The Gainesville Sun Article (1)
The Buzz About héctor
By: Evan Starkman
Just as Jackson Pollock gravitated toward dealers of fine wine and spirits, many locals with a keen eye for art are drawn to héctor Framing & Gallery. The Gainesville community has been buzzing about this inconspicuous, eclectic ornament den along West University Avenue.
"Most shops, you go in twice a year and remember seeing the same things on the wall," says Nick DeCarlis, owner of Deca Design. "héctor is practically a museum; every time I go in I see new and different art."
"The gallery has such depth," says Gainesville Realtor and art lover Pat Nichelson. "It isn't full of pictures that the average person thinks will look pretty on their walls."
Before images of messy crayon abstractions, mocking blank canvases or the possessed insect sculptures from "Beetle Juice" cross your mind, rest assured that most of the gallery's art, patrons contend, can be appreciated without an advanced degree in post-modern irony. The gallery is powered by some of this region's most beloved artists and is run by a framing expert who thrives on helping visitors wrap their heads around modern art.
Walking in, you are immediately drawn to a kaleidoscope of framed oils, pastels, photographs and other original creations hanging on the far wall. The inventory gets changed up every two to three weeks. Earlier this month, portraits of a graying folkie strumming guitar and a shrieking Lovecraftian monster shared the same wall space.
Artists displaying -- and selling -- work in his gallery include Jim Harrison, Hiram Williams, Lennie Kesl, John Tilton, Melanie Peter, Jerry Cutler, Julissa Mora, Elizabeth Barakah Hodges, David Crown and Fred Ressler.
"One of Héctor's real gifts to the community," says painter Eleanor Blair, "is how well it supports local art, in addition to bringing new and exciting work from all over the place."
The héctor buzz has been building and the venue has become a popular staple along the monthly downtown Art Walk, which returns to downtown tonight.
. Patrons attribute the gallery's offbeat smorgasbord to its owner and namesake, Héctor Puig, whose taste as a frame designer is rivaled only by his comprehensive knowledge of modern art, customers say.
"He probably knows more about art than anybody around Gainesville who's not a professor at the university," DeCarlis says. "People respect his opinion very highly in terms of who's good, who's up and coming and what artists you should be following."
Approachable, soft-spoken and resembling a long-haired Joe Mantegna, Puig makes a point to chat and consult with visitors. He relishes in art conversations, answering everything from self-professed "stupid questions" to detail-rich inquiries.
"The environment that I like to provide is one of feeling welcome," he says. "I want people to feel like they can come in and see what real art is about, as supposed to feeling like it's something they can't understand."
The 37-year-old has spent more than half his life learning about modern art. Born in Puerto Rico, Puig was a catcher, a baseball prodigy who relocated to Gainesville at age 13 after his father wanted him to play ball in the United States.
During High school, though, Puig's budding interest in art overtook any Major League aspirations. He studied art under a scholarship at Santa Fe Community College, and then concentrated on Commercial/High Fashion photography at the Southeast Center for Photographic Studies in Daytona Beach.
Though his own artwork remains photography, Puig found himself most intrigued by the expressionistic possibilities of a career in art presentation. He soon found his niche as a custom framer in Gainesville, where, over the next 15 years, he would discover his true calling as an art collector.
"I met a lot of great artists though framing," he says, "and it became apparent to me that my passion was just as strong for the artwork as it was for the idea of being able to present it properly."
Obtaining a space to showcase the artists he admires, Puig says, was the realization of a dream. And as a collector, of 19 years, many of his extraordinary discoveries can be found in the gallery.
"I see things in there I don't see anywhere else," says Norman Jensen, a noted Gainesville painter whose work is featured in the gallery. "(Puig) has a very good eye for art, and he'll spot something that's a little different but has real quality."
Santos figures -- intricately carved wooden saints that Puig procured in Puerto Rico -- are such exotic items.
Héctor says his most recent trip to Puerto Rico was unforgettable. He went to meet Roberto Rivera, one of the last great Santos carvers in the renowned Rivera family; upon arriving, though, he received word that Roberto had died a few days earlier.
Shocked, he visited the family to pay his condolences and met brother Ernesto Rivera, also a known santos carver.
"I sat down with his family, and we shared wonderful time," Puig recalls. "It such an honor to meet this man -- very down to earth, very humble person. And yet here he is, the great-grandson of Francisco Rivera, one of the best known carvers in Puerto Rico." As a parting gift, Ernesto gave Puig a santos piece he'd made in the 1990s; Puig was so awed by the richness of the Rivera family's craft that he contracted Ernesto to make his four more.
These days, a husband and father of three, Héctor says he enjoys helping new collectors add to their trove one piece at a time, like he did back in 1987.
"It's very fulfilling to share the thrill with them," he says.
This, says painter Anne Gilroy, is the source of that héctor buzz.
"Suppose you love art but you're just not sure how to jump in," she says. "His role as an informed and passionate collector and dealer offers something to all the people out there who are interested. If you want to talk art and meet the artists in this region, héctor is where you go."
framing for posters, diplomas, mirrors, family photos and glass replacement
To Contact Héctor Puig via Email: email@example.com
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