Unique performance art experience with an Irish pub theme opens in East Village

(L-R) Ruby Zarsky, Kim Dingle, Jamian Juliano-Villani, Michele Juliano-Villani (that would be Jamian’s mom)
Photo by Bob Krasner

“I’m not a gallerist,” insists the O’Flaherty’s gallery director, Jamian Juliano-Villani. “We’re just running an art space.” Granted, it’s not your run of the mill art space.

Located far from any art hub at 55 Avenue C, named in homage to Irish pubs and helmed by Juliano-Villani with artist Billy Grant and musician Ruby Zarsky, it’s viewed by the trio as more of an art project/performance piece with a limited shelf life. They’ve got a one-year lease, with no plans for renewing.

Juliano-Villani, a painter of renown herself, knows enough about the gallery scene that she doesn’t want to duplicate anyone else’s blueprint. “I want to do it differently,” she explains. “This whole thing is a surprise. It’s idea-based, it’s a collaboration with artists more than it’s a gallery.”

The opening night crowd thoughtfully spilled out onto the sidewalk, so as not to damage the artwork.Photo by Bob Krasner
Opening night at O’Flaherty’s . Installation by Kim DinglePhoto by Bob Krasner
Gallery director Jamian Juliano-Villani with her dad, Robbi Juliano-VillaniPhoto by Bob Krasner

“Everyone is sick of being stagnant,” she continues. “I want to see what we can get away with.” Most of the year is booked, but they’ve got two spots open, with the hopes of finding “the next Richard Prince.” If that’s you, she’s inviting you to send an email to complaints @ oflahertysnyc.com.

Grant, who worked as Juliano-Villani’s assistant for 8 years, has no experience working in a gallery and notes some major differences in this career.

“You have to think more in advance,” he admits. “Last minute processes just don’t work. It’s different than I thought it would be, but I’m happy with how it turned out. I’m hoping that by the next show I’ll know how I feel about this one.”

This one, the debut show at the gallery, is “Kim Dingle: Dingle Does O’Flaherty’s.” Described in the press release as a “70-year-old freak,” Dingle comes off as anything but at her opening on Sept. 8, but they may know her better than we do.

At any rate, the show is a combo of photos and sculpture that the artist brought with her from Los Angeles, where she is constantly working.

Jamian Juliano-Villani, Co-Director at O’Flaherty’s. The Smiths song “Hand in Glove” was playing at the time.Photo by Bob Krasner
Artist Kim Dingle makes an adjustmentPhoto by Bob Krasner
Kim Dingle with her art and vaccination card.Photo by Bob Krasner
Dingle’s art in unexpected places.Photo by Bob Krasner

“As an artist, it’s just what you do,” she muses. “I’m making art all the time. It’s your life. There’s no downtime for an artist.” Dingle is hesitant to say what she wants viewers to take away from her work, but she definitely doesn’t “want them to think too much. If anything is funny, I hope they will laugh out loud.”

Juliano-Villani contacted Dingle to do the first show and they “connected with humor ” and the fact that they both have a habit of watching unsolved mystery shows before they go to sleep, according to Dingle. She refers to the not-gallerist as a “crazy genius.”

Strong personalities can sometimes clash, though, as Zarsky found out in the days preceding the opening. Although Juliano-Villani sees the space as collaborative, she may have overstepped a bit. “Kim had installed part of the show,” Zarsky explained, “and Jamian spent one night re-arranging things. Kim came in the next day and, well, she was not happy.”

In order to restore balance and trust, Dingle had a security camera installed to make sure that Jamian was behaving when she wasn’t around.

Other than that, Zarsky has found the experience an “intense but interesting situation. It’s kind of crazy but I love it.”

Zarsky comes from a creative background that is pretty far from the art world, but her people skills have come in handy. She is half of the musical duo Sateen, whose classic pop-disco sound makes you wish that Larry Levan was still around to remix them.

“We had a European tour planned, ” she says, “but we had to cancel and take a step back. I think it’s healthy to get away from what you do sometimes and get inspired again.”

Her experience in the music business meant that she “always dealt with a ton of people on a professional level and I like it.”

If the opening crowd was any indication, she’ll be dealing with plenty of people. Luckily, she enjoys working with Billy and Jamian, although Juliano-Villani describes them as ” three cooks who all like different spices” and takes the occasional arguments as a sign that they are doing things right.

When asked about the philosophy of the project, Jamian lays it out: “We don’t make promises. We’re bored. We like it messy.”

“We want to have fun with it. And we want to make money,” adds Zarsky.

And, Juliano-Villani adds, “we want to be perceived as being very hot.”

KIM DINGLE: Dingle Does O’Flaherty’s runs through October 8. More info at oflahertysnyc.com.

Wall Smasher (2) by Kim Dingle installed at O’Flaherty’s gallery
Ruby Zarsky, Co-Director at O’Flaherty’s, in the ‘Cool People Room’ ( where else ?)
Co-Director Billy Grant in the ‘Cool People Room’
Opening night at O’Flaherty’s . Installation by Kim Dingle
Queenie (left ) and Ruby are the soon to be famous musical duo Sateen. In the ‘Cool People Room’, of course