Taos gallery changes owners, keeps artistic vision

Act 1 Gallery owners Gary and Deanna Tilley.

Act I Gallery & Sculpture Garden, founded by Anita Ellison in 1989, has just changed owners.

Deanna and Gary Tilley are the new proprietors. They invite the community to pass by and see the new art they have just brought in.

“But we also plan to maintain the spirit of the gallery and all the wonderful artists who have been here for many years, artists that we are honored to represent,” said Gary Tilley.

“Our vision is to continue the legacy of Act I Gallery by fostering strong relationships with the collectors and offering high-quality artwork from established and emerging artists,” said wife Deanna Tilley.

Deanna and Gary Tilley visited Taos for the first time eight years ago. They were living in Dallas, where she was an academic advisor for SMU and he worked in the corporate world.

“We really loved Northern New Mexico,” she said. “We started coming to this area on a regular basis until we moved to Taos last month.”

“We were also looking for a total change of life and had been cautiously exploring possibilities in retail when the opportunity to acquire Act I Gallery arose,” he said.

An art gallery, they both agree, was the perfect fit for them.

“We both come from a family of artists and creative people,” she said. “My mother was an oil painter. Gary’s grandmother was an oil painter too. Our children are painters. And, though we don’t consider ourselves artists, we have been art collectors for a long time, and we love art.”

A smooth transition

Anita Ellison transferred the gallery to them in the first week of May and has been mentoring the couple through the whole process.

“We are so grateful for her assistance,” said Deanna Tilley. “This is not only our first business, but our first business together, so we really appreciate all the help Anita has offered to us.”

“In the meantime, several gallery artists have brought in new work, and three new artists have been added,” Gary Tilley said. “So we have been quite busy!”

Emelene Russell moves effortlessly between her unique welded steel images and her tiny gold sculptures.

“She has an original mantra for expression: it must have concept and purpose,” said Deanna Tilley. “This is clearly seen in all her pieces, big and small.”

Carole Barnes is another new artist. The recipient of numerous awards in national shows, she was a juror for the 2014 National Watercolor Society Exhibition in California.

“Her style has evolved from planned realistic watercolor paintings into an intuitive and more layered approach,” Deanna Tilley said. “Carole aims to capture the sense of a time or place and to create a painting with a spirit of its own.”

The third artist is Jim Pittman, a landscape painter who uses using paint on canvas, applied intuitively and moved around with scrapers, knives and fingers.

“Edges, texture and surface are important elements of Jim’s style,” said Gary Tilley. “They are all wonderful artists and we are happy to add their works to our great selection of original art.”

On July 4th, a special reception with Taos artist Dinah K. Worman will take place at Act I Gallery, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Worman has earned the designation of Master Pastellist from the Pastel Society of America. She has been featured in magazines like Southwest Art, The Pastel Journal and The Artists Magazine.

She does oils on canvas and pastels.

“Dinah’s paintings are instantly recognizable for their clarity and depth,” said Deanna Tilley. “She has a very distinctive style.”

The reception will include live music, wine and hors d’oeuvres.

Nigerian born sculptor Nnamdi Okonkwo is the author of “Friendship,” a larger-than-life bronze sculpture located in the front of the gallery.

“It has become a landmark,” said Deanna Tilley. “Every day, dozens of tourists stop to snap their pictures with it. We joke that The Taos News should come and take pictures of that.”

Many of Okonkwo’s pieces depict women.

“Womanhood is revered in his culture, and that is why he honors women in his creations,” she said. “We have from miniatures to big pieces that express great ranges of emotions, like ‘Love,’ ‘Longing,’ and ‘Solemnity.’”

“His big, rotund forms symbolize abundant life,” said Gary Tilley. “He describes them as an outward manifestation of a largeness of soul.”

Deanna and Gary Tilley pride themselves on offering fine art at reasonable prices.

“Some people think that art is not affordable, but we are always willing to work with them,” she said. “We offer time payment plans. I encourage everyone to stop and find out. Art may be much more affordable than you think!”

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