A gallery with many guises

Friday, December 10, 2004

Aside from the artwork hanging from the walls, one of the first things you are likely to notice at the new Gallery 125 at 125 N. Main St. is the floor.

It sparkles. Literally.

To get the floor to sparkle, tiles were ripped up, the floor was cleaned and glitter was added and then topped with a layer of polyurethane.

Owner Mike Rust was understandably hesitant about the floor but said it has turned out to be something everyone comments on. Not that there is a shortage of other things to notice in Rust's new gallery, located next door (and connected inside) to his Ashley Bailey Custom Cabinets business.

The gallery, which quietly opened its doors two weeks ago, features original and reproduction paintings and prints, sculptures and decorative items, and several pieces of furniture.

All of the items fit perfectly with the gallery's soft, track lighting and subdued, dark tones, which convey an upscale feel.

Considering how well the gallery is put together, it comes as no surprise to find that it is in some ways an offspring of the interior design company Rust & Martin. Rust started the gallery because he had run out of room at Rust & Martin to display the artwork he purchased. When he bought the space at 127 N. Main St. for Ashley Bailey, Rust had extra space.

"I had the space, and I had a lot of artwork, and it allowed me to buy into some more artwork," he said. "The paintings show much better here, and I think it's easier to shop down here."

Rust chooses all the artwork that goes in the gallery, attending eight markets a year where paintings, prints and sculptures are available for sale.

"I never know what will sell. I buy primarily what I like and what I think is relevant to the market at the time."

Some of the pieces include a large African mask, something he bought because he liked the piece.

"I bought it because I said I'll never find anything else like it," Rust said.

There is also an old Egyptian wheel made into a decorative item that Rust is not sure will sell but was something he had to buy based on his own appreciation.

Currently, about 35 of the paintings at the gallery are originals. The others are different forms of reproductions, but you won't find mass-produced or cheap prints.

Instead, there are replicas of classical paintings made by a single artist, replicas made by several artists and photographs of artwork on canvas, which look surprisingly like real paintings until you get very close and notice the "painting" has no texture.

Of course, the reproductions are more inexpensive than the original works, costing hundreds of dollars instead of thousands.

Rust said the reproductions "allow someone to have a piece of art that they couldn't otherwise afford."

"I'm not selling that much art for investment," he said. "I'm selling it for people who like it, want some color on their wall and want something different."

Rust's selection of paintings includes abstract works, landscapes in different styles, Impressionist-inspired works and realistic portraits.

The assortment likely will change since the artwork will be changed frequently at the gallery. On occasion, there will be even more artwork to choose from because Rust plans to have oil painting, print and Oriental rug shows where large quantities of work will be brought in to the gallery.

The furniture the gallery offers can be considered more as works of art than necessary home objects. Some of the unique pieces include a small glass table that sits atop a carved camel and an Art Deco-inspired mirrored table.

"If it has a very nice line to it, and if it's interesting from artistic point of view, I'll have it here," Rust said.

While the gallery primarily serves as a showroom for commercial art, Rust said he will make the space available to local artists who want to hold exhibitions.

The gallery also will be open during First Fridays, when local galleries have receptions for new exhibits and likely will be open for additional activities.

"Every month we'll have at least one event," he said.

Where more people will be sure to remark on that sparkling floor.

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