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.

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