L. Nowlin Gallery

A photographer takes her shot – at running a gallery

<i>Young Weaver, San Juan Atitàn, Guatemala</i>, by Lesley Nowlin
Young Weaver, San Juan Atitàn, Guatemala, by Lesley Nowlin

In the life of an artist, sometimes opportunities come only after months or even years of searching and scrounging for any possible leads. Then again, sometimes they fall into one's lap.

Austin photographer Lesley Nowlin says she didn't begin the year expecting to open her own gallery. "It wasn't me seeking out a gallery space. It was them offering it to me," she says.

In early March, local artist Wally Workman approached Nowlin about opening a gallery space in a few of the rooms adjacent to Workman's own gallery in the West End Gallery District, in a space that was previously the F8 Fine Art Gallery. Out of what seemed like the blue to Nowlin, she was faced with the choice to take up her own space in prime real estate or pass it up in favor of focusing on her own projects.

"At first I just wanted to do my own work," says Nowlin, 31. "Then I thought about it for half a day, and I thought: 'That's ridiculous. ... There's such a lack of photography galleries in Austin.'"

She accepted the offer and by mid-April was showing a visitor around the two rooms of Austin's newest photography gallery, opening Saturday, May 2, with a John Langmore exhibition, "Mexico." Plans are currently for the L. Nowlin Gallery to open a new show every other month, frequently showing Nowlin's own work but also featuring work by other local photographers.

Those active in Austin's art scene may note the name attached to the gallery. Lesley is the daughter of William and Bettye Nowlin, who are prominent arts philanthropists in Austin. The relationship is not one Lesley is seeking to exploit publicly, though. "I'd hope that people would care more about my work," she says with a shrug.

But she adds: "My parents encouraged me to be an artist and entrepreneur. That's really what they've shown me the last 31 years."

The L. Nowlin Gallery will concentrate on documentary photography: "Gritty, grainy, black-and-white, realistic, documentary, street photography," says Nowlin. "I don't want music; I don't want fashion." In her own work, Nowlin has developed a focus on black-and-white photography of other cultures, specifically those of Latin American countries. Plans are to feature a show later in the summer from Roberto Bear Guerra, another photographer who frequently works with Latin American subjects.

Nowlin hopes that other photographers working in a similar vein will approach her. "I really want people to come to me who fit that particular genre."

The timing may not have been her choice, but Nowlin says she's eager to make a go of it. "I look at this as more of an investment than a business," she says. "I look at this more as an experience than a profitable venture. I want to make a profit, but I don't know yet, to tell you the truth."

The grand opening reception for L. Nowlin Gallery, 1202 W. Sixth, will be held Saturday, May 2, 6-8pm. For more information, visit www.lnowlingallery.com (launching May 1).

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The shutter closes

Robert Faires, Feb. 4, 2011

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L. Nowlin Gallery, Lesley Nowlin, Austin photography, John Langmore

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