Living in a teepee outside Taos, New Mexico in the summer of 1979, someone asked Jane Hamilton what planned to do once winter arrived.
Hamilton wasn’t the only person in the hippy crowd she hung out with at the time trying to figure out where to go at the end of summer. She admitted to her friend that she had no idea and her friend suggested something that she never thought of doing before.
“Why don’t you pray on it,” he suggested.
One day, she thought about that suggestion and did just that. A gallery owner in Taos asked if she could fill in for their receptionist taking a vacation. When she walked into the gallery, she remembered feeling as if she was exactly where she was supposed to be.
“I’m home,” she said to herself.
What turned into a temporary job to just answer phones, turned into selling art and loving it and being good at it. They asked her to continue. Hamilton did, and she never forgot that moment of prayer.
On Friday, March 24, from 4 to 7 p.m., Hamilton celebrates that path she took back in Taos with a 25th Anniversary Show at her 2890 E. Skyline Drive, Suite 180 gallery. The show features new work from Tom Murray and Santos Barbosa, both longtime gallery artists.
Murray paints iconic oils of monsoon clouds and dramatic Southwest landscapes. Barbosa paints impressionistic Old West historic renderings.
In total, Hamilton has 50 artists featured in her gallery, a colorful space filled with paintings, block prints, metal bronzes and stone sculptures and other works from artists in Oregon, Arizona, Minnesota, California, New Mexico, Utah, Texas, Colorado and Michigan.
On the outside of her Foothills gallery, at the corner of Skyline and Campbell Avenue, sit many outdoor sculptures, some by Tucson artists. You can see several of these sculptures from the road, right at the Skyline and Campbell intersection. Hamilton also has access to a courtyard in the retail and office center where the gallery is located, and uses that space to feature more sculpture.
“If you tell a client this piece looks beautiful in the sunlight, it makes sense to bring them out here so they can see that for themselves,” she says.
Hamilton has been at the current gallery space since 2009, but striking out on her own officially started in 1992 in a small gallery space in Bisbee on Subway Avenue. She outgrew that space and moved into another on Bisbee’s Main Street. Shortly after Sept. 9, 2001, Hamilton, a single mother of four children, decided to take another chance and moved her gallery to Tucson.
“This is what I do. I think artists like to show with me because my gallery is so eclectic,” she says.
Hamilton says in the art world, sometimes the word eclectic can be perceived negatively, but from her perspective it is positive—offering clients a wide selection of work that reflects the region in color and form. It’s also eclectic because she works to have artists who paint in a variety of styles, and the sculpture work she has varies too.
“Some of these artists, I’ve known for years,” Hamilton says. “There really is a little bit of everything, from impressionistic, abstract, bronzes, and Southwest. I’m not trying to duplicate.”
Hamilton says she often thinks about the advice she was given years ago to pray about what she would do in her life. It’s advice she’s now given to others and continues to take seriously.
“For the first time when I worked in that first gallery, I felt at total peace,” she says.
In 1992, she was living in Sierra Vista with her two children. The single mother had four jobs. Someone called her to ask if she could come to a meeting in Bisbee. They had heard she knew something about art and the town was working on rebuilding their image. They wondered if she’d take them up on their offer to open a gallery.
With her young kids’ support, the family moved to Bisbee and Hamilton opened her first gallery. She had $400 and couldn’t qualify for a loan. The day before she opened, someone came by and bought one of four paintings hanging in the new space. That helped her get a telephone.
Bisbee was good to the gallery owner and her family. It offered them what only a small town community can and gave her the experience she needed to move to Tucson.
In this age, Hamilton says many galleries are closing making it hard for artist to find spaces to sell their work. It can be a hard business, she admits.
“You have to have a knack of it,” she says.
There’s a responsibility she feels towards the artists in her gallery. They need her, she says, and for many, she’s cultivated life long relationships that have helped them sell their work. And yes, she still prays.
“The truth is, if that guy hadn’t shown up and given me that advice, I really don’t know if I’d be here right now,” she says. “But I am and I love my work. I tell people running an art gallery is like theater—every show we continue to make it happen. I’m lucky, too. Everyday I get to wake up and come here to art and color, so much color.”