Art Deviation Gallery & Store opens in South Deerfield

  • JJ White in his Art Deviation Gallery & Store in the Tibetan Plaza in South Deerfield. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Artwork on display at Art Deviation Gallery & Store in the Tibetan Plaza in South Deerfield. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • JJ White’s piece called “Shell Shocked” in his Art Deviation Gallery & Store in the Tibetan Plaza in South Deerfield. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 2/8/2020 1:54:38 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — JJ White acknowledges that his new business is not for everyone, but he invites people to stop by and see for themselves.

White has opened Art Deviation Gallery & Store at 265 Greenfield Road in South Deerfield, next to Hillside Pizza in the Tibetan Plaza. It will specialize in erotica, political resistance and LGBTQ-focused art.

“I’m somebody who has taken on some issues when they weren’t particularly popular,” he said inside his roughly 1,000-square-foot space he has been prepping since October.

White explained erotica comes from the word eros (one of the words ancient Greeks used for love), pertaining to love, sexuality and desire.

“So, erotica is that realm of art that invites people to take an adventure … to explore sexuality for themselves, and the nude form has always been, since time began, a very prominent feature of art,” he said. “I wanted to create a space for not only myself and the artwork that I’ve been collecting and the artwork that I do, but also I wanted to create a space for those artists that are pushing boundaries. … This gallery will be an opportunity for those artists to display their work, and there’s probably not many other venues that artists would have to do that.”

White, 64, and his wife noticed the space available for rent when they visited Hillside Pizza for something to eat. He had been looking at some spots in Greenfield, but thought this location in South Deerfield was perfectly situated between the two towns. The space was most recently Deerfield’s International Market, owned by Sonam Rinchen, who owns the plaza with his wife, Tenzin. White spent months finding local sources for interior decorations, including a number of fixtures from the recently closed Wilson’s Department Store.

The gallery’s inaugural exhibit features artists from France, Canada, Romania and the United States, including some local artists. More exhibits are planned for the spring.

He has visited France each of the past three years and his sister-in-law, who lives there, introduced him to an artist he now features in his gallery, which also hosts various not-for-sale current and vintage erotica magazines and books that patrons can leaf through in the lounge area. Greeting cards and art prints are for sale.

Originally from St. Louis, White attended Boston College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree. In 1986, he “came out to the ‘Happy Valley’ and fell in love with the place and the people and the sense of community here.”

White was also the co-founder and CEO of The Progressive Group, based in Northampton and Amherst, which fought for progressive political candidates and causes. That political consciousness has not eroded.

“I think the gallery is also an opportunity to make political statements about the things that are going on in the country and speak to the historic divide between the nation,” he said.

One of White’s work is “Shell Shocked,” a transparent female mannequin containing empty shotgun shells as a statement about gun violence in the United States. Another work is a white shirt stained with “blood” as a commentary on abortion laws in several southern states.

Winter hours for the gallery are generally Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Gallery viewing is also by appointment. The gallery will be closed from Feb. 16 to March 5.

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