Looking around Patina Gallery, one is struck by the diversity of fine art and jewelry on display and yet absorbed by the surreal coherence. The curation of the space weaves disparate elements—metal bracelets that cascade like liquid, a sleek photograph of a James Dean model Porsche, a joyful sculpture bearing witness through antique glass eyes—into an experience larger than the sum of its parts.
In its twentieth year, the Santa Fe gallery is a destination for local and international collectors and represents nearly one hundred artists. Southwest Contemporary spoke with owners Allison and Ivan Barnett, both artists themselves, about their vision for Patina.
How do you make decisions about what work to share here?
Ivan Barnett: We’re romantics. All of the pieces have a timeless quality based in craftsmanship. How the object is made creates enduring beauty. Everything in here is made by artists. Their hands were on the work. The artists find ways to tell their stories through these pieces. People pick up on that.
Allison Barnett: A large part of what I do on the floor is share stories about how and why pieces are made. At the end of the day, does a piece speak to your soul? Jewelry is so intimate. It lives on the body. It becomes an extension of yourself, a talisman. The art needs to be soul stirring for you to make the decision to take it home.
IB: And not just home. You can think of jewelry as wearable sculpture. This is art that becomes a part of the wearer’s life, of her story. It extends the artist’s story into the collector’s, grows, and gets passed on.
The gallery itself feels like a work of art. What makes the presentation so special?
IB: Some of the stories we share are big stories. For example, we’ve had an ongoing collaboration with the Santa Fe Opera for five years. We brought artists in from Germany to do a whole collection related to pearls in connection with The Pearl Fishers.
Curating the gallery, some of our choices are unconventional. I love to create a sense of surprise. It’s interesting; it creates tension, and from that you create attraction. The gallery is theatrical like that. We bring our perspectives as artists to the space.
AB: We’re like yin and yang. I look at all these smaller parts that make up the whole. Every shelf or casing display is its own vignette with its own individually staged composition.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
IB: We take a lot of risks, ask people to be a part of Patina Gallery in ways that most people might not think of. As an artist, you get a lot of rejection. But when people say yes, it is so exciting.
AB: There’s no safety net. Great art is full of ups and downs, but when I see someone come in wearing fine jewelry from Patina, my heart fills. That so many people trust us makes me feel we’ve made an impact.