WILMINGTON — Standing in the part of her gallery which she uses as a studio, Mary Wright remarked about the bright colors on the three paintings she was creating. In the recent past, she would not have squeezed such shades onto her palette.
"For a while I was in really, really dark colors," said Wright, the owner of Gallery Wright, which opened here in 2001 and sells her works as well as pieces from 17 other New England artists. "Now, I'm moving into a much brighter way of going."
The color change matches the gallery's trading environment. Business, according to Wright, has been very good at 103 West Main St., and second homeowners in the area were the best customers.
"Most of the paintings that people buy here, they take home and they wind up in their primary residence, in New York City, Connecticut or New Jersey," Wright said.
Art is not a sideline for Wright and the artists she represents. They earn a living through their work, and this sometimes requires the proprietor of Gallery Wright to patiently explain the price points to neophyte customers. Painting, she tells them, is usually a financial sacrifice for artists.
"I'll say, `Do you have snowmobiles? How much are those? How much were those new skis?'" Wright said. "And they start to understand the market pressures on painters. I'll talk about how much money you need a month in order to pay your mortgage."
Sixty paintings were recently displayed for sale inside Gallery Wright, priced from $100 to $7,000. Six of these works were created by Wright.
"There're often figures in my paintings, and there're often some sort of narrative, landscape, abstraction," she said. "That's the sea I sort of swim in."
Wright receives a fee when her gallery sells the work of other artists. Prices are non-negotiable. Wright feels quibbling and dickering would spoil the homey ambience inside Gallery Wright, which formerly was a residence.
"It's not like car shopping and I'm not a car salesman," she said.
Wright lives in Jacksonville and has a studio in her house, but it is smaller than her workspace in the shop. Gallery Wright is always open between Friday and Sunday, and frequently on Mondays and Thursdays. The owner will put down her palette and transact business whenever she's on the premises.
"I'm often here seven days a week, just because my studio is here and I can't stay away from my paintings," Wright said.
A native of Boston, she moved to the area in 1993 and served as a state teaching artist. She still tutors some private students, but operating Gallery Wright has been her full-time occupation for the last 18 years.
When the gallery opened in 2001, it was in a space on North Main Street in Wilmington. Floods caused by Tropical Storm Irene forced the relocation to the west side of town in 2011.
In addition to paintings, Gallery Wright sells etchings and linoleum-block prints. Wright noted that these were not mass-produced in an overseas factory.
"Each etching is hand-pulled," she said. "It's not like a gicl e print, which is a copy of a painting. These are actual works of art."
William Hays, a Brattleboro resident, creates artworks by carving intricate lines on blocks of linoleum, and then making prints of the houses, fields, forests and other depictions by feeding sheets of paper through a press.
"Every color that is on there is a new inking," Wright said, looking at one of Hays' creations, priced at $300. "This work will absolutely appreciate in value. He's probably one of the best linoleum block print makers functioning in the country today."
Wright does not consider the artworks sold in her gallery primarily as investments. Of all the art sold around the world, she said, relatively few pieces are purchased as stores of wealth, for millions of dollars, and locked away until they are sold again, hopefully at a profit.
The real worth of the art purveyed by Gallery Wright, according to its owner, cannot easily be assigned a monetary value.
"When you buy a painting, your relationship with the painting will far exceed the length, in time, of the artist's relationship with it," Wright said, looking at plein-air paintings by the artist Jackie Jones, displayed in a rear room of the gallery.
"You put that on your wall and you have it for years. Your mood changes. Your life changes," she said. "You develop this long-term relationship with it and it's a friend of sorts. It's almost a breathing thing."