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Lovegrove hosts gallery grand opening Oct. 9

By Staff | Sep 29, 2010

Renowned artist Leoma Lovegrove — wearing her signature Swarovski crystal spectacles and her hand-painted pink breast cancer awareness jacket — poses in front of a mural of The Beatles she painted live onstage for an event. Lovegrove’s gallery opening coincides with the birthday of John Lennon.

Wandering through Leoma Lovegrove’s new Sanibel gallery space is like roaming through a surreal fairytale dreamland — part glitter and whimsy, part neon discotech and part tropical garden — where the artist has allowed her crystal-studded, electric-hued creativity to bloom over every open surface.

Next Saturday, the new international headquarters of Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens will officially open, giving members of the public the opportunity to explore the fantastical island wonderland Lovegrove created.

“My mother was an artist — not a professional, but she was always making art and always very supportive of me being an artist. I think you’re born an artist — this is just what I am. I’ve always painted and I always knew I would go to college for art,” Lovegrove said.

So when she was accepted at the Ringling College of Art and Design, Lovegrove left her hometown of Chicago and headed south to Sarasota, Fla.

“When I saw my first palm tree, I knew I was home and I knew I would always want to live in Florida,” she said.

After she earned her degree, Lovegrove traveled north looking for work — and met her husband while she was in Indiana — but when her parents retired to Naples about 20 years ago, Lovegrove returned to Florida and eventually ended up in Matlacha where she established Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens.

Over a decade after she launched her professional artistic career in the small fishing village of Matlacha, Lovegrove realized she needed more space to display her larger than life works — and of course, as artists grow, so do their collections.

“I needed a larger area and this gallery was an opportunity that I just couldn’t say no to,” Lovegrove said.

The space was once home to the Art in the Treetops Gallery. The owners, Jason and Barbara Maughn, who both became too busy to care for the gallery the way they wanted to, offered Lovegrove the space and told her that if she didn’t take over the space, it was simply going to sit empty. But after talking it over with her husband, she decided to take it on.

“Now I have a place to show work I’ve never been able to show because no museum or gallery in this area is going to give me this much wall space to display my larger works.”

Lovegrove’s Matlacha gallery will remain, but to celebrate her new Sanibel space, Lovegrove is hosting a grand opening on Saturday, Oct. 9. But the date she selected for her opening celebration has special significance.

“I chose that Saturday because it’s John Lennon’s birthday. I am such a huge fan of his music and I have so many John Lennon pieces I’ve never shown,” Lovegrove said.

In addition to live entertainment and champagne, Lovegrove will offer her guests slice of celebratory birthday cake in honor of Lennon.

Like Lennon, who touched the world with his music in ways many musicians and artists could only dream of, Lovegrove ultimately hopes to leave her mark — which one might assume would be neon pink and streaked with glitter — on the history books.

“When you come up with something that nobody else is doing, that’s how you make the history books — like Robert Rauschenberg, who is such an inspiration for me.”

And what else inspires Lovegrove?

As it turns out, she finds creativity and inspiration all around her.

“I’m inspired everyday — by the beach, the sun waking up, the way the light hits the trees in the afternoon. In Florida, we’re really lucky because it’s always bright, so it’s really easy for me to be creative all the time. It’s a constantly inspiring environment,” Lovegrove said. “I’m also very inspired by the Impressionists, but I’ve taken what I’ve learned in my painting background and I’ve bumped it up a notch with colors — I always try to get brighter than bright. That’s my goal,” Lovegrove said. “But underneath all the glitter and Swarovski crystals, my art is still very classic.”

Lovegrove also finds abundant inspiration in her faith and often channels her spirituality into her creative works.

So what does the future of Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens hold?

“I’d like to rent the place out for events — it will be like having a cocktail party in a museum!” Lovegrove said, flourishing a paint-speckled hand at her masterpiece-laden walls.

Lovegrove also plans to continue her Matlacha-born souvenir coconut painting and her dedication to spreading breast cancer awareness.

“In October, I’m doing a lot of things with breast cancer awareness on the island. I do something every year, but this year it’s all Sanibel related,” she said.

In addition to painting and decorating the front room of her new gallery entirely in shades of pink, she will also offer guests the opportunity to memorialize loved ones who passed because of the disease on pink painted rocks and a collaborative wall art project. Lovegrove also created little works of art to commemorate how long breast cancer survivors have been cancer-free — electric pink numbers painted on tiny canvasses sprinkled with Swarovski crystals.

“This is a gallery, but I want to add something community-related. Art is what I do and this is just a way for me to share my talent with a cause. I can’t reach into my pocket and give everyone $50,000 — but my art can if people buy it,” Lovegrove said, noting that her motivational pink coconuts are free to anyone is currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

Profits from Lovegrove’s pink items go to Partners for Breast Cancer Care (www.PFBCC.org) in Fort Myers.

Lovegrove’s new space is the gallery that keeps on giving — and it’s not even open yet! As an added bonus, if any Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens patron purchases $1,000 or more worth of artwork at the gallery throughout the month of October, Lovegrove will pay the $100 renewal fee for the patron’s LeeWay transponder.

Lovegrove’s grand opening gala and birthday celebration will run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in her new gallery space located in the Treetops Center, 1101 Periwinkle Way.

To RSVP for the event, call 239-282-1244.

For more information on Leoma Lovegrove, go to www.LeomaLovegrove.com.