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John and Pamela Henry, left, with Joan and Bill Chapin.

If you go

› What: Works … A Gallery

› Where: 1100 E. 16th St.

› Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; or by appointment

› Information: 305-794-8655 or www.worksagallery.com

 

Don't expect to just waltz into Works A Gallery, casually scan its art, then stroll back out.

Owner Pamela Henry doesn't play that way.

The sculptures, paintings, mixed-media works and photos in the gallery are her friends — or more precisely, they were created by her friends. Each piece has a story behind it: Who the artist is, where the person is from, where they were trained, how the art is made — basically, life stories.

Henry is a personal docent who has dined, drank and laughed with the artists, even to the point of having some of them live in her home, located in the former Nickajack Hosiery Mill on Southside, where she lives with her husband, world-renowned sculptor John Henry. They bought the building in 1999 and it now houses their funky-yet-luxurious home (dotted with art everywhere you look), her husband's machine shop, apartments for visiting artists, offices, event space and Works A Gallery.

In fact, Henry says selling the art — which ranges in price from $100 to five figures — is the least of her concerns.

"I'm not doing this as a mercenary activity to where I have to earn a living from this in order to survive," she says. "I own this building. I don't have to pay rent; I don't have to pay electric; if I don't sell a thing, it doesn't matter.

"The thing is, my joy is that all of these are my friends and I'm going to do the best thing I can for them."

A trip through the gallery proves that. Point to any piece and she instantly calls up a mini-biography from her memory banks.

This one is by Busser Howell, a New York artist who is totally blind. That one is from German artist Klaus Albert, who only speaks German and Russian and, the first time he tried American beer, spit it out and went to buy some "real" beer. The one over there is by Linda Howard, who's 85 years old and must have others do the actually building of her sculptures, but she's in charge of the designs, which she creates using mathematical principles.

While the gallery is open Tuesday through Thursday, the rest of the week it's by appointment only; Henry wants those who truly love art to come in, not just Looky Lous.

"I'm not going to decorate your couch," she says. "If you like that painting" — she points to a large abstract by Douglas Craft, one of John Henry's former professors at the Art Institute of Chicago — "it's got to fit in your place only if you have a wall, not because it matches the couch or doesn't match the couch. I don't want those conditions.

"It's all about the art, and that's what I want to tell people."

Although she's a former stockbroker, Henry is not a newcomer to the world of art. Not only has she been married to John Henry since 1984 and traveled the world with him to art shows, lectures, award ceremonies and installations of his pieces — some of which are gigantic — she also has run two art galleries in the Miami area, where she grew up. From 1994 to 2000, for instance, she was in charge of T.Curtsnoc (read it backwards), a fine arts gallery in which some of the artists now in Works also had exhibitions or displayed pieces of their art.

Works A Gallery's building also sits next to the newly opening Sculpture Fields in Montague Park, a project the Henrys had a major hand in developing and raising money to help build; John Henry is curator of the park and has a large piece, "Bette Davis Eyes," in it.

Because of that connection, several pieces in Works are from sculptors also in Sculpture Fields, including Heinz Aeschlimann, Carl Billingsley, Hanna Jubran, Gary Kulak and Peter Lundberg, who created the 100-ton, 60-foot-tall "Anchors," the first thing you see in the park and a tribute to the five servicemen who died on July 16, 2015 during the terrorist attack in Chattanooga.

In her heart, Henry says, she believes the art in your home should be a "storyline" about your life:Who you are, where you've been, what you've seen and learned. Art helps tell that tale, she says.

"We remember the Michelangelos of the world; we remember the Picassos of the world," she says. "Do you remember the gladiators back in the Roman times? Hell no. But you know about the artists because the artists bridged these dynasties."

Contact Shawn Ryan at sryan@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327.

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