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VISUAL ARTS : Downtown Gallery Will Operate Under New Name

July 22, 1988|LEAH OLLMAN

On Aug. 1, the Wita Gardiner Gallery will close, to be replaced with the Faith Nightingale Gallery.

"This is not another cry story," said Wita Gardiner, referring to the spate of local galleries that have closed in the past year, with disgruntled sighs over the dearth of collectors here.

Though she conceded that the gallery has been "a financial drain," she added that "it wasn't a sacrifice in the sense that that was where I wanted to be. I love what I'm doing, but I need some time away. I'm not letting go."

Gardiner, who opened the contemporary crafts and jewelry gallery downtown two years ago, plans to spend a year pursuing private consulting projects, and then, tentatively, to return to the gallery. In the meantime, the gallery space will be leased to Faith Nightingale, an art collector and former practicing pediatrician.

Nightingale plans to continue the gallery "along the same bent" as Gardiner.

"I'm sure there will be some differences," Nightingale said, "but I won't make a lot of changes for the sake of making changes, especially since I like what's been going on. Wita has been a real class act, and I would like to try to at least uphold the quality."

And after a year is up?

"We'll have to wait to see what happens at that time," Nightingale said. "At this point, that's a whole year away, and it's not one of my priorities."

Sounding equally unsure, Gardiner said she is keeping all of her options open.

"I can't guarantee that it will reopen as the Wita Gardiner Gallery in a year but I'd like it to."

Video art and broadcast television meet about as often as distant relatives and with much the same effect. Renewing the family ties is invigorating, but the meeting always ends up reminding the clans that their differences outweigh their similarities.

Though the family resemblance is only superficial, video artists don't dismiss the value of their relationship to television, especially in terms of broadening their own audience. The Long Beach Museum of Art, with the largest collection of video art on the West Coast, has been cultivating an alliance between the two forms through a 4-year-old program of "Open Channels" grants. This year, San Diego video artists Victoria Bearden and Jayce Salloum received two of the five grants awarded. Both artists are fresh from UC San Diego's Master of Fine Arts program and have had many local and international exhibitions.

The Open Channels grant addresses their most pressing needs--access to costly equipment and increased visibility. Each winner receives $2,000, videotape stock and eight days access to production and post-production facilities at a participating cable system. When completed, their works will be exhibited at the Long Beach Museum, and, perhaps more important, they will be shown on "Viewpoints on Video," a cable series produced by the museum and broadcast on 14 cable stations throughout the state, including San Diego.

"This kind of exposure is highly unusual for video works," said Jackie Kain, media curator at the Long Beach Museum. "Commercial television pays very little attention to them. David Letterman or 'Saturday Night Live' might pick up a piece as a novelty, but not showcase it as an art form. Video artists as a whole have always been dependent upon the vagaries of the PBS systems."

Public television has provided workshops for video artists, and featured their work, but even their support is sporadic, at best. San Diego's KPBS airs video art only rarely.

"A little of it is of interest to people," said program director Brad Warner, "but a lot of it would have difficulty sustaining audience interest. As a programming judgment, showing a lot of it would not be a good use of air time. Like anything that's cutting edge, you introduce it a little bit here and a little there."

Given the number of people who would want to see more of it than that, Warner said, the best approach is probably that already taken by museums and video festivals.

"The onus is on us, as museums, to help people see the work," said Kain. "There's a lot of work that has to be done to give people a literacy for video art, people who are used to television, the fast cut and the quick get."

People need to slow down to appreciate much video work, Kain explained, and broadcasting it is not always the best solution.

"My preferred way of viewing a lot of the work is at home. Often the work is so rich and complex, you want to look at it over and over again. Having your own copy is really wonderful. It's like having a really good book that you want to savor, to bring down and look at a particular passage."

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