Artists Hidden Away in Topanga Canyon Hills Open Their Own Gallery


Topanga Canyon has long been known as an artsy enclave, with artists and crafts people hidden away in its myriad hills. Since January, they’ve had a public forum: the New Canyon Gallery, itself tucked away in the Topanga Center South shopping enclave on Topanga Canyon Boulevard.

A cooperative gallery that selects members by jury, it was started by four artists, quickly grew to 17, and now has a waiting list. The gallery is open weekends only; during the week it is used for meetings of the local Topanga Assn. for a Scenic Community, which staged a show of children’s art in the space during February.

The gallery sells three-week blocks of exhibition time to its members, who pay all exhibition and opening costs--and retain all profits.


The exhibiting artists often staff the gallery during their shows, offering a visitor the opportunity to discuss works firsthand with their creators.

On view through May 20 are watercolors by Teresa Starkweather, who said she works slowly to produce her ruminations on roses and other garden scenes. Also on exhibit are her studies of the interplay of light and reflection in still-lifes built around glasses of water.

“Topanga Canyon is really like an artists’ colony. For me, it’s wonderful to be able to show my work to my friends,” said Starkweather, who has shown in New York City and is represented by galleries in San Diego and Carmel.

Linda Bolhuis, another artist member who was helping out at the gallery, said many of the artists in the canyon are private people. Referring to the gallery, she said, “This has brought a lot of them out of the woodwork. I’ve lived here for 18 years, and it’s like I’m finally meeting my neighbors. Every other house has an artist or a craftsman in it.”

New Canyon Gallery, 129 S. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga. (213) 455-3923. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

ALL-AMERICAN: Anyone whose interest has been piqued by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s current show of Thomas Hart Benton’s American Regionalist painting may want to take a look at the Tomlin-Acheson Fine Arts, a relatively new gallery just off Main Street in Santa Monica.


Benton’s vociferous break with European traditions was an important political development for American art. It was the point at which “the American art scene tried to separate itself for the first time; you didn’t have to go to Europe to paint or to learn how to paint,” said W. Steven Tomlin, one of the gallery’s principals.

Exhibiting Regionalist, Social Realist, WPA and Modernist works from its inventory (rather than revolving shows), Tomlin-Acheson Fine Arts claims to be the only gallery in California specializing in American art between 1920 and 1940.

Among the paintings on view are works by various artists who fit into the Regionalist tradition: Russell Sherman, who assisted Benton at one time and whose backlighting and shadow reflect him; Margaret Kerfoot, who studied with Grant Wood; and Vincent d’Agostino, who studied with George Bellows.

Both Tomlin and his partner, James Acheson, had backgrounds in 19th-Century European art before switching to their current specialty.

What prompted the shift? A certain element of patriotism, each says separately--as well as the search for art that can be affordably shared with the public in today’s inflamed market.

Neither pretty painting nor esoteric abstraction, it is art that people can relate to, Tomlin said, especially now that a certain social consciousness is making realistic portrayals of urban and industrial life palatable again.


“There’s an identity with the American artists as well as the scene,” he said.

Tomlin-Acheson Fine Arts, 216 Pier Ave., Santa Monica. (213) 396-1592. Open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

CORNERCOPIA: As a gallery crossroads, the corner of Colorado Avenue and Sixth Street in Santa Monica is being rounded out with the addition of the Scott Hanson Gallery. The New York City transplant joins the Bannatyne Gallery, the John Thomas Gallery and Michael Maloney Contemporary Art in a building that houses not only art establishments but Santa Monica social services.

The Scott Hanson Gallery is not a satellite gallery of its New York parent. Rather, Scott Hanson--who left Los Angeles to open a gallery on West Broadway in Manhattan--is closing his New York gallery after three successful years to return to Los Angeles “from a place of power,” gallery director Richard Natoli said.

Artists that the gallery will continue to represent from its New York stable include William Anastasi, Deborah Kass, Abraham David Christian and the team of Vera Lehndorff and Holger Trulzsch. But the gallery’s main focus will be on resale--that is, on the secondary market and secondary representation for major contemporary artists such as Gerhard Richter, Julian Schnabel, Willem de Kooning and Jean Michel Basquiat, whose primary representatives are in New York and elsewhere.

“To start emerging artists and make a go of it--it’s really tough. We thought there was a bigger opportunity for us in L.A. working in resale,” said Natoli. “We’re looking forward to bringing some major shows to L.A., and I think that’s acceptable to a lot more artists. We had a very successful gallery in New York, and the artists know that.”

Natoli said he has also been putting together art portfolios (generally in the million-dollar range and above) as investments for celebrity clients and other collectors.


Speaking of Los Angeles, he said, “It’s still the land of opportunity. It’s still a place where you can go after the big fish because they don’t have representation here.”

Scott Hanson Gallery, 602 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica. (213) 396-7677. Open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.