Leave it to an ex-rockabilly to take a word and embrace its archaic meaning, applying it into a thoroughly modern context. From the very beginning of it's conception, Kerry Hite wanted Wax Poetic to be a salon in every sense of the word. To most of its clientele a salon is where their hair, nail and skin care needs are met. But there is more than one reason why any self-respecting regular wouldn't dare show up to their next appointment without the latest in juicy gossip.
Back before the days of stainless silver blow dryers a salon was a room in a person's home where conversations were had. It was a place to receive guests, talk about art, theatre or film. No big surprise, since even before that the word "salon" was synonymous with "gallery" a place to display art.
Kerry had all of this in mind when she opened Wax Poetic in 2000. The then 1000 square foot space might have only had four styling chairs, but from the very beginning integrated a way to display the art of a close friend. Since then the space has tripled and Kerry continues to showcase Los Angeles artists, many of whom she has a personal relationship with.
"To me, the gallery is really a community service," Kerry says. And it shows. Wax Poetic's first show was a friend of hers, and its second was a client who attended the opening. The third was the husband of that client and from then on the salon has been continuously, and rather ingeniously, displaying art alongside providing all of the services any up and coming Hollywood starlet would expect from a Burbank beauty salon. The waiting room functions as a gallery, surrounding patrons with four walls of work of the current artist in resident. Or is it the gallery that functions as a waiting room?
Just as many people stop in just to check out the art as they do for their beauty needs.
And there is definitely overlap. Wax Poetic doubles the foot traffic of a traditional gallery, since it provides a full range of services for hair, skin, makeup and nails.
If the goal is to fix everything that is wrong with the modern gallery system, Kerry is almost naïve enough about that system to actually make it happen. Speaking with her, one gets the impression that she has intentionally kept herself only minimally informed of how a traditional gallery does business.
Her approach is not as a patron, but a fan of art herself. She understands that today's print buyers are tomorrow collectors. An almost ironic blend of business owner and art democratizer, she is insistent that art should not only be accessible to the rich.
At the same time, furthering the careers of each and every artist that grace the walls of her salon is her first priority, although she emphasizes that she is not a manager. Perhaps, more than anything, this is what makes Wax Poetic feel so organic, like that place in your home where you welcome the company of guests for idle conversation on a sunny afternoon, because Kerry does everything to assure that her salon is not only a place where customers would want to come to enjoy art, but a place where artists enjoy displaying it.
With its almost plain exterior, Wax Poetic all too well embraces that bit of hipster understatement one expects from the stretch of Magnolia Park just east of the Noho Arts District. But the seamless transition of space on the interior, from hair salon to gallery, from make up chair to book display, maps a refreshing change in the stuffy, singular interpretations of nomenclature we have become resigned to in our modern lexicon. When did the gallery become so serious, divorced of the human interaction it was once synonymous with? Sometime long before Kerry opened the doors of Wax Poetic, I'm sure. Thankfully, there are still some rockabillies like her around, willing to look back a little further, and take us all back to a time when things were done a little bit better.