Jolene Lloyd, founder of Ojai contemporary art space Galerie102, passed away on January 7, after a prolonged illness. She was 54.
Housed in a craftsman-accented bungalow renovated by Lloyd, Galerie102 opened in March 2013 just two short, treelined blocks from Ojai's historic central cafe and boutique district. Its wood and glass exterior opened into a an airy white gallery space hosting monthly group and solo exhibitions of emerging, mid-career, and established artists. The roster included Allie Pohl, Aaron Farley, Britt Ehringer, and Ashley Macomber, occasioning works in painting, mixed media, sculpture, photography, and video.
Lloyd and her former husband moved to Ojai from Los Angeles in 2008, mainly seeking a more serene place to raise their young daughters. But its idyllic mountain valley setting also reminded Lloyd of her home state of Colorado, and she always felt at home there. "Ojai is a very spiritual, beautiful, and serene environment," she said in a 2014 interview with 805 Living magazine, and spoke often of her appreciation for the town's history as a destination for artists, writers, and creative thinkers of all kinds. Prior to opening the gallery, she had served as the chairwoman of the city's Historic Preservation Commission, a position she left to devote more time to the gallery, which she regularly described as "the ultimate labor of love."
Though a long-held dream, Lloyd's decision to open her gallery happened at the end of 2012, a short time after beginning a new round of intense medical treatments. "I'd take her to L.A. once a month for the treatments," says friend Dorcas Young, "and she'd always want to make a day of it -- shopping, gallery and museum hopping, fancy lunching. Then one day at the end of 2012, we were stuck in a horrible traffic jam, and she just looked at me and said, 'I'm going to open an art gallery.'"
By March of 2013, after about six months of construction and simultaneous program-building as well as the branding and public outreach with the able help of Helen Solomon, they opened the doors of Galerie102, and from that moment on for Lloyd it was all about the art, and the artists. Lloyd described her mission statement as being "dedicated to thought-provoking contemporary and conceptual art by emerging and mid-career level artists," and it was clear she was guided equally by intuition and passion. "I like to think of our artists as 'outsider/insider,'" she told 805 Living magazine, "which means, whether or not they've gone to art school (some have others haven't), they represent risk-takers who consistently think outside of the box and turn out cutting-edge art." Her program was diverse in style and medium, and she often met artists through serendipity as well as recommendations from friends and advisors.
Lloyd approached the job of curating as a creative act in itself. Allie Pohl, an L.A.-based artist who showed with Galerie102, recalls meeting Lloyd through the Internet, partly because they'd both lived in Denver and remained connected to the scene there. "She came over for a studio visit, which was the first time we met. I was so impressed with how decisive and clear she was with the pieces she wanted and the direction she wanted her gallery to go," Pohl says. Another L.A.-based artist, Britt Ehringer, met Lloyd through a mutual friend living in Ojai who thought they'd hit it off. "The next time she was in L.A.," recalls Ehringer, "we went out, played pool, drank tequila, and decided to go for it. We did two shows together, the second of which just closed in November, and believe me I was already looking forward to more. She was one of the most enthusiastic, supportive gallerists I've ever known."
Lloyd's story, in art world terms, is also a story of flouting conventional wisdom -- the kind that said Ojai wasn't ready for edgy, avant-garde fine art. Galerie102 brought in artists from outside of Ojai. In a small community that takes great pride in its local artists, choosing to focus on outsiders could have been risky. But she was undaunted. Ehringer remembers how Lloyd would love to say, "I'm going to show them this stuff, and they are going to like it. Let's crack this nut."
When she opened, there was exactly one other contemporary art gallery in town. Porch Gallery was a few blocks down the street, and had only been opened about a month when Lloyd began work on Galerie102. Co-owners Heather Stobo and Lisa Casoni remember when she came to introduce herself, thinking, "Two competing contemporary galleries, both run by women, in a very small town, operating within blocks of each other? What could possibly go wrong?! But Jolene navigated those waters with grace and charm."
Both art spaces soon came to enjoy the support and attendance of audiences, press, and collectors from both the Ojai community and the increasingly curious Southern California-based culturati who were already transforming the town in other ways. They were moving there in droves, and spawning a new kind of foodie and design scene that was redefining the profile of this once-sleepy rustic valley. "That gallery was her dream," says Young. "It gave purpose to her life, she was radiant -- and she was bloody good at it."
Lloyd is survived by her two daughters, Erin Snett, 15, and Elizabeth Snett, 17.