Arizona Daily Star
Serving up a changeable feast
If pets can resemble their owners, so can shops. Sylvia Levine-Buchanan is one of those people who make you smile, and her gallery and gift shop have the same effect.
With its in-your-face decor and eye-catching items, it's colorful, fun, dramatic and bold, just like its owner.
Levine-Buchanan traded in life as a Foothills homemaker to buy the Paloma Art Gallery a little more than a year ago.
She had always loved to shop there, and when former owner Melinda Curtin decided to sell, Levine-Buchanan jumped at the chance.
Having spent years bringing up four children - two of her own and two stepchildren - she figured it was time for a fifth, this one made of bricks and mortar. The gallery is her new baby, and there never was a prouder mom.
Because of the gallery's longtime and devoted following, Levine-Buchanan decided it would be wise to keep the original art on the walls, along with custom framing and gifts. But she wanted to bring the prices down to appeal to those looking for "a $20 gift for a girlfriend or a larger item for a wedding."
If you're shopping for a girlfriend with a wicked sense of humor, head straight for the display of satirical religious candles ($12).
They're a twist on the saintly candles and holders carried in so many stores here. Among them: "Our Lady of Perpetual Housekeeping" and "Our Lady of Abundant Chocolate," each with a giggle-inducing text to read as you light them and begin your worship.
Levine-Buchanan likes to support local artists, such as Ashley Chamberlain, who does vividly painted furniture, and Monica Dalkin, who crafts ceramic "laundry art." There are miniature painted sets of clothes, some of them on hangers, designed to adorn your walls.
Among Levine-Buchanan's personal favorites are sculptor Fred Conlon, who turns World War II army helmets into comical turtles and bugs.
Cindy Juliano, who also works here, is quite the artist herself. For $165 and up, she'll copy a favorite pet photo and turn it into a Warhol-like painting.
And always popular, says Levine-Buchanan, are the store's customized vintage signs. They'll let you flick through a catalogue and choose a poster to adapt for $76 and up, adding a family name or favorite city to suit the occasion.
She's sold customized bar signs to women for their husband's birthdays, and surfer tourist signs to people with second homes in Rocky Point.
Levine-Buchanan isn't a person to sit still, and neither is her business. She likes to shake things up every few months, mostly because she gets bored with the same merchandise. And that goes for the decor, too.
On a recent visit, she and Juliano were found pondering the Barrio-style colors on the walls, which go from bright red to gold to blue. "I think we're going to bring in some purple," said Levine-Buchanan. "Because I love purple."
-- Reprint from Arizona Daily Star Caliente Section, June 1, 2006, written by Gillian Drummond
Tucson Art Gallery