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Arts and Entertainment Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022 2 weeks ago

Married couple bring love of art to area's newest gallery

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Art and music will take center stage at the brand new Midge Johnson Fine Art gallery, which opens Saturday, Jan. 15.
by: Spencer Fordin A+E Editor

There’s a funny paradox that occurs whenever an artist opens up their own gallery.

As the gallery walls begin to fill, their home decor becomes more desolate.

That’s the current predicament for Midge Johnson and Alan Wasserman, who will celebrate the opening of the area's newest art gallery on Saturday. It’s a labor of love for the married couple, who hope their new space will provide a perfect marriage of art and music.

“I have more of my art here in the gallery than anywhere else,” says Johnson, a former business executive-turned-abstract expressionist painter. “I have to say that this is where I want to be more than anywhere else. I love where we live, and we have a beautiful view, but I just can’t wait to get to the gallery, and I think it’s because I’m surrounded by the work.”

The gallery, which opens Saturday, Jan. 15, will function as a working space for both Johnson and Wasserman, who is a classical pianist and piano instructor.

The pair plans to hold events of both art and music, including some where Wasserman will play piano while Johnson makes live paintings inspired by the emotionality of the notes.

“Whatever I’m feeling will definitely show in the painting. But interestingly, the viewer also sees things in my paintings that I don’t see,” Johnson says. “I love that. I feel like it’s my subconscious in that painting. And when they see something that I don’t see, it’s their subconscious responding. It’s a Rorschach test, and it connects artists to the viewer.”

Wasserman, who will be playing the Sarasota Music Club in March, says he initially fell in love with being an educator and later switched gears to becoming a performer.

“I grew up as a kid who always wanted to be a piano teacher,” he says. “I always loved education, and I was influenced by my teachers. Then I decided to feel if you’re going to teach at the top level, you have to be out there and on the firing line under the lights performing.”

The seeds for his ultimate journey in music were later sown by working at the Dorothy Taubman Festival in New Jersey. Night after night, he’d see pianists who were so locked into their performance that they didn’t really want to engage in conversation with anyone.

And that’s when it clicked. Wasserman, gifted with gab, decided to begin incorporating speaking and teaching into his playing. Now he’s reached a point where he can play a moving piece, discuss the artist who made it and then lock right back in to play some more.

“We say we have left brain and right brain,” Johnson says. “Alan probably has a third brain.”

Alan Wasserman and Midge Johnson are excited to welcome the public to their gallery opening. (Courtesy photo)

Wasserman calls the concept a guided listening recital, and it’s evolved over time.

“I have one called 'Personalities in the Composer,'” he says. “In modern artists, we so know the personality of people like Lady Gaga. They’re stars. When you listen to Mozart, you can hear that he’s this fun, giggly guy. Beethoven was a serious craftsman adding moods to his music.”

The couple hopes to share their art and their knowledge with the public, and they want their space to feel like a home welcoming people to stop in and say hello. And while they’re there, they hope to rotate Johnson’s art onto the walls every few months.

That means Johnson doesn’t just have to strip her own decor; she has to be prolific. Luckily, she says, this is what she loves to do, and she won’t be starved for material anytime soon.

“Usually, I’m working on three things at the same time. I like to work in a series,” she says. “The type of work I do — abstract expressionist work — you really start out with an intention, a feeling or an emotion. You do think about your palette, what colors are you going to do and what size it’s going to be, but beyond that, I don’t think about anything. I don’t want realism to enter it. I want it to be a purely emotional painting. And therefore, as I apply the colors, I’m constantly making decisions as I go: Do I like this or not? Why don’t I like it? Cover it up. Put it back. Take it off.”

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