Thursday, April 28th might have been a little cool and rainy outside, but things were heating up at Agora Gallery with the opening reception for our two newest exhibitions: Solitary Spaces and the always incredible Illumination: An Exhibition of Fine Art Photography. With photographers, painters, and sculptors coming from around the world and sharing not only their works, but their lives, Gallery Director Angela Di Bello felt that the reception was the epitome of the Agora Gallery Founder, Miki Stiles’, original goal when starting the gallery back in 1984. “Her intention was to bring together artists from all over the world. To share and bring their art together,” said Angela.

The artists during the opening introduction

The artists during the opening introduction

Angela went on to talk about the importance of art, not only as a member of the art world but as a member of society: “You are in a sense, a soldier. You have the strength to do this. You bring joy to the world, and I want to say thank you for that.”

As art lovers, we want to get into the core of each artwork, reading statement after statement, critique after critique, and anything else that we can get our hands on. However, the best way to learn not only about an artwork, but also the artist and their journey is to have a one on one conversation with the artist and ask them all of the questions on the forefront of  your mind.

This reception, we had the chance to get to know a little bit more about two of our exhibiting artists, Hilde Gustava, and Artura Photo Art.


Hilde Gustava with her favorite piece of the exhibition, "The Great Journey"

Hilde Gustava with her favorite piece from her exhibition, “The Great Journey”

The most recognizable feature of Hilde Gustava‘s paintings (other than her fearless use of vibrant color) is the Pi symbol. Yes, that little symbol that many of us remember from high school or college math courses, the symbol that many of us tried to memorize as kids, the symbol that many know but few understand.The Pi symbol can be found in each of Gustava’s works, whether at the forefront or more abstractly covered by a layer of paint – it’s there.

But why the Pi symbol? Gustava says that it goes back to her days at university. She took a mathematics course and even though it was simply not for her, she was determined to understand that which she did not immediately comprehend. When her teacher asked why she decided to take the class when her main focus was her art, she replied “You think very differently than me as an artist, and I’m curious to know how your mind works.” He responded by guaranteeing that she would fail, but nonetheless accepted Gustava as his student. That professor was the first person to explain to Gustava that although many of the great professors and even machines use Pi in everyday computations, they still do not know the complete and true meaning. They have tried to figure out the very last decimal in Pi and have continued to fail.

That idea that something so abstract could still be so meaningful is what inspired Gustava to pursue her art to the fullest. Just like Pi, each of us is an unlimited and important part of our universe. As microcosmos, we might not completely understand ourselves or one another, but we are reflecting that universe within ourselves. Although we might not represent the universe in its entirety, together, we can connect and form something complete and full. “You are not limited, you have the unlimited ability to become your entire universe,” Gustava says.

And the purpose of her work? “I want to create meaning for people and put that sparkle back into their eye.”


Artura Photo Art (aka Tony Svensson) with "Althea"

Artura Photo Art (aka Tony Svensson) with “Althea”

In comparison to Hilde Gustava’s work which hopes to span an entire universe, photography Tony Svensson, professionally known as Artura Photo Art hopes to capture the small things that most people never take the time to stop and look at. His images are taken on everyday walks through nature, what he says is “the world’s largest gallery filled with beautiful pieces of art of all kinds.”

With hundreds of thousands, even millions, of photos in his database, Svensson had one subject that he kept going back to – his dog, Aliza. His first beginning in fine art photography began in 2007 around the same time that he got the young rottweiler. Not only did having Aliza by her side make Svensson feel happy and loved, but she was an inspiration for his photography and he credits her with allowing him to create beautiful things. Having accumulated over 40,000 photos of Aliza during their incredible 7 1/2 years together, Svensson claims that he could probably get into the Guinness Book of World Records!

Being diagnosed with cancer in December 2013, Aliza unfortunately passed away, which Svensson said was the worst moment in his entire life. The first thing he felt after her death was that his photographic career was over because every moment, every image, was so closely connected to their time together. “I haven’t taken any photos in the years since her passing, except for this scenes here,” Svensson says, referring to the series of work on display in the Illumination exhibition at Agora.

And ironically, it was Agora that pulled Svensson back towards his art. Just days before he planned to destroy all of his camera equipment and hard drives, Svensson was contacted by a gallery member who had seen his work and thought he would be a great fit for the photography exhibition. “When I got that first email, I felt that it was Aliza sending me a sign at the last minute. She wanted me to continue doing what I love – my photography. She wants me to finish what she and I started together, and she wants me to make her proud,” he says.

Now having had his first exhibition in New York and also winning an award for his photography in France, Svensson is starting a new adventure. He recently adopted a 14 year old dog from a shelter, who he believes will bring the happiness back into his life. He’s picking her up to bring her home as soon as he returns to Sweden from his NYC exhibition, and we couldn’t be happier for him. Stay tuned for the newest series from Artura Photo Art, featuring the newest member of his family, Doki.

If you want to see more about our most recent reception, be sure to check out Agora Gallery’s social media accounts, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

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