Maiani Gallery and the Art of Jane Seymour

February 20, 2010
Santa Barbara News-Press

Two weeks after gracing the red carpet on the opening night of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, actress Jane Seymour was back in the local spotlight.

Many know her as a Golden Globe winner for her role in the TV show “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” or numerous other works of stage and screen over the last 40 years. Lately, her newfound reputation as an artist is beginning to take precedence. Trumpeted as her “Montecito Debut,” friends and art connoisseurs flocked to Maiani Gallery to celebrate the opening of Ms. Seymour’s art exhibition.

The scene outside the new Coast Village Road gallery made it evident that this was no run-of-the-mill affair. In a light drizzle, a small crew of photographers awaited the artist’s arrival.

Stepping out of the first limousine was a woman dressed in an outfit fitting of African royalty. Ola Washington, an African studies professor at Ventura College, has been closely following Ms. Seymour’s career arc. “We’re so happy she’s vibrant right now,” she said. “I’ve been through hardships myself so I identify with her. She’s such a beautiful spirit.”

The artist made her entrance minutes later, emerging from a limousine in a red dress. She walked up a short red carpet leading to the gallery. Other local celebrities expected to attend included Jane Russell, Jonathan Winters and Dennis Franz.

Ms. Seymour only began painting in 1993 and has already earned acclaim for her work with oils, pastels, watercolors and bronze sculpture. A motif featuring “open hearts” has become her signature design and the inspiration for a line of jewelry for Kay Jewelers. She has been one of the official painters for the last three Olympic Games. Her piece, “Snowy Open Hearts II — Vancouver 2010 Compete with an Open Heart” was selected by the International Olympic Committee to represent U.S. athletes.

Half of one of the gallery walls was dedicated to working studies for the Vancouver design. Four small open heart sculptures were perched nearby.

One of the three brothers who run the gallery, Patrick Maiani, noticed the open hearts design in the Kay Jewelers TV commercials starring the actress. “I knew what she was doing,” he said. “She was creating this icon that was this whole new way of opening up your heart. It was a flash of inspiration for everybody.”

The gallery, which just opened in November, wanted to follow up a successful show featuring the work of Mr. Winters with another celebrity artist.

Mr. Maiani didn’t realize the depth of Ms. Seymour’s art until he spoke to her mentor, Tom Mielko.

“She’s going to be huge,” Mr. Maiani predicted. “She’s one of the biggest artists in America right now, so we’re stoked to have her.”

The room filled up so fast that some people were left waiting at the door in order not to violate fire codes. Guests mingled while sipping wine from Jettlyn Winery and munching on gourmet hors d’oeuvres from Grace Catering. People gazed intently at the paintings while discussing their merits. Many were vividly-colored floral studies which appeared almost three-dimensional. A portrait of the artist in her English garden offered a personal touch.

Mountainous security guards hovered in the wings while Ms. Seymour greeted one admirer after the other. She posed for hundreds of photographs, signed copies of her books and the backs of paintings which had been purchased.

“It’s wonderful,” Ms. Seymour told the News-Press. “I’m bumping into all kinds of friends who I knew when I used to live around the corner from here, including Tom Mielko who taught me how to paint. He hasn’t seen all this so he doesn’t know how I took off and what a gift he gave me, so it’s really been a lot of fun. A lot of my friends from here know I go away and do art shows all the time, but they’ve never actually seen one before and it’s nice because they know now what I do.”

As for Mr. Mielko, Ms. Seymour said she approached him at his booth at an event in Montecito and asked him if he would teach her how to watercolor. He pointed to a painting at the front of the room of a lone rowboat anchored off a Nantucket beach. It was the first one the two worked on together.

“I am so happy for her, you have no idea,” he exclaimed. “She was going through a very rough time in her life. This was, in a way, therapy for both her and I. We had so many laughs.” After Ms. Seymour moved to Malibu around 1997, the two remained in touch but haven’t seen each other in three years.

“This is great to see what she’s done,” he said. “She went in her own direction and it’s a testimony to her loving to paint. She loves to paint and it doesn’t make any difference what style. She just likes to explore different avenues and you can see in the results they’re just fabulous.”

Santa Barbara News Press Tom Mielko + Jane SeymourTom Mielko and Jane Seymour
at the Maiani Gallery reception
for the art of Jane Seymour

The actress-turned-painter Jane Seymour stands before some of her artwork Friday night at the opening of an exhibition of her work at the Maiani Gallery in Montecito.

Above, Maiani Gallery hosted a packed reception for the art of Jane Seymour. Patrons and fans anxious to meet and greet the star thronged the Montecito gallery Friday evening. Below, Ms. Seymour arrives at her red carpet reception. The event was dubbed her “Montecito Debut.”

Jane Seymour