It is the dream of many artists in Maine, not only to find gallery success with their work, but to someday open a gallery of their own. Christina DeHoff, an artist who grew up in Camden, has had lightning strike twice in her career, once in Rockland, 20 years ago and most recently, in Hawaii, after opening her second gallery.
In 2002, as a reporter for Village Soup, I covered DeHoff in a story, Painting from the gut, in which she’d become one of Rockland’s youngest gallery owners at 357 Main Street at age 25.
“I’d been given the opportunity by Keith and Carolyn May, who owned Peter Ott’s restaurant in Camden, as well as the Main Street space, and given my friendship with Carolyn, they gave me the opportunity to open my first gallery,” said DeHoff by phone in Maui.
DeHoff, who’d been painting from an early age, was just learning to find her niche.
“It was the most incredible opportunity and I’d never run a business before at 25-years-old, obviously,” she said. “So, I jumped in and tried to figure it all out.”
“In some ways, today I feel that it was 20 years premature running a gallery in the Midcoast,” she said. “Rockland was still a gritty place at the time, not this art and foodie capital that is now,” she said. “It was a very different time. About five years in, I remember someone telling me that Winter Street was going to be developed and we’d be in the perfect location and other galleries would be attracted to the area. But, it wasn’t where it is today, and I burnt out before I could see that transformation.”
DeHoff, in her travels, also saw the potential for collaboration among the several galleries.
“Everyone was doing their own thing and I proposed to all of the galleries that we emulate an ‘Art Night’ walk that other galleries in other cities were doing,” she said. “I made my case at the Farnsworth initially, and we launched a Wednesday night Art Walk, which later turned to Friday nights.”
DeHoff was still trying to find her way in the art world.
“I don’t do competition — it’s just not in me,” she said. “I do collaboration. If I had a client in my gallery who wanted a different kind of art and I knew where else they could find it, I’d send them to another gallery. I know that’s not ‘good business’ in that you’re not making money from that decision, but I come from a place of raising people up.”
After 10 years of running 357 Main, DeHoff also faced another challenge, an auto-immune illness which was to become a major focus in her life, to the point of having to move away from Maine. She and the Mays sold the gallery to Jake Dowling in 2007 and in the next two years, DeHoff began to travel to Hawaii and back to Maine.
“I enrolled in a dance workshop in Maui and made a full commitment to move there three years later,” she said.
The meaning of 105
"When I went to see the gallery space for the first time I looked up at the address, my heart skipped a beat and I almost cried. I felt this space was meant to be the next home for my art.The home in Maine where my mother and I grew up had been my family's address for about 85 years, lovingly referred to as "105". Of all the numbers in the world...105 is back in my life.”
Having been in Maui for the last 10 years, DeHoff has made a number of friendship and connections as a full-time artist.
“My niche is really specific,” she said. “I focus on the divine feminine and that’s not for everyone. Hawaii’s art scene is very different from Rockland’s. It’s a very big business world that doesn’t lend itself to slow creation.
“My work is not prolific and doesn’t appeal to mass audiences. For example, I was asked to paint the art that has more commercial appeal. I paint people well, so I was asked to paint portraits of Jesus. Or turtles and palm trees or above/below waterline. I could have done that, but stuck with my own style. Some galleries here have a chain with one in Maui, one in Key West, one in Las Vegas, so the artists are widely represented and they offer a lot of reproductions.
“ I’m talking about artists who treat their art as a business first. They have families to support, so they research what sells and they are successful financially at that. That’s wonderful, but it’s not the same audience that is drawn to my work. Basically it’s been 10 years of trying to figure out how to fit in here in an art market that was very new to me.”
Another lightning strike occurred when DeHoff’s landlords and friends, two chefs, had an extra space on the ground floor of their restaurant and they asked DeHoff to open her own gallery.
The opening for 105 Fine Art took place on December 15.
“I’ve always dreamed of having a gallery here; but could never conceptualize it, given how expensive things are,” she said. Given her collaborative nature, DeHoff knew this couldn’t be a gallery just for herself.
“How do you run a business at the same time you’re trying to find the time needed to make your own art?” she said.
105 Fine Art is a small, boutique gallery representing seven artists of varying genres, all of whom, DeHoff said, have the same independent streak as herself.
“After all of this time, what made my artwork kind of weird with not a lot of mass appeal, is now what makes it stand out,” she said. I have now found my audience.”
For more information visit: www.christinadehoff.com