laugh.
“What we’re doing is helping artists survive.”
Gold/scopophilia* gallery tries to demystify the process, and make it easy for buyers. Wroblewski wants to present work that will excite the community.
“Part of my business model is helping collectors collect,” she said.
The paintings on the wall do not represent the sum of the art Wroblewski has to offer clients: she has work in storage, and work that is digitally accessible as well.
It’s challenging being a mom and running a business. “So far everyone I’ve sold to has been a woman in Montclair,” she continued. “Leveraging the financial power of women in this community is really interesting.”
Many of the artists at Gold/scopophilia* are mothers or grandmothers.
“We’re moms, and we’re women, and that’s totally cool,” she said.
Selling to women wasn’t planned, she added with a laugh. She’s fascinated by it. Fitting the gallery into her life, rather than the other way around, is something moms in town can relate to, she said. Her two children attend Hillside.
Gold/scopophilia* has a booth on the piers at the Armory Show, part of Art Fair week in New York City in March.
She’s trying to bring the artists forward, too, and maintain a presence in New York City, while running her gallery in Montclair. Some of the artists have shows in New York City, and Wroblewski will collaborate with the gallery owners.
“My little Montclair dream kind of wafted up into more of a mainstream of New York art, which has been really fun,” she said.
Satterlee’s show came about after Wroblewski visited her studio in Brooklyn. “I thought she was so beyond my little room in Montclair. Her work is so spectacular,” Wroblewski said.
They chose this body of work, “Already Gone,” because it had been shown once before, and it took the pressure off.
“It is so difficult to get large work all together so you can see it,” Satterlee said. “Most spaces are narrow. You don’t get a nice big square like this. It’s really excellent.”
The paintings are all linen on panel.
The title, “Already Gone,” refers to the way the paintings are “Interior spaces,” the artist said. When she begins making art, she always considers whether the work is interior, thoughts, dreams, memories or something outside. “How do you hold onto that, and still show movement, show movement that’s still?”
Being able to show the work, rather than have viewers see it on a computer screen, makes a big difference, Satterlee said. Her work for this show is large: five feet by five feet or bigger. Its scale cannot really be experienced by reading the measurements, she said.
Wroblewski said, “My overhead is low here. That’s the opportunity.
“We have all these interesting people in Montclair. I feel like I can do some pretty interesting things here. I can’t imagine paying four times more to be on the fifth floor in Chelsea.”