Annie Phan, Contributing Writer
A mundane office space between the borders of Richmond and Henrico County will turn into a communal haven on Friday for artists and gallerists. Intricate sculptures will replace cubicles, and paintings will furnish the once monotonous walls.
Co-founded by VCUarts graduate students Damien Ding and Martha Glenn, Tuesday is an art gallery that will highlight emerging artists to foster a strong art community in Richmond.
“It’s a lot of young artists emerging in their careers,” Glenn said. “We’re really on the ground with our peers, just trying to create a platform for people to show and for interesting relationships to grow.”
The gallery, located at 2317 Westwood Ave., Suite 106, introduces its visitors with a Hollywood-esque sign spelling “The Westwood Building.”
The gallerists met in fall 2019 while taking a contemporary art class. The two talked about Glenn’s idea to start the gallery, which originated in her backyard. Glenn is a student in the kinetic imaging department while Ding studies painting and printmaking.
“I had this big backyard and I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll put on shows back there,’” Glenn said. “Damien was the first person who I told the idea to, and he actually showed some of his work.”
The pair said they had trouble moving the gallery from the backyard into a more established location due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but eventually found the right space. Visits to the gallery are by invitation or appointment only to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
“It took a while to find a space because we were wary of seeing a bunch of new people,” Glenn said. “But we found something. We both really like it.”
Ding and Glenn’s first exhibit, “Eye Drop,” features three artists: Brooklyn-based artist Hank Ehrenfried and two VCUarts graduate students, Connor Stankard and Chad Mundie.
Ehrenfried’s oil paintings in the exhibit are of his grandmother’s photographs and life experiences as a survivor of the Holocaust.
Stankard’s glass sculptures and paintings will explore the nuanced world of the female body through her exaggerated depictions of controversial topics, while Mundie highlights domesticism and bizarreness of day-to-day life through his sculptures.
“The role of the gallery was for a way for the artist and the gallerists to develop a relationship in terms of putting the artists’ work out there in a setting that’s not just school,” Ding said. “We’re providing them more financial opportunities as well.”
Ding’s motivation for starting the gallery came from his experience with the strong community among artists at VCU.
“Artists can make the best galleries because they know what’s important to notice,” Ding said. “You know what are the things that make the relationship work and how to be generous in the right way. I think coming to VCU for the art school is very helpful with that.”
As an undergraduate student at Swarthmore College, Ding majored in art history, which he shifted from toward the end of his schooling to experiment with his own art. He began painting with oil and egg tempura, a medium consisting of egg yolk and water, which is popular among medieval and Orthodox Christian icon paintings.
“I found that to be more creatively engaging, so I think that’s why I moved more into painting,” Ding said. “But that desire to run a gallery space with like-minded people and to work with artists has always been something that’s been with me.”
For Glenn, her decision to pursue art was a natural, yet risky decision. Despite knowing the unpredictable field of art, she moved to Berlin after graduating from college to work as an artist. She lived there for five years before coming to VCU for graduate school.
She describes her work as “an iteration of assemblage,” as it offers fresh perspectives on humankind’s relationship with nature and mostly focuses on sculpture and video installation.
“My artwork is about time and what it means to be a living, breathing part of this universe,” Glenn said.
While they pursue their own artistic endeavors, their hope with the gallery is to eventually use their platform to get in touch with artists from around the world. Before further expanding, both want to focus on initiating strong relationships with upcoming artists.
“What’s really important now is to create meaningful relationships with artists and people who are interested in art, entering the scene of art so we can have a good foundation to work with,” Ding said.
A previous version of this story misspelled Hank Ehrenfried’s last name.