There’s always wonder in the window

Gallery Fraga celebrates a half-decade of artists, dogs and M&Ms.

Two dogs usually sit in the doorway at 166 Winslow Way.

Poco, the gallery guard dog, will unfailingly break his pose to greet a visitor. The other stays put.

“You see these little kids walk by, and they’ll do a double-take,” Kathe Fraga said. “And then their parents say, ‘which one is real?’ And then they feel welcomed to come in.”

Through roughly 55 month-long-ish shows – Jeff Fraga has to stop and do some quick calculations to get the estimate – Kathe’s shaggy white pooch sculptures and a huge dish of M&Ms have come to embody Gallery Fraga’s colorful and inviting sensibility.

The Fragas celebrate their fifth anniversary this month, fittingly, with a group showing of largely local work on the theme of “5.”

Mark Norrander presents a set of five monotypes featuring anthropomorphized starfish.

With etched metal and paper and the focal point of a hand, Richard Stine’s “Five Prayers for the Liberation of the Good Dog’s Soul” plays with the shadowbox form. And Susan Croy Roth’s “Northwest Series” shows a progression of seasonal snapshots by way of five tiny, rich pastels.

Other artists, most of whom the Fragas have known and shown for years, include Max Grover, Alicia LaChance, Beverly Gimlin, Cameron Snow, Michael Pontieri, Leigh Knowles Metteer, Dan Fraga, Anna Neff, Bill Kooreman, Terry Samilson, Bill Baran-Mickle and Lone Hansen, each of whom came up with a radically different take on the idea.

“That was kind of the fun of the show – throw that theme out there and see what people come up with,” Kathe said.

The Fragas toyed with moving to the island for a long time before finding the perfect old house and settling in with their three kids nine years ago.

Both came from creative advertising backgrounds and made their entry into the Bainbridge arts, crafts and commerce scene early on by hosting Christmas in the Country for a couple of years running.

Jeff also served on the board of Bainbridge Arts and Crafts, where Kathe showed her work before incorporating it into their own gallery space.

They credit good old fashioned connections, and a genuine sense of artistic good will around the island, with their ability to attract a regular rotation of colorful, beautiful and varied work.

“The longer you’re around, the more you can approach artists,” Jeff said. “Because they see that you’re a viable concern.”

When they opened the doors in 2002, the Fragas worked within one deep, narrow storefront with a cozy annex they call “the red room.”

But around this time last year, the space next door opened up, affording them not only physical breathing room and freer traffic flow, but also the opportunity to tweak their show strategy.

Now they have a reliable spot to hang work by artists they formally represent as well as the flexibility for more complete shows by individual artists.

“When you...give an artist a solo show, it offers the chance to explore what they’re thinking and feeling. It’s just a chance to see the artist’s voice,” Jeff said. “You can share that journey with the artist, no matter who it is.”

Gallery Fraga has found complementary success on its website, which visitors tend to use as an adjunct or follow-up tool to their visits.

People come into the gallery, see a piece they like, and then return to the website to gaze and percolate on a purchase before calling back to say, for instance, “My husband’s birthday is coming up, I’d like to buy that painting we saw the other day.”

As for Kathe’s work, for 10 years she focused on whimsical, highly textured and sometimes appliqued sculptures and paintings of dogs and cats – with a mouse show in the mix in 2005.

This show gave her the chance to try something different.

True, her sensibility comes through clearly in the five rich, vibrantly pastel-hued “French Wallpaper” paintings, whose distressed quality emerges from highly textured and worked-over canvases, subtle bars of contrasting color and bittersweet, memory-jogging drawn motifs, all suspended in a highly glossed varnish.

Kathe, a Navy child who lived all over the world, asks viewers to imagine walking down a Paris street to discover a fantastic old mansion with a wrecking ball poised out front. With your adorable Lulu Guinness purse in hand, you run inside to discover rooms full of gilt frames, age-old plaster and gorgeous vintage wallpaper that you frantically begin peeling away to salvage.

“It’s been somewhere, and maybe part of it’s been covered up,” she said. “And you move the armoire and say, ‘oh my God!”

Kathe’s inspirations include vintage embroidery, Japanese wood block prints and oriental carpets.

But she can’t resist a few baubles and bits, glitter and jewels, and “secret things.”

“I can’t get away from it,” she said. “Come on, a gal’s gotta have some bling.”

The holidays will bring more of Kathe’s pet portraits and small dogs, followed by a reprise in January of their successful 2006 “Crows” show.

While the Fragas plan to take a holiday break to maximize their time with family, Poco and the gang will open the doors by appointment.

“The M&Ms are always on,” Kathe said.


Five for Fraga

Gallery Fraga’s group show, on the theme of “5,” runs through Dec. 15. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday noon to 5 p.m., and by appointment only Dec. 16 through Jan. 4. Visit

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