On the Road for Art, Durango Herald, Dec. 11, 2006

Photos: C. Greg Gummersall, #6-C24-7, Acrylic/Collage on Canvas 6 x 5 ft. (Muse Gallery, Jackson, WY); #8-C25-15, Acrylic/Collage on Canvas 5 x 4 ft. (Gallery C, Hermosa Beach, CA);
Jenny Gummersall, photo from Egg Series.

Painter Greg Gummersall committed career suicide by moving to Bayfield. That’s what an Arizona museum curator told him. He’s proved her wrong, but it hasn’t been easy.

“It’s a trade off,” Gummersall said from his 80-acre ranch south of Bayfield. “But living here is a lifestyle choice.”

The lifestyle chosen by Gummersall and his wife Jenny, a photographer, is simple and placid, amid rolling hills with views of the San Juan Mountains, dogs, a cat and a cabin filled with art. Cell phone coverage is mostly nonexistent and high-speed Internet has not arrived.

The couple spends a significant amount of time on the road, meeting with gallery owners who sell their work.

“Ideally, I like to be home for two months painting and then gone for two weeks,” Greg said.
But he and Jenny do more than paint and photograph when they are home. Both contact galleries, send out packages and set up appointments for their next trip to Wyoming, Montana, Arizona, New Mexico or California.

The system seems to work. Greg is represented by six galleries in Hermosa Beach, Calif., Jackson, Wyo., Denver, Telluride, Scottsdale, Ariz., Miami, Fla. and St. Petersburg, Russia. His paintings are in close to 40 corporate and personal collections. And he was featured in the October issue of Cowboys & Indians magazine.

But it isn’t enough. He’d like to have 10 galleries consistently selling his work.

Jenny is represented by Open Shutter Gallery in Durango. She’s also in Jackson, Wyo., Aspen, Denver and Telluride.

“Culturally, you have to get out and visit the art centers,” Greg said. “The cool thing about getting on the road is that we see the art and meet the artists. We get a feel for the galleries because the reality is, there are some people you do not want to do business with.”

The relationship between gallery and artist can be challenging. Galleries need a body of work, so the more galleries that represent the artist, the more work she or he must produce. Greg paints 100-150 pieces each year; many are 5 feet by 7 feet canvases layered with acrylic paint, photographs, paper, string and other material reconciling abstraction and realism.

Jenny photographs clouds, eggshells, children, palms and most recently a toy horse in natural settings. She uses natural light to create her imagery.

“The challenge to working with galleries is to provide everything they need to do their job, but not be overly involved,” Jenny said. “Working with a gallery is like a marriage.”

Greg constantly monitors the galleries and their sales volumes. If a gallery isn’t selling, he pulls out and finds another. He admits to quitting a gallery too soon because they had a slow year.

However, he has seen amateur artists hurt themselves by acting unprofessionally. At a recent show in Los Angeles, the gallery owner complained that inexperienced artists were handing out their business cards to patrons, which defies professional etiquette.

And Greg has dealt with unscrupulous gallery owners shortchanging him on commissions, saying a painting sold for $8,000 when it sold for $14,000.

“People often ask why we live here,” Jenny said. “And it’s important for me to live where my eye is not stopped by skyscraping walls.”

The Gummersalls understand that traveling is part of their life. But the couple also gives to the community, donating paintings and photographs to KSUT, the Durango Film Festival and Mercy Hospital fundraisers.

Leanne Goebel is a freelance arts journalist from Pagosa Springs

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