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Meet Cheryl Lee Scott of Chainlink Gallery

Today we’d like to introduce you to Cheryl Lee Scott.

Cheryl, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I opened the gallery on Friday, November 13, 2015 with an exhibition of my own work that I made on Instagram. Historically, I had not revealed myself to others as an artist (I make jewelry and had been a residential real estate agent for many years), but deep down I have always been a creative. The evening happened to coincide with the Paris bombings. Everyone I knew came out to support my new venture and the inter-connectedness of spirit that occurred was palpable. When times of crisis happen, being together in real life is what we as animals need most. The name, Chainlink, was derived from my love of links (many of my jewelry designs are knots or links), the way Frank Gehry uses chain link fence in his architecture (I find it to be a very beautiful material that is seemingly undervalued as being cheap or industrial, but it also signifies keeping something behind or in front of a space), and I wanted to link people together in a real live setting as I personally felt I was getting sucked into a virtual world where I was living the movie version of my own life through social media (making my art on Instagram, a mother of two young children, going through a divorce) but not truly connecting with people in a physical sense.

I found the space and then decided it had to be an art gallery. At first it was going to be my creative office and possibly a design store.

September 16, 2017, I hosted my tenth exhibition at Chainlink. After the initial opening I was referred to a Lithuanian artist who studied at Goldsmith’s in London, Gedvile Bunikyte, and collaborated with her on an exhibition of her metaphysical drawings and paintings in January 2016. One sculptural piece was a 30-foot long piece of paper that took her 2 months to complete. It fit perfectly in the space. The exhibition was stunning.

I continued to be approached by artists and would meet new people and the programming flowed naturally. Next up was a local painter, Lisa Reider, who created ‘The Womb’ at the gallery, a hive-like space where she slept for a week before her opening. Knowing her personal workspace was small, I suggested staying at the gallery to finish the pieces. People were invited to come and peek in or visit with the artist during this time and we also made an accompanying performance piece video.

My best friend is a very talented and successful artist, Melanie Pullen. In 2006 her show at Ace Gallery, Los Angeles, was the biggest exhibition of large-scale photography in the U.S. that year. I asked Melanie to help curate and name a show of two local female photographers who shoot exclusively in film, Mara Keeley Breene and Michele Miskovich Helnwein. Melanie and I went to dinner at Meal’s by Genet, the Jonathan Gold recommended Ethiopian restaurant next to the gallery (which has coincidentally been one of Melanie’s favorite restaurants in L.A. for years – when I told her where I leased the space she could not believe the luck!), and starting hashing out names.

Melanie looked at me at one point and said ‘why don’t you just call it pussy?” And then she took a napkin and drew “PU$$Y” on it. I knew immediately that we’d found the name. It was the perfect juxtaposition of subject versus actual work (most of the pieces were not overtly sexy), and Mara and Michele agreed. Sadly, there were originally two other artists on board, but they could not stomach the name and dropped out of the show. Come full-circle a year later and Venus Over Los Angeles curated a show with several very well-known, established female artists, including Marilyn Minter, called “Cunt.” So, in a way we were ahead of the curve (and before the pussy hats!). The exhibition was in June/July 2016.

In November 2016 we opened ‘Let’s Get Lost’ with works by Andrew Kuykendall and Langley Fox Hemingway. Andrew had approached me with this collaborative show that mixed his photography with Langley’s drawings. Included in the exhibition were five one-of-a-kind pieces, four of which were photographs of Langley (who is also a model, and great-granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway) shot by Andrew (fashion photographer), and drawn-on by Langley. The show ended in January with an amazing concert by NY-based band Collapsing Scenery.

The next exhibition launched a week later and included large-scale photographs by LA-based artist, filmmaker and musician, Tao Ruspoli. Imagery from Tao’s travels around the world revealed his keen focus and creative eye. Tao and I went through about a thousand images at his home in Joshua Tree (in an office in a Kinomad trailer no less) to cull the work and curate a cohesive show. That is one my favorite parts of the process.

Working with artists to see their work through their eyes and then activating my own visceral reactions to the pieces to create a show for the audience. Tao’s father was an Italian prince and he lives a very nomadic, creative life. I would have never met a lot of these people had I not opened a gallery.

March 2017 brought “Reading Room by Sandy White” to the space. Sandy and I met at the Bombay Beach Biennale last year – a new art festival in the desert on the Salton Sea.

