Pamplemousse Gallery Is New To The Scene But Making Waves

by | Apr 18, 2023 | ART, DESIGN & ILLUSTRATION, MUSEUM & GALLERY NEWS, PAINTING & SCULPTURE

After hosting pop-ups in various spaces, Richmond’s freshest new gallery has finally found a permanent space to call home. Mary Fleming and Kevin Sabo are the co-founders of Pamplemousse, an eclectic little gallery located delightfully off the beaten path. 

My friends and I actually thought we were lost until we finally spotted the intriguing front facade of the gallery. We loved this experience of feeling like we stumbled upon a beacon of light and creativity in an unexpected place, on a mission to see Pamplemousse’s latest show, “Brain Fog”. 

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Photo by James Glover @byjamesglover

We were greeted by a cheerful pink and black checkered floor, and a gallery space that seemed to spiral up into the sky. Kevin Sabo was extremely welcoming, and we chatted with him about his vision for the gallery. It became quickly apparent that Pamplemousse is a much-needed hub for Richmond artists and art lovers. Sabo believes strongly in finding gems, artists who are finding their footing in the art world and have a unique vision to share. 

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Flyer for Brain Fog

Brain Fog featured the work of Emma Barnes and Bradd Young, two incredibly talented artists whose work complemented each other immensely. After ooing and aahing at their multimedia pieces, I wanted to know more about what makes these artists tick. Here’s a look inside the minds of two visionaries you should definitely be following. 

Bradd Young traveled from New York for the show, and spent time in Richmond reconnecting with family who he hadn’t seen in years. His love of art began in middle school. “I was obsessed with cartoons and making my own characters. At the time, I asked my mom to buy me a bunch of air-drying clay, which sparked a love for sculpting and character design.” This spark lit a flame that illuminated Young’s way to studying art in college. 

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Bradd Young, photo by James Glover @byjamesglover

“The colleges that I applied to didn’t offer animation, so I sidestepped into Fine Arts and Graphic Design. During my time in school I experimented with a couple different styles, but inevitably ended up with one that resonated with my love of cartoons. I worked in watercolor illustration rooted more in surrealism for about 2 years before taking what I learned from drawing and transitioning into painting and sculpture.”

Young describes sculpture as his “first love”. He’s trying to reignite his passion for sculpting, which stems from the physicality of it. “You really feel like you are making something,” Young says. One of his pieces in the show is a sculpture titled “Scared Tree”, a title which he found amusing, connecting back with the whimsy of his childhood. This piece draws from nature imagery, which he finds to be a comforting motif in his work that extends back to his first creations as a child. 

“There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to work with Pamplemousse. I had been aware of Kevin and Mary before they opened up the gallery through social media, and I gravitated to both their styles.”

Being artists themselves, the owners of Pamplemousse made sure that Young’s wide array of talents were on display. “In the months leading up to the show, I had been working in a couple different mediums, so they wanted to showcase all the facets of my work.” 

There’s something special about a gallery curated by artists; it shows in the atmosphere of Pamplemousse and the work that is selected for display.  Young reflected, “I was very happy with the turnout of the show. Pamplemousse has a fun and inviting energy to it that only Kevin and Mary can provide and it showed on the faces of everyone that came.” I can attest to this. Everyone there was exhilarated and delighted the art and the warm buzz that is created when art lovers congregate in a contained space. 

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The work of Bradd Young, photo by James Glover @byjamesglover

“I think the scatterbrained nature of my work might have influenced Kevin and Mary naming the show Brain Fog,” Young playfully remarked. “Joking aside, I think the title was a great marriage of my work and the stunning work of Emma Barnes. We both have hazy elements in our pieces and our work seems like snapshots of the mind, just explored in our different aesthetics.” 

Emma Barnes also discovered her affinity for art at a young age. “My first experiences with painting I remember, started around fifth grade when my aunt gave me a subscription to a decorative country themed painting magazine. Each project outlined step by step how to paint birds, flowers, and fields with barns.”

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Photo of Emma Barnes alongside her work via her instagram

Her parents’ encouragement inspired Barnes to continue pursuing art. “My parents always encouragingly hung up whatever I made, and never viewed it as tacky or kitsch. They loved imagery of rural landscapes, especially their print of the painting The Angelus by Jean-François Millet, depicting a husband and wife praying over a desolate field. Since then, landscape has always played a role in my work.”

This sense of home and family holds true throughout Barnes’ current work. “Bridging the poetry between image, abstraction, landscape, photography, and the materiality of plaster is how I can sit with webs between nature and home. Even when my personal photographs become less recognizable in my process, I feel I am still constructing a sense of home. Painting has always shown me where I came from and where I want to go.”

Barnes’ art journey has taken her from VCU to Alfred University to USC, and her construction of home through her work has been a constant for her through the ebbs and flows of life. 

Reflecting on her mediums of choice, Barnes explained that “plaster carries a connotation of construction and building, tracing back as an early technology of paste taken from the earth and adhered to shelter for sturdy living quarters. Its function and history coat it in a context of home while its malleable qualities connect it to nature.” 

She further elaborated on how plaster helps her to create a sense of herself through art, “I am drawn to the material’s shift from liquid to solid because the transformation parallels cycles of nature as well as changes in my own personal growth. Imagery and motifs merge organically from personal photos of South Carolina’s landscape.” 

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The work of Emma Barnes

Every artist creates for a reason, an internal drive to derive meaning through creation. For Barnes, making art is a cathartic release. “The alchemy I witness in the materials gives me space to self-reflect on these images and relinquish a level of control.” Her whimsical, dreamlike art created a sense of peace in me too, as the viewer. 

On working with Pamplemousse, Barnes joined Young in giving a rave review. “Mary and Kevin are amazing,” she mused. “They worked hard to make sure I showed the work I was excited about.” 

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Mary and Kevin of Pamplemousse Gallery

This is everything to artists; the chemistry that Fleming and Sabo have fostered with artists and art lovers is truly unique. I hope this look into the inner worlds of Bradd Young and Emma Barnes has given you a taste of their artistic experiences and an example of the talent that can be found at Pamplemousse. This electric new gallery is exactly what the Richmond art scene has been yearning for.

The show has since changed, but you can check out Bradd (@young_salut) and Emma (@em.mstudio) on Instagram. I also highly recommend attending the open hours of the new show at Pamplemousse, Parlor Room! It features Josh Stover’s paintings and Dara Schuman’s ceramics. You can also follow Pamplemousse on Instagram, @pamplemousse_gallery, to keep up with their upcoming excitement! 

Cosima Pellis

Cosima Pellis

Cosima Pellis is a queer writer living in Richmond, Virginia with her sweet cat named Chai. She graduated from the University of Mary Washington in 2022, and has been pursuing her many interests since graduation, including dance, literature, and most of all, people. Cosima has published poetry in various journals and hopes to continue exploring life through writing about it.




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