Extreme Makeover Masterpiece — Artists feel right at home in newest Lake Worth Beach pop-up gallery
Updated: Mar 29, 2022
LAST SATURDAY NIGHT, more than 200 art lovers from as far away as Miami gathered for the opening of Palm Beach County’s newest gallery exhibition.
Plastic cups of Sauvignon Blanc in hand, guests perused ceramics by Heather Couch, statues and paintings by JoAnn Nava, paintings by the late Sam Perry, photographs by Mary Jane Zapp and the works of eight other artists.
The kick-off gala for “Beauty In All Things’’ had all the buzz and excitement of a typical commercial gallery opening. Except when this show ended at 10 p.m., the gallery owner locked the front door, walked up the stairs and crawled into bed.
The gallery hosting the exhibition is a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home at 1818 N. Lakeside Dr. in Lake Worth Beach where Maxine Spector and her husband Edmund Schmidt raised a family.
The one-week show ends this Saturday, April 2, with a public closing gala from 6 to 9 p.m. The gallery can be visited mid-week by appointment only. No walk-ups. (Call Maxine at 561-628-4353 to make an appointment.)
“A house is an affordable space, a space able to curate a show,’’ Spector said. “It’s fun to curate and bring artists together.’’
Every other year or so since 2014, the first floor is converted into a temporary multi-room gallery showcasing some of Spector’s favorite local artists, creative friends who otherwise might not get a chance to show their wares in the coveted and competitive spaces of a commercial art gallery.
The conversion process is a labor-intensive undertaking, ripe for an episode of the reality TV show ‘‘Extreme Makeover.’’ It starts about a month before showtime.
Nearly every stitch of furniture — chairs, coffee tables, floor mats, knick-knacks — is cleared out of the living room, dining room, hallways and foyers. It’s all moved into bedrooms on the south end of the house and upstairs and to the garage of a generous neighbor, “Dear Fred,’’ as Spector calls him.
Once that’s done, parts of the interior get fresh coats of white paint. Temporary light fixtures are installed. The wood and tile floors are polished. Then, the homeowner/curator methodically fills each of the empty rooms with art from 12 different artists.
This week, the living room walls are covered with paintings by Sibel Kocabaşı, Nava and Rybovich. Book shelves display ceramics by Spector and Jay Higas.
At the center of the living room, perched atop white square pedestals, are Couch’s fingerprint-textured ceramics.
Even the flatscreen TV on the wall above the fireplace was part of the show. It plays on continuous loop a video called “Floating Pieces’’ by artist Camila Montoya.
The only hints of residential bliss are a leather sofa in the living room and a white curtain across the entrance to the kitchen, where a narrow opening offers a peak of a refrigerator and stove.
Past the kitchen, the walls of a cozy foyer glow with Caromoonstar paintings. A small shelf, chained to a latch and hanging across a window looking out to the back patio, displays her jewelry.
The second floor is off limits, the steps on the staircase purposefully blocked by a vibrant Caromoonstar painting.
Spector’s signature sculptures from her "1,001 heads" series are displayed next to the back patio in a former garage converted years ago into her home studio.
“I like to say it’s artwork by serious artists in an absolutely non-serious environment,’’ said Rybovich, whose charcoal and pastel drawings of birds dominate the walls to the right of the fireplace.
“Collectors come because they know it's going to be a good evening and they're going to find great art there,’’ she said. “It's as much a party as it is an art show.’’
The idea of turning a house into an art gallery may sound radical to the uninitiated. But it’s a part of daily life for many painters, photographers and sculptors whose studios double as their living spaces.
“If you visit serious dedicated artists, they live with their art. So why not clean up a little bit and open it to the public?’ said Kocabaşı, whose floor-to-ceiling paintings dominate the south wall in Spector’s living room.
Spector isn’t the first person to do it.
In 1962, Adeliza McHugh converted her modest house in Folsom, Calif., into a gallery showcasing the works of her artist friends. The Candy Store Gallery, which housed a candy store before McHugh moved in, attracted the likes of actor Vincent Price and wound up listed in European tourist guidebooks as a must-see California destination before it closed in 1992.
Nava, who grew up in New York City, remembers artists in Greenwich Village using their homes as displays in the 1950s and ‘60s. “That’s when things weren't as commercial as they are now,’’ she said.
After the 2008 economic downturn, temporary do-it-yourself galleries emerged in apartments, storefronts and other non-traditional spaces across the country, according to The New York Times.
“Call it a response to an art world in which dealer representation is increasingly hard to come by; exhibitions are costly; and formerly affordable areas…have priced out artists, forcing them to seek out scrappier locations in which to show their work,’’ the article said
Before hosting her first do-it-yourself “home show” in her house in 2014, Spector collaborated with Kocabaşı in 2007 on an exhibit in Kocabaşı’s house on the west side of Lake Worth Beach.
“Why not? Galleries are looking for what they can sell so they're not interested in giving shows to local artists,’’ Kocabaşı said.
By word-of-mouth, more than 50 people came. “There was no (popular) social media or Facebook at the time,’’ she said.
After that, they hosted openings at other available spaces around town, including an outdoor exhibition in a spacious yard on South J Street that attracted 300 people on a spring evening in 2009.
The exhibition that opened Friday is the fourth Spector has hosted in her home, and the first since the pandemic.
“It’s a pretty special thing,’’ said Couch, a Palm Beach Gardens sculptor who attended Spector’s previous house show in 2019.
“It gives it a unique domestic setting while at the same time it has a very professional feel to it,’’ she said.
While commercial galleries have quality standards that make their coveted spaces so competitive, home shows offer artists a unique advantage. At a commercial gallery, potential buyers can only imagine how a piece might look in their homes.
A home show leaves nothing to the imagination.
“I can't say enough great things about the venue. It's so inspiring,’’ said Nava, whose painting “Beauty In All Things,” which inspired the theme of the show, greets visitors as they walk in the front door.
Another Nava painting, “Bless These Hats,’’ which was on display a few years ago at the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art, is on the east wall of the living room.
“There are spectacular artists you will see here. You will be knocked out by the quality of the show,’’ said Zapp, a multimedia artist whose photographs can be seen this week just outside the kitchen and behind the front door.
As she'd done with her past home shows, Spector spread word about "Beauty In All things" through social media, with help from Nava, Rybovich and other artists.
Two hours after the start of Saturday’s opening gala, more than 50 guests were mingling throughout the house, in the front yard, and on the pack patio where a bartender offered snacks and beverages.
At least two attendees were neighbors who happened upon the exhibit while out for a walk. By the time gala ended, more than 200 people had walked through the home, with half a dozen making purchases.
“Hopefully it'll catch on,’’ Zapp said. “Maxine is quite a curator. She has a vision for the show.’’
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About the author
Joe Capozzi is an award-winning journalist based in Lake Worth Beach. He spent more than 30 years in the newspaper business, mostly at The Palm Beach Post, where he wrote about the opioid scourge, invasive pythons, the birth of the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches and Palm Beach County government. For 15 years, he covered the Miami Marlins baseball team. Joe left The Post in December 2020. View all posts by Joe Capozzi.