Wonderful New Gallery in Dallas: The 4th Wall

The 4th Wall Gallery opened a few months ago but this is the first chance I've had to go to a show and blog about it. Owner Matthew Abramowitz tells me it's one of only a handful of galleries in the country which specialize solely in illustrative art.

It's located at 2925 Fairmount St. in this renovated, fantastic old Hollywood Regency style house (I'm sure there is a more accurate architectural name for it, if you know what it is leave a comment below. To leave comments, click on the blog post title and it'll take you to my site).

Inside it's breathtaking with all the original carved walnut millwork and parquet floors.

I love this random robot in the window.

At the gallery, I met Japanese-born Kinuko Y. Craft (shown with her painting of Joan of Arc), an illustrative artist whose work has been commissioned by The New York Times Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, Playboy, Time, National Geographic, Forbes, Sports Illustrated and graced book covers for Stephen King, Isaac Asimov, and Ray Bradbury. She's done dozens of children's books, and her paintings hang in the permanent collections at the National Portrait Gallery and the National Geographic Society. During the mid-1990s, she created a series of gorgeous posters for the Dallas Opera, which is where I first saw her work.

There's just no way that this face is 69 years old. But she's almost 70, and her mind and body and spirit are as lithe as any of the maidens she paints. I spent about three hours in the gallery with Kinuko and her husband Mahlon, below.

They married in 1965, while Kinuko was studying at the Art Institute of Chicago. They live in a rambling 1903 house in the middle of the woods outside Norfolk, Connecticut. It's where Kinuko has her workshop.

Mahlon is a graphic designer, photographer and printmaker. He escorts Kinuko on almost all her press interviews, which I think is charming and gallant. Sometimes the art press is less than gracious to illustrative painters, he says, and it takes an emotional toll on Kinuko to defend her art. She so seldom emerges from her workshop buried in the woods, and when she does, just being around people can be difficult. Kinuko is one of the finest illustrative artists of her generation, to be sure. She shouldn't have to defend herself as an artist.

I asked Kinuko what inspires her in her work: Classical music, heard on the iPod Mahlon gave her, and programmed with her favorite pieces. She loves Puccini and Verdi operas. Hates most new musicals, new operas, or anything that isn't conducive to creating the beautiful dreamlike state she needs for painting.

To be able to render figures with as much precision and beauty as she does, Kinuko practices her anatomical drawing skills by sketching live models at an artist friend's studio once a week. It's a practice she's held since the 1960s.

This is an Art Deco inspired painting commissioned for a Stagebill cover of the opera Valentino.

This was commissioned for the cover of a book.

This was commissioned for a story in Playboy.

Another book cover. Kinuko spends hours in her own garden in Connecticut watching nature, and she often includes things from the garden in her work, such as berries, salamanders, Jack-in-the-pulpits, and lilies seen at the bottom of this painting.

The show runs through November. Be sure to see it.