Sandy is an observational drawer who studied at Bard College. He also designs virtual reality animations. At a studio visit in Santa Monica I was focused on one of his paintings of a bookshelf, it really struck me. Because of the political climate Sandy really wanted to create an impactful exhibition and he went on a personal journey, re-reading Fahrenheit 451, and came up with a theme of censorship for the show. We partnered with the National Coalition Against Censorship (the artist gave 10% of his proceeds from sales to the organization) and had a panel discussion with other prominent provocative artists. Sandy’s virtual reality component including a ‘Libraryman,’ keeper of the books, who was in a burning library. His VR piece is now part of a very established collection here in the U.S.

After Sandy we exhibited Paige Silverman, and artist who was referred to me by a friend who worked with the Haas Brothers, as Paige had interned with them. She is a sculptor who studied at RISD and this was her first solo show. I encouraged her to paint in the space as backdrops to her work and she arranged her pieces in a very methodical, yet organic pattern, throughout the gallery. Her line sculptures were like creatures speaking to us from an alternate dimension.

For the first year of programming, I only showed female artists. At Art Basel Miami in 2015, I was inspired by the exhibition ‘No Man’s Land’ at the prestigious Rubell Family Collection. As an homage to the talent of our male counterparts, I curated a show called ‘TEN’ with ten local male artists (two of them LGBTQ), which included local well-known illustrator and painter Gary Baseman, Simon Haas, Matt DiGiacomo (of Chrome Hearts), Aaron Wrinkle, Kolbe Roper, Matthew Adam Ross, Alic Daniel, Johnny Smith and Kevin Lasting.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Ha! Opening your own business is definitely exciting but all of the pressure and stress falls onto you. Whether or not an exhibition is successful can entail so many factors. I tell the artists to not have expectations, especially for sales, because it’s such an unknown. To be able to create art for art’s sake is the ideal, but unfortunately not the reality with a gallery as it is a business that must remain profitable in order to keep the doors open. This is the most challenging aspect of the business, along with the loneliness that can come from being a sole-proprietor. Sure, you get the glory, but you also endure the hardships.

The gallery has a wonderful following, we always have great turn-outs at openings and people love the energy and vibe of the space and the exhibitions. Finding that sweet-spot between commercial and cultural space is tough. Art, in my opinion, should be for everyone, not just those who can afford it – that part of the puzzle still remains unanswered to me but I want to find a way to bridge the gap so that I can continue to support new and emerging artists while also entertaining relationships with established ones.

Also, I opened the gallery within seven weeks of signing the lease and at the time I had a 3-year-old who got out of school at noon and an almost 5-year-old who needed to be picked up at 3pm, I did a lot of back and forth and juggling during those weeks to make it happen!

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Chainlink Gallery story. Tell us more about the business.
Chainlink is an art gallery that specializes in contemporary art. The brand is known for introducing emerging artists to the scene while also incorporating the work of established artists into the programming. I am proud of being able to discover artists that no one has ever heard of and help them connect with collectors and also connect people who have never collected art to works they can bring into their homes without feeling intimidated by the scene.

I personally email and text invitations to openings to people I know. I think that sets Chainlink apart in a way, the home-grown grass-roots efforts to bring people together in this diverse and spread-out city.

The space has a piece of my heart in it with my custom-designed neon sign, custom pink Hippo vinyl chair, Smeg fridge, Art Deco lights and vintage jail-cell door as a back gate. I wanted to add touches that made the space more than just a white cube, while still offering a clean slate to artists.

I have been very fortunate to find all of my artists through personal recommendations or word-of-mouth. One I did discover on Instagram. I go with my gut when it comes to working with people, and all-in-all that allows me to feel a sense of pride when collaborating with others. People love coming to the openings, they are genuinely excited to see the shows and meet new and old friends here. It’s very heart-warming, even when I am ready to collapse as the end of the night from working 20+ hour days to hang the show the week before!

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Ha! I really do believe in serendipity but I also know from first-hand experience that luck can come from hard-work. Every time I am very persistent and coming from a place of thoughtfulness things have worked out. I was able to get a very prestigious wine company to sponsor one of our events through an anecdotal email that had to do with my jail-cell door. I think because the message came from the heart it struck a chord with the brand and they were excited to partner with me.

I believe that if we over-think something it often will not go right because our expectations are too high. We really can make our own luck, but sometimes hard work alone is not enough and the stars to have to align, as they say, in order for the magic to happen. Everything coalesces at its own pace and accepting that is the key to happiness as a business owner. Trust me, I am not always zen about it, but I have learned a lot over the past few years and realize that there are some things just out of our control.

In summary, sometimes we have to ask for our wishes to be granted and that in turn might look like luck to the outside world, but without a genie, wishes usually are the prize of good old-fashioned hard work!

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Image Credit:
Morgan Palmer
Clive Wilkinson
Josh Franklin

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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