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Global perspective inspires gallery owner Timothy Tew

In 1986, Timothy Tew moved from Snellville to France. His year there would change his life.

Today, Tew owns his own art gallery in Buckhead, but the roots of his business go directly back to that year in France.

Tew had been fascinated with the country since he studied its language and culture at South Gwinnett High School. He particularly remembers learning about Impressionist artwork.

"I was so moved by their beauty and their stories - these people who were outsiders," Tew said. "I think I could relate to that because there was no inside track in Snellville to the arts."

After high school, he went on to study music and interior design in college, then got a job selling furniture. For three years, he lived with his parents, saving money for his year-long stay in France, where he planned to learn more about interior design.

But once he was in France, his interest in the visual arts took over. He found several artists whose work he wanted to

collect, but at first, he had only photographs of their work.

When Tew came back to Georgia, he started promoting those artists, trying to get dealers and galleries interested in the work. But Tew found that no one was as enthusiastic about the work as he was, so he began selling the pieces himself.

After his first big sale, he had just enough money to go back to France and get more artwork. This sales cycle continued, and he kept traveling back and forth between France and Georgia.

"It just started that way," Tew said. "All this time, I lived at home with my parents, but I was really working, carrying the art around in the trunk of my car. I say I started the business out of the trunk of my car."

Finally, he was able to open his own small gallery in an Atlanta arts center. His dad helped him install lights in the space. Tew still remembers the extension cord from the lights hanging down from the ceiling in his first gallery. "It was very humble," Tew said.

Now, his gallery is a little more upscale. The TEW Galleries (404-869-0511 or www.timothytew.com) is located at The Galleries at Peachtree Hills, a row of new art and antique shops in Buckhead. The three-story gallery looks more like a townhouse than a business.

Tew designed the interior of the gallery himself. The first two floors of the TEW Galleries are used as exhibit space. Tew's cozy office is located on the third floor, just past floor-to-ceiling shelves used to store paintings.

Through Nov. 19, paintings and sculptures by Isabelle Melchior will be on display at TEW Galleries. Melchior lives and works in France. "I started as an artist in Paris, where I was born," Melchior said during a recent phone interview.

She and Tew met in Paris in 1987, during the year he lived in France, and have worked together ever since. Tew has been showing Melchior's work since 1988.

Melchior's oil paintings depict figures and still lifes. "My work is between abstraction and realism," Melchior said.

The artist mixes the paint pigments for her work by hand. "It is not hard. It is wonderful to do because the colors are so beautiful," she said.

The artist visited Atlanta in October for the opening of her most recent show at TEW Galleries. "For me, it was wonderful to see my work on this beautiful wall," Melchior said.