For Jessica Luther, owner of outsider art gallery Smoke and Mirrors, June 23 will be a kind of rebirth. If you've recently driven by the shop's former location on Haskell, next to the vintage/curiosities boutique Dolly Python, you've likely noticed that the windows are taped up and the venue has been abandoned. There was no farewell bash or love letter left behind, but that's because Luther was busy fighting for her life.
Having been diagnosed with Graves disease as a child, Luther had some knowledge of the auto-immune disorder's power. But in February she learned the entirety of its force. Infections. Diseases. By the time she mended it had been four months of bouncing between home and hospital beds.
The financial strain of being uninsured took its toll on other aspects of Luther's life. She was forced to close her beloved Smoke and Mirrors Gallery which she'd kept alive for the last year. It was evolving into a Dallas staple, offering low-brow, outsider, primitive, tramp and all-around interesting work by artists like Bruce Lee Webb, Clay Stinnett, Kevin Parmer, and Nix Johnston. But Luther didn't give up, despite losing everything she had built. Friends and family rallied around her. Gretchen Bell, owner of Dolly Python, managed Luther's gallery affairs while it was still operational. Ashley Harris, a friend of Luther's, held a benefit that raised thousands of dollars to assist with medical expenses.
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And now, Jessica Luther is back. She's strong. And she's ready to reclaim custody her passion project gallery, which will reopen this Saturday. With the old location gone, Luther decided to tackle a new future with a new space, so Smoke and Mirrors now resides inside 406 Arts (406 S. Haskell Ave.), a venue that many locals know as the old Phoenix Project.
"What Saturday is about is me celebrating being alive," Luther said. "It's an opportunity to thank those who supported me while I was sick." But the opening will also present a chance for the gallery to make some cash on the first night of business; it's throwing a giant bash with work by ten to 15 local artists. All pieces will cost less than $100 bucks. There will, however, be a cover. One of the things Luther says she has noticed about the people who visit art shows is that they are sometimes more interested in experiencing art than purchasing and collecting it. So in order to enable both artists and art enthusiasts to benefit, Luther says her new gallery will charge admission to the exhibitions they host.
"I am a firm believer that artists deserve to be paid for their hard work," Luther said. But that doesn't mean Luther has discarded free shows altogether. She says free shows will depend on the kind of art that is being displayed and who the artist may be. Luther also hopes to mix-up the gallery's layout by having live musical or visual acts in one section of the space and the artworks in another. The first trial run of this experiment happens during Saturday night's grand opening party when DJ Hammertimez mans the turntables.
The Smoke and Mirrors Garage Sale/Art Party is cash only. The event is scheduled from 4 p.m.-12 a.m. Visitors will not be charged for admission from 4-8 p.m., but after that it's ten bucks and all you can drink.