Maria Alquilar, a prominent artist and influential dealer who founded the renowned Jennifer Pauls Gallery in Sacramento, died June 5 at 86.
She lived in Santa Cruz and Miami since the 1980s and was in declining health when she returned to Sacramento in February, her daughter Gilda Taffet said.
A former social worker and teacher, Ms. Alquilar was known as Barbara Taffet when she and Colette Garrison opened Jennifer Pauls Gallery in Old Sacramento in 1970. With a strong interest in expressionistