Monday, June 27, 2011

Emil Cerullo: A Mysterious Mister “E” behind the E Gallery Studios

Emil Cerullo didn’t go to art school. Emil Cerullo didn’t plan to become a gallery owner. Instead, Emil Cerullo was a successful entrepreneur in the medical business: he owned four diagnostic imaging centers in Texas and managed about 140 employees several years ago.

With high rates of obesity in the US, Emil saw a lucrative opportunity in providing services to people recovering from lap-band surgery. Emil consulted with physicians and learned that the risks for patient’s health were minimal, the surgery was already in the process of FDA testing, and it was a matter of time before someone would snap up the opportunity of offering the first lap-band surgery and post-surgical care in the USA. In addition, since the surgery and recovery take only one day, it could be done at a surgery center and not necessarily at a hospital. Emil bought air time for a radio show on CBS radio to promote this new business. That’s how he met JD Miller who was selling radio air time at that time.

His collaboration with JD Miller grew into a strong friendship. JD Miller became Emil’s mentor in the arena of hosting a radio show and in the arena of art (see my post about JD’s art). Emil often saw JD working on his three-dimensional oil paintings. Five years ago, one evening JD suggested that Emil should experiment with paints as a way to release stress. JD liked Emil’s spontaneity in painting and encouraged him produce more artwork. Sic, Emil became a visual artist in his early forties. Emil and JD partnered in Reflection Fine Art gallery in Dallas, TX. In six months, Emil painted 25 oil pieces and sold 18 at his first show. Yet, he was skeptical about his first artistic success, “I’ve been successful in business and friends came that had money: attorneys, accountants and people who were clients of mine… I felt like they gave me a gratuitous like, ‘I’ll buy your painting; I’ll buy your painting.’ At that point I wasn’t sure if I could do it.”

However, at his second show he had a brand new customer who made Emil believe in a worth of his art. “We had catered the event and there was a young guy who was a bartender and he really liked my art.” During the second show, “The bartender kid came back, and he said “I really want to buy this painting.” I felt like this is the first person I had actually sold a painting to that couldn’t afford it but was moved by it.”

Emil has created a lot of artwork that touched people’s emotional string. For example, the painting “War” emerged from Emil’s attempts to repaint a canvas a few times, made one of the gallery visitors cry. Even though it is an abstract work of art, that gentlemen who was so moved by the painting exclaimed “I was there! That’s war!” It turned out he fought in Afghanistan years before, and the artwork reminded him of the dusty, bloody battlefield.

There was another story that taught Emil to appreciate his art. In the beginning of his artistic career, Emil sold one of his paintings that took him about 30 minutes to make for $3,500.00. Emil felt he almost robbed the client, while his buyer turned to him and said “I robbed you, Son.” Indeed, that artwork became very popular and Emil reproduced the high-end prints of it five times.

Emil and JD Miller ended their partnership at Reflection Gallery several years ago and now each of them manages his own gallery. JD co-owns Samuel Lynne Galleries with Philip Romano, and Emil Cerullo owns E Gallery Studios. E Gallery Studios is a working studio for local artists, a creative space for art events, and, of course, an exhibition space. Emil’s beautiful wife, Wendy helps him to run the gallery.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

JD Miller: a Reflection of Pura Vida

Pura vida means Pure Life. JD Miller taught me the meaning of this expression when I visited him at his studio at Samuel Lynne Galleries about a week ago.

JD Miller is a reflectionist artist, a musician, and a co-owner of a successful contemporary art gallery in Dallas, TX. JD was a professional musician and worked on the radio when fifteen years ago he discovered his painting talent. “I decided that I will work, save and do whatever it takes to become a professional artist. I was painting 30 to 50 paintings per month when I started.” JD’s first art show happened at his house: he sold about 60 paintings that night. “I knew I was on the right path.” Later he was discovered by Janice Meyers who owned Florence Art Gallery in Dallas, TX.

When Janice retired to spend more time with her kids, JD founded his own Reflection Fine Art gallery. “About seven years ago I quit my job, cashed in my 401 K, refinanced my home -basically gambled everything I own on starting my own gallery. And it worked out. I did that for four years and I met Phil Romano who owns restaurants and we formed a partnership about three years ago to open this place, Samuel Lynne Galleries.” JD and Philip named the gallery after their kids: Samuel is Philip’s son and Jaime Lynne is JD’s daughter.

JD’s art went 80 times up in value in the last fifteen years. Thus, he sold his first paintings for $50-250, while now the same artwork worth between $15,000 and $20,000. JD is determined to rise to the top of the art world, and he clearly understands the value of promotion and building a brand. Thus, when I came to his studio, he was working on a bunch of small paintings – promotional gifts for producers of TV and radio programs. JD believes that the more that is published and written about you, the more you are collected by major collectors and museums, the more notoriety you acquire as an artist. A combination of all these things raises the value of your art. “That’s why as a gallery, we don’t buy advertising per se. We rarely purchase an ad. What we do is we invest our money into PR. We have a PR company in Dallas, TX and we have a national company based out of Las Vegas that handles our national and international PR. That’s what we invest in.”

JD confessed, “I’ve never painted to sell. I paint what I love. Don’t worry about it. I found, fortunately, that if I like it, the other people tend to like it too.” I know some artists are obsessed with perfectionism, and I asked JD how often he destroys his work. “I’ve painted close to 2500 paintings now and I had probably ten that absolutely didn’t work.”

“For my philosophy, I coined a term ‘Reflectionism.’ Being a reflectionist, first of all, is to recognize the Law of Attraction. I’ve lived that my whole life and I didn’t know what to call it until I saw the movie The Secret. That movie did a really good job, in my opinion, explaining what is like the Law of Gravity – you may not believe in the Law of Gravity, but guess what: you throw something in the air, it’s going to fall on the ground. And you may not believe in the Law of Attraction, but in my opinion it’s there, it exists just like the Law of Gravity. Essentially, what you put out in the Universe is what is reflected back. Myself and the other artists I work with that follow this philosophy, we choose to put out really high vibration energy: love, joy, happiness, beautiful things. And then what happens when you do that, the Universe reflects back beautiful, joyous things. And so what we do is record that. And I do it as a painter – I do it in three dimensional oils which is a technique that I’ve developed, but it can be done with anything. You can do it with music, you can do it with dance… I was in the music business for nine years and my music partner lives in LA. He and I are actually started an idea of reflectionist movement. His name is Chris Brickler. He does it in music, and I do it in art.”

JD Miller believes that the reflectionism idea is very relevant today. “There is a lot of negativity in the world today. I am not a believer of putting negative art out there. I’ve seen a lot of that in the last fifty years, and I want to put out beautiful things and associate myself with beautiful things. That’s my goal is to continue down that path and spread the word about reflectionism.” JD said, “Once I knew that this is my destiny, I didn’t rest until I was doing this. And there have been some challenging years, but it’s really paid off. The last few years have done very, very well. So I am very fortunate doing this and following my dream.”