THE FIRST ONE
My artist’s CV is not like most CVs in that I had my own galleries, so for a number of years my work was exhibited mostly through my own.
I opened the first Melissa Barber Galleries in Canowindra, NSW in 1999. Although I had studied at university I hadn’t studied art and so I was, even in the beginning, quite an independent artist. The thought of someone teaching me art just doesn’t resonate, but others’ work is indeed very inspiring. Furthermore even though the Central West of NSW was rich and diverse in the local fresh produce and wine industries, and had a very strong artist presence, there was little in the way of commercial galleries in the area. So, I opened one with a cafe in it to exhibit my work.
Many of the photos I have used for the slideshow above were never digital images, hence the graininess of them. Incidentally the only time I got a chance to photograph the gallery and cafe was when it was quiet. Many other photos that I took were taken at night after I had closed the cafe.
I absolutely loved it but it was hard work. I ran the cafe all day, did all the cooking, and painted at night, but it brought a strong audience to my work, many with whom I have become good friends. I changed its dynamics frequently accommodating to my workload, and to where I was at with my paintings. Exhaustion lead me eventually to closing the cafe in 2003 after not being able to find someone to take it on. I then reopened purely as a gallery for the next 3 years.
I sold the building in 2006 and moved my studio to my house and to work with other galleries in NSW, Victoria and in Queensland. As an artist, it was a hard decision to make because I had always been independent but painting in a quieter environment was a lot easier. I still am very nostalgic about my first gallery and still wonder if I had made the right decision to close it. Today my work is exhibited from the studio and sometimes from collaborating with other galleries.
THE SECOND ONE
In 2014 I reopened my gallery in the historic Finn’s Store in the main street of Canowindra. Finn’s Store is one of the town’s first department stores that has been restored and converted into a wine bar, cafe and retro furniture store. I closed it a couple of years later but from time to time I exhibit work there as it fits in very well with the ambience.