"The Gallery is Also Art"
by Judy Harper
Pass by Exposures International Gallery and you are certain to notice the impressive display of monumental sculpture, from Bill Worrell's "Maker of Peace" to a majestic bronze eagle by Chester Fields. The grand sculpture garden certainly catches the eye, enticing many visitors to detour off the highway and enjoy the art.
Guests find ample parking behind the gallery, where they are drawn to meandering art-lined pathways that invite them to pause and reflect. It's a peaceful paradise, with places to sit and little surprises along the way, such as kinetic sculpture that shrink and expand in gentle breeze, and pulsate with stronger wind.
As impressive as the garden area is, once visitors step inside, it's like going from black and white to an energy-charged, over-the-rainbow OZ. To the right, striking bronze sculpture and fountains that are a provocative blend of modern, primitive, Southwest and Asian influences, bring the space to life. To the right, a long entry ramp reveals color-splashed paintings and photography of the Southwest. Down the staircase are even more artistic wonders, from unique designs in jewelry and glass sculpture, to mixed-media works that hang from floating walls. Which way to go? What lies ahead? With twists and turns that lead to private viewing rooms and niches filled with unique artworks, the gallery unveils itself slowly. The space is cozy and homey, a perfect reflection of its devoted owners.
Marty and Diane Herman have led a rich life. Born and raised in New York City, Marty studied photographic art before his life was interrupted by the Vietnam War, where he was a combat photographer and also served with the photo intelligence branch of the U.S. Air Force.
Post-Vietnam, Marty worked in New York and Hollywood, with jobs that included motion picture cameraman documenting the Apollo Space Program's landing on the moon. He went on to pursue a very successful business / marketing career, retiring at age 35.
Diane hails from Virginia, where she studied art and science in college. Her father was a dentist - "in fact he just retired last year at 90" - and Diane remembers helping in the dental office as a child. She eventually moved to California, and was introduced to Marty while working as a dental hygienist. He had come in for a cleaning and, smitten by Diane, signed up for a plaque control program that ensured frequent return visits.
"I asked her to go bike riding, to dinner, and somewhere else," Marty reminisced, his smile broadening. "After the third time, she told me I was really nice but that she didn't date patients. Not one to take no for an answer, I invited the whole office to go sailing, and got to schmoose with her then. The dentist later told Diane that if she ever made an exception for her dating policy, I was the one she should see."
Diane finally gave in, and never looked back. The couple was married in 1983 in a rain forest in Hawaii, and honeymooned aboard their private yacht, traveling the world for nearly five years. This trip-of-a-lifetime taught them the greatest lessons of life, and eventually brought them to Sedona in the early '90s.
"We learned that work was a privilege," Diane stated. "Everyone is so focused on vacation and retirement, but this trip taught us that none of those things are gratifying. We could have continued sailing, but we wanted to do something with purpose, something that was rewarding to us and the people around us."
"When we were actually sailing, with the engine off and the wind blowing, it was wonderful," added Marty. "But the boat was work, very physical. We faced storms, pirating, and the engine room was the room from hell for a guy from Brooklyn who didn't know how to hold a screwdriver before we left."
"When you are out there with the storms and the elements and you don't know if you're going to make it through, you realize what's important real fast," Diane continued. "It really puts things into perspective, and brought us together as one. We learned about courage, patience, discipline, compassion - that's why we can be together 24 hours a day and still appreciate each other."
After settling in Sedona, the Hermans established Exposures International Gallery. They expanded several times, before taking over what was known as The Oak Creek Owl restaurant. Representing 100 artists from throughout the world, more that 2,000 works exhibited and a prestigious 20,000-square-foot art display, this is the largest gallery in Arizona, and perhaps the most unique.
There is something for everyone, including whimsical clay animals by Michael Colpitts, fine glasswork by Dino Rosin, geometric vessels by Robert Myers, Italian marble sculpture by Daniel Newman, lifelike animal bronzes by Diana Simpson, watercolors by Adin Shade, fine art jewelry by Barbara Westwood, mixed-media works by Thom Wheeler and representational bronzes by Susanne Vertel.
Bronze and ceramic sculpture, paintings, and jewelry created by Gene and Rebecca Tobey also command attention, coupled with bronze works by their son, Joshua. The Texas artists are known for their stunning, almost abstract interpretations of animals.
The work of Bill Worrell dominates another room. An Art professor and anthropologist, Worrell's work is inspired by ancient pictographs of the bygone people of the Lower Pecos River and the Middle Rio Grande, on the border of what is now Texas and Mexico. Worrell often writes poetry as he sculpts and paints, offering a glimpse into the artistic mind at work.
Marty is represented as well, signing his fine-art photography, "Martii." His works showcase Mother Nature at her best with scenes that include Cathedral Rock, Teardrop Arch and a Monsoon Sunset. Mild-mannered and modest, Marty points out that "these are God's images, not mine."
With all this art to enjoy, Marty and Diane say that choosing that perfect work is easy. "Art in general makes people feel good," Marty explained. "When you find that special piece, you should not live without it - if it fits within your budget. We love to receive a piece from an artist, place it in the gallery and then see how it moves someone. There is so much joy in being part of that whole cycle, and I am privileged to be part of that with Diane.
The couple points to a recent purchase as among their fondest memories. Always ready with a friendly handshake, hug and hearty smile, the Hermans were approached by a couple anxious to share their story. "It was their anniversary and they came in to purchase a Bill Worrell sculpture," Marty stated. "They told us that several years ago they had come to Arizona, penniless and homeless, but they walked into our gallery. They were so impressed that they decided to stay in Arizona, vowing that one day they would return to buy a Worrell sculpture. He gave me his American Express platinum card and said he had Exposures International Gallery to thank. That made everything worth it for Diane and me; it was a real gift to meet them."
Although they are private people who enjoy a relatively quiet life, Marty and Diane are beacons in the community. Marty serves as vice chairman of the Sedona Art & Culture Commission, and the couple recently donated $10,000 to the city for an events marquee. Coins tossed into a gallery fountain benefit Meals on Wheels, as do proceeds from poster sales of Marty's photography.
Personable, friendly and accommodating, Marty and Diane are understated in talking about their obvious achievements. Yet one doesn't have to look far to find those who are eager to sing their praises.
"There aren't enough superlatives to say how we feel about Marty and Diane," said Rebecca Tobey of Texas. "They seem to have an ability to enhance our work, making it look extraordinary in an elegant yet functional setting. It's one of the most beautiful galleries I've seen. I feel like Diane is my sister, Marty is my brother - they're my best friends. It's a relationship full of respect, but also warmth, caring and love."
"They are the most delightful people to work with, and very hands-on," echoed Susanne Vertel of Santa Fe. There's a professionalism about the gallery, and their presentation of each artist is done in a very aesthetic and comfortable way. They are extremely smart and totally trustworthy."
"How high can I sing their praises?" asked Texan B.J. Worrell Del Monte, sister of Bill Worrell. "As far as I'm concerned, it's not only the most beautiful gallery in the Southwest, but probably the whole United States."
The couple accepts the many compliments with grace and heartfelt satisfaction. And showing no signs of another retirement, Marty hints that further expansion plans may be on the drawing board. "The gallery is our art - it's a work in progress, and we haven't signed it yet."
As for sailing, well, those days are over. "We moved to the desert - that should tell you something," Marty quipped. "We thought we would travel a lot when we moved here but we absolutely love Sedona and seldom go anywhere else, but for us, the grass is greener right here, right now, and we couldn't be happier."
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