Great movement meets great color

Friday, September 21, 2007 at 2:32am

There’s no sign to announce the entrance of the Striped Door Gallery. That is, unless you know to take the two heavy, metal doors with their cocoa brown and asparagus green painted stripes literally.

The building’s doors were too weight-laden and cumbersome to support any signage, but they did lend themselves to a name.

“I said, Let’s paint them striped and call this Striped Door Gallery,” said Cheryl Strichik, a co-owner of the art space. “They are very colorful from the street and are a sign in its own right.”

For more than a decade, the Nashville transplant and her husband, Joe Strichik, ran their company, Educational Media Group, out of the second story of a stucco building on Lea Street and Second Avenue. When the photographer below them on the ground level closed his studio, the couple walked through the cavernous, white-walled space and was inspired to pursue another passion.

“I looked at my husband and I said, ‘Oh, this would be a beautiful gallery,’” Cheryl Strichik said. “This is our labor of love. We were influenced by the fact that we are collectors — we collect art — and we really liked a lot of the local and regional artists and wanted to open up a local venue for local artists who couldn’t get in galleries around town.”

In the four years since it opened, the Strichiks allowed word of mouth by the city’s top collectors to generate buzz for the gallery, but with the addition of an art director, Peggy Cooper, there is now more of a push to attract visitors beyond those actively tuned in to the local art community.

A new show, Express Yourself, opens Saturday and features the paintings of Rachel Kice of Nashville, and the return of Isabel Koopman of San Francisco with a new body of work. An artist reception will be held from 6 to 9 tonight to kick off the show, and guests can mingle with the two artists while sharing a glass of wine and hors d’oeuvres.

Strichik discovered the paintings of Koopman, and the woman quickly became one of her personal favorites and a gallery champion. The artist was born in Barcelona to a painter and art teacher father, a grandfather who was a miniaturist and an aunt who made images of saints for the Catholic Church. Koopman cut her teeth in the fashion industry in San Francisco before committing herself to painting. It was her bold use of color that initially struck Strichik with arrows of love.

“I liked her flat out because of her color. It’s amazing. It moves you. She speaks through her color,” Strichik said.

Kice, billed by Strichik as “a Nashville success story,” garnered a national reputation traveling with the band Muzik Mafia and painting on stage while the musicians performed. Her work is owned by international collectors including Bob Dole, Tim McGraw, Kid Rock and King Albert of Monaco.

“She’s just so exciting, and when you see her work a huge smile comes on your face and you are so excited,” Strichik said. “There’s great movement in her work and that’s why I thought we’d mix the great colors of [Koopman] with the great movement of [Kice].”

The exhibit’s name comes from a connection between the two women — the motivation behind their work.

“Once Peggy [Cooper] and I talked to the artists and found out more about them… we found that the two of them really express themselves through their art,” Strichik said. “I know that sounds trite, but they talked about how everything in their lives and all their emotions are expressed in their art — that’s why they paint.”

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