When Jenni Reed moved to Salt Lake City from Houston with her fiancé Matthew Sketch, she didn’t know that they would decide to stay here permanently, or that she would decide to open an art gallery, or that he would be the first artist to show there.
But the mountains cast their spell; there was an old pasta factory for lease that was the ideal space for art; and Sketch, a trained draftsman who draws designs for oil and gas companies as a day job, had some good stuff, much of it abstract, for a solo exhibit.
“It’s not a huge space, 700 square feet,” says Reed from New Orleans where the pair are looking at art in galleries and antique shops, chatting up street artists “instead of just seeing the finished product, and, of course, we are listening to a lot of good jazz,” she said by telephone Wednesday morning. They didn’t have to do much renovation, “the universe was on our side with that,” but they did add track lighting to the old warehouse, which has original wood floors and industrial sliding doors as well as good natural light. She dubbed the place Dimebox Gallery, the name of the tiny town her grandparents came from in Texas. “They are very, very touched by that,” says Reed.
A couple of years ago, she decided she wanted to have their lives centered around art – “really a big passion of mine” – and have everything else flow around it, says Reed. “We felt this was a good way to have a focus, a platform where we could take the politics out of art and let the work speak for itself whether the artist was really well known or emerging.”
Reed was 9 the first time she saw art – that was at MoMA during a trip to New York. “My brain exploded and since then I’ve had a hunger for art. Whenever I go on vacation, that’s how I plan my trips. So being a gallery owner seemed the best way to have my life centered on art; to show art that we loved, and not have the same challenges that we did with the politics of art. Not going to school doesn’t mean I can’t love art, that I can’t have a gallery. Maybe an artist can’t write a good proposal; that doesn’t mean they can’t make good art.”
Dimebox Gallery will have a couple of jurors for group shows, which will be the majority of the exhibitions there, and will release the first call for entries in July. That will be a group show so that Reed can meet and interact with as many artists as possible. The gallery’s focus is modern, contemporary art.
For the inaugural exhibit, Matthew Sketch will show abstracts created with acrylic and watercolor influenced by the Fibonacci sequence. Many of his paintings have abstract backgrounds with surreal portraiture added. “There are really direct links to the equation in physical structures, in people’s faces,” he says. “I am framing most of the paintings according to the spiral. And I mixed colors according to the sequence. That wouldn’t be distinguishable by anybody but me because they’re all blue, but that wasn’t the point. It was my focus. Now that people are paying more attention to my art, I’m trying to have a more thought-out approach. I’m getting commissioned pieces, too, so . . .” The artist “overcame a troubled youth to become a pipe designer in the oil industry,” according to a press release. Both of his parents are deceased; his father was homeless before he died. Sketch will donate proceeds from the collection to a local homeless shelter, possibly the one near the gallery (The Road Home) but he has heard they are moving. “I have an understanding of what they go through,” says Sketch. “My dad was diabetic and wearing the same socks every day was what led to him losing his foot.” The artist describes his paintings the same way he describes himself: “simply complicated.”
Reed says she is very excited to have the Dimebox Gallery “join the thriving art community of Salt Lake. We hope to be a hub for local and worldwide artists. [This] will be a space where creativity has the spotlight.”
“Obligatory Consent,” work by Matthew Sketch, Dimebox Gallery, 244 S. 500 West, Suite 108, Salt Lake City, 801-876-0954, June 2-July 2, opening reception June 2, 6-8 p.m. www.dimeboxgallery.com
A graduate of the University of Utah, Ann Poore is a freelance writer and editor who spent most of her career at The Salt Lake Tribune. She also worked for Salt Lake City Weekly and has written for such publications as Utah Business Magazine and Salt Lake Magazine.