Toasting the City of the Angels

Kimie Joe in her gallery. Photo by Bondo Wyszpolski

Kimie Joe’s back in town…

…and her Gallery of Hermosa is off to a running start

by Bondo Wyszpolski

Small, independent art galleries often have the shelflife of a dairy product. Their longevity depends on many factors, location, attendance, an alluring variety for the potential buyer, and a welcoming owner, manager, or staff. Well, the Gallery of Hermosa, which opened its doors this past April, has all those things going for it, and at the center of this new venue is Kimie Joe.

Thinking about her next show. Photo by Bondo Wyszpolski

The Gallery of Hermosa’s second show was called “May Flowers,” and this writer had low expectations for it despite the participation of 40 artists from 13 states. I thought, “Hay fever for sure.” However, I was glad to be pleasantly surprised. Sure, some works seemed amateurish, but as the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats and the cumulative result was impressive. One might also say something similar about “Game On,” which has been on view most of June. In each case there were treasures that would look good on anyone’s wall. “I Love L.A.” is set to open on Friday, July 5.

Picking up the brush

Kimie Joe is the sort of person you like right away, and that’s one big reason her gallery has been off to a good start. She also lives locally and knows many artists, then chose five of them for “Jubilee,” her inaugural show: Bernard Fallon, Stephen Mirich, Eileen Oda Leaf, Dennis Jarvis, and Chip Herwegh.

“I’ve been involved in the arts for about 30 years,” Kimie Joe says. “I’ve lived around the country, including the South Bay, New England, and then down to North Carolina where I did a paint-and-sip kind of business.”

She was born in Boston and in 1996 she and her future husband Ben Silver moved from the East Coast to Manhattan Beach where they raised their two oldest children. Then it was back to the Atlantic side of the country for about 10 years before relocating once again in California, this time finding a home just a stone’s throw from the water in Hermosa Beach. Or, in geographic terms, maybe two stone throws from the gallery on Pier Avenue.

Ronda Olson and “Blustery Winter Day.” (Shown in “Game On”) Photo by Bondo Wyszpolski

While the family lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, a third child, a son, was born. “I had such a great experience here, raising my two older children,” says Kimie Joe, “that I wanted to make sure that my third child would have that same experience too, to grow up in this beach community, and that’s really what led us to come back.”

Although Kimie Joe took art classes in college, her professional background is in chemical engineering, which led to her working for the International Space Station program. However, she was drawing and making art on her own even as a child.

Her painting seems to have begun in earnest when the kids were small and “I wanted to leave them something that was really nice. So I started painting them, making portraits of them, playing at the beach… They were so little and I wanted to capture that, and so I created it for myself. And then friends, other parents or moms, would come over and see the work and then ask or commission me for paintings of their children. And that’s really how I started to sell my artwork.”

Regarding her influences, the first person Kimie Joe mentions is her mother. And? “Early on it was definitely Mary Cassatt with her tender paintings of motherhood and children. That really resonated with me, being a new mom.” And then Kimie Joe remembers to add Hibari Misora, the popular Japanese singer, perhaps best known for “Like The Flow Of The River” (“Kawa no nagare no yō ni”), who died shortly after recording this song at age 52. Tears come to Kimie Joe’s eyes when she speaks of her, and I felt guilty for eliciting such a sensitive memory, albeit one that helps us to understand Kimie Joe’s own artistic sensibilities. Her mother (originally from Hiroshima before moving to Tokyo) really loved the song. As a child, Kimie Joe visited Japan to see relatives, and even worked there briefly when she was in her 20s.

Peninsula residents Paul Blieden and Karen Doyle at the opening of “Game On.” Paul’s photo is on top, Karen’s underneath. Photo by Bondo Wyszpolski

The doors have opened

Now, we shouldn’t imagine that Kimie Joe is only painting kids at the seashore or the children of other parents. If you think that then her more recent art, influenced in part by her work as an environmental engineer, will come as a surprise, because not only is it abstract, but pieces like “Twists and Turns” are mixed media, incorporating handwoven strips of paper taken from National Geographic magazines and bits of ceramic tile (she started in on pottery four years ago) and thick oil paints applied with a palette knife. These pictures address larger, more global concerns.

But how did Kimie Joe segue back into the local art scene after having been away for several years?

Nicole Carmody, of Rancho Palos Verdes, and “Deep Sea Swimming,” just above her head, at the opening of “Game On.” Photo by Bondo Wyszpolski

“When I moved back to the South Bay in 2019, Layla Hiramatsu of Cherry Co in Redondo Beach gave me an opportunity to put on a solo show, which was an incredibly rewarding experience. Kevin at Easy Reader then stepped in and offered me additional opportunities to showcase my work, as well as the work of other artists such as Thomas Redfield, Bernard Fallon, and Steve Mirich. These chances to display art and host art events, and to work with these experienced artists, were instrumental in building my confidence and honing my skills in organizing exhibitions. From these activities I also felt there was a greater opportunity to help artists bring their creativity and work to our community, which I became passionate about addressing. So, when this gallery space became available, it seemed like the perfect time and natural progression of my journey.”

“Jubilee” didn’t have a specific theme, but the shows since then have revolved around certain specific topics (“Flowers” and “Game On”). “I Love L.A.” and its follow-up, “Summer Fun,” will continue in that vein. But afterwards?

She’s still trying to figure it out, Kimie Joe says, “like the fluctuations in the seasons and when people are here, trying to keep it exciting for the local people as well as attractive to people who are just visiting the area.”

Most galleries have a certain personality, based on what the owner and/or curator is willing to show, and this helps it to stand out and apart from other galleries. For example, ShockBoxx Projects on Cypress Avenue in Hermosa Beach always keeps its viewers on their toes — owner Michael Collins isn’t afraid to be a little edgy, whereas Resin, its neighbor, often highlights the accomplishments of local youth, thus encouraging them at the start of what could turn into a full-blown artistic career.

Kimie Joe has ideas as well that would confer some distinction upon Gallery of Hermosa, and right now that includes a Sunday Sketch in which people can hone their skills by drawing a live model. She’s also scheduled a workshop and gallery show with Robert Burridge from Oct. 28 through Nov. 1. Lectures, guest speakers, prose and poetry readings and even music events could add some ambient depth and color to what’s already on the walls.

Gallery of Hermosa owner Kimie Joe, with Jess Vanzura and Jenny Kim, at the “Game On” opening gala. Photo by Bondo Wyszpolski

The biggest challenge for any gallery is to ensure that, when a show comes down, some of the work goes into the homes of buyers and not back into the studios of the artists. “I think that is the ultimate challenge,” Kimie Joe says, “to balance the artists and the patrons and the artwork that we have.” And, of course, the public needs to return over and over. So far, the receptions have been packed. That’s wonderful, sure, as long as some folks also open up their pocketbooks.

(Of note, for your Peninsula friends, since many artists from Palos Verdes and Rolling Hills are routinely among those whose works are shown: They are invited, along with the rest of us, to check out the venue on Friday, July 26, from 5 to 8 p.m., when Kimie Joe will be hosting a Gallery Social.)

Gallery of Hermosa is located at 138 Pier Ave, Hermosa Beach. The next show, “I Love L.A.,” juried by arts writer Genie Davis, opens with a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, July 5, which runs through July 28. To learn more, call (323) 364-6606 or visit PEN


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