Art: and People

Celebrating the anniversary of the Phyllis Weston-Annie Bolling Gallery

Aug 1, 2007 at 2:06 pm
Natalie Hager

Three generations of art lovers: (L-R) Phyllis Weston, Annie Bolling-Rangeley and Cate Yellig

It's been a year since the Phyllis Weston-Annie Bolling Gallery opened on the busy stretch of Madison Road that still carries the historic neighborhood name O'Bryonville.

"It feels like home," says Bolling.

Weston agrees.

"People stop by with their children, with their dogs," she says. "The ambience is wonderful."

As we talk, passersby look through the big plate-glass window and wave. A neighbor from down the street — he does all their framing — pops in with information about bins for prints. There is a definite feel of community in this urban stretch of road.

"I'm a four-and-a-half-minute walk from home, although Cincinnati is not really a walking-friendly town," says Bolling. "The storefronts bring so much energy here."

When traffic clogs up in the late afternoon "people slow down and look. You couldn't buy better advertising," adds Weston.

Now featured in the gallery are meticulous and slyly entertaining paintings by Canadian artist René Milot. Milot's work can also be seen in theme advertising for this year's Cincinnati Opera season.

The works here have likewise been commissioned as original art for theater productions, book covers or CD cover art. They include a layered portrait of a young woman looking through a picture frame and a depiction of another woman standing and reading a letter — oblivious of her position — on the nose of a man who can only be Cyrano de Bergerac. Milot's paintings, impeccably executed and wittily conceived, have a foot in both the fine art and commercial art camps and are comfortable in each.

"Quality," says Weston, "quality is what we're interested in."

Russian Impressionists — who worked clandestinely during the Soviet regime — a staple of the gallery's offerings, are on view along with Frank McElwain's nostalgic Cincinnati scenes and botanical watercolors by his wife, Dianne McElwain. The store window exhibits Cincinnati artist Holly Schapker, whose appealing landscapes and floral paintings are set for a solo show here in September.

In the office cum gallery hang non-objective, energy-filled works by Kim Krause, chair of Fine Arts at the Art Academy. Currently in the gallery that doubles as a kitchen are the bold abstractions of modernist painter Jens Jenson, one-time Rookwood designer who died in 1978.

"We always have some Jensens up," Weston says.

Anthony Luensman, whose installations recently ran riot through the Cincinnati Art Museum, will have a show at Weston-Bolling in October. Work by Jeff Chapman Crane, an Appalachian artist who taught himself the painstaking technique of egg tempera, is scheduled for November.

These works can be broadly characterized as easy to like, but it's also true that skill and technique are held in high regard here. Weston has more than 40 years of gallery experience; Bolling was her assistant at Closson's before the two had adjoining galleries at M. Willis in Oakley.

"Phyllis and I go together seamlessly," says Bolling.

Leaving Oakley, they joined forces as partners in their new venture.

"We'll be showing some very talented, very young artists. I love working with young people, both collectors and artists," Weston says. "The young these days know more about art than they once did."

The gallery is adding another staff member, Cate Yellig, who completed her art history master's degree in May and worked with them at Willis.

"She has the same passion we do," says Bolling. "Phyllis and I are different generations, and she is still younger than I am, so we'll have another generation."

Their clientele cuts across generations as well.

"Sometimes I've known the parents for years, and now they bring in their grown children," says Weston. "We might offer a cup of soup, a glass of wine. It feels like family. I love putting art and people together."

Phyllis Weston-Annie Bolling Gallery, 2003 Madison Road, is open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday or by appointment.