Galleria Beretich: Rich wall color sets the tone in each room, providing a stunning showcase for the abundant art, ranging from early century Europe to Contemporary Claremont. In one room alone, the ceiling is Kelly Green, and the walls are Magenta, Apricot, Chartreuse, and Yellow. African masks, a Moroccan stained glass lamp, an India carving with birds and flowers, a large gold “B” from the Rose Bowl Swapmeet, and three skylights are just a few of the adornments in this room. And to bottom this all off, Mexican pavers provide the floor (“the pits to clean,” Ms. Beretich remarks). Many rooms have doors from Italy, 16th Century Portugal, and 17th Century Southern France. There are doors and windows from the Pepperdine Estate, and the windows upstairs are from the Hearst Castle’s female architect. There are Frank Lloyd Wright windows and stained glass by Jane Marquis. Extra rooms and a second floor, designed by Ms. Beretich, were added to the original home, and completed “with cheerful and happy blessings from the city of Claremont, who encouraged me and were supportive.”
Originally from Chicago, Ms. Beretich was always interested in art. When she completed her BA in art from University of Illinois in 1958, she told me, “my mother asked me if I was going to get a job or go to Graduate School. So I opted for Grad School.” This brought her to Claremont, where she attended Claremont Graduate University. She earned her MFA in sculpture in 1965, naming her sculpting teacher Albert Stewart and her painting teacher Jean Ames, as two of her many influences while attending CGU. As she begins to recall the many teachers and mentors, she says, “I owe so much to the Claremont Graduate University; I don’t want to forget to mention anyone.” She also studied in Paris a year and extensively in Italy.
When asked about her influences in art, Ms Beretich recalls her piano teacher, whose brother was one of the five men who discovered King Tut’s Tomb. She remembers the artifacts surrounding her while she learned her notes, for if she mis-played any, her teacher would rap her young knuckles with an ancient bronze lizard from the tomb!
One summer in the 60’s, Ms Beretich worked for Edward G Robinson, curating his collection. He taught her about collecting, and his own collection included works by Picasso, Monet, Renoir, and Degas. “It was people like Mr. Robinson and Françoise Gilot, Marion Pike, Sam Jaffe, and Dido Renoir whom I considered invaluable teachers and close friends, like so many of my teachers at the Graduate School,” recalls Ms. Beretich; “It is a privilege and an honor to have worked with so many artists and individuals and get to know them.” She continues to list many artists, with gratitude, who have guided her in some way, and with whom she has maintained close friendships.
In the early 70’s, she was director of Claremont’s “Gallery Eight”. Many of the artists represented in Gallery Eight were already established, and some were emerging artists at the time. Among them were Gerald Brommer, Rupert Deese, Phil Dyke, Françoise Gilot, Sam Maloof, Harrison MacIntosh, David Scott, Marion Pike, Millard Sheets, and James Strombotne, to name just a few. Ms. Beretich says that when Gallery Eight closed, “the artists all came home with me.”
And she means this literally – at least, their art came home with her. Ms. Beretich has developed a gallery of these artists’ works, mingled with works by such contemporary artists as Lucette Bourdin and Dee Marcellus Cole. Ms. Beretich explains that there are many talented new artists without galleries; she has made it a point to show newer artists and give them an opportunity and a leg-up. And very successfully: many of the artists she introduced to the public have found their ways into additional galleries and collectors’ homes, as a result of her introduction.
In this lifetime, Ms Beretich has produced bronzes of most of the cats that have lived with her, and some of these are now in the homes of such notables as Kathy Bates, Karl Maulden, and Jonas Salk. “In 1969, I brought Françoise Gilot to California and arranged her first exhibit in the Hatfield Gallery at the Ambassador Hotel, ” says Ms Beretich. Ms. Gilot stayed in Claremont where she returned frequently, and met and married Dr. Salk. Pointing to one of her cat bronzes, Ms Beretich told me, “Otis: first curator. When Otis was sick with leukemia, I asked Dr. Salk if he had a cure for it, and he said he hadn’t and was very sorry”. Later, when asked was it true Ms Beretich had gone to him to cure Otis, he replied, “yes; I have been consulted by kings and queens and emperors, but never for anyone’s cat.”
Perhaps the most impressive piece to be seen these days in Ms. Beretich’s home studio is her sculpture of a life size, 7-ft high horse, which is being cast in bronze. Ms. Beretich’s own abstract paintings and bronzes may be seen throughout her home. These include bronze portrait busts of notables such as College Presidents, and Founding Presidents of various businesses.
Ms. Beretich concludes, “Since I came here in 1962 in my twenties, I have had a close and familial relationship with the Colleges. Here, you are taken in, rather than feeling like just a number. When I brought people here, it was like introducing them to the family.”
Independent galleries are few and far between, and finding one that encourages young artists’ growth by introducing them and mingling them with established artists is an admirable and unusual treat. Ms Beretich has succeeded in following in the footsteps of those she feels such gratitude for, helping many artists find encouragement and opportunity, providing a community for circles of artists she has introduced to Claremont, entertained and supported, and sharing her experiences from her work and travels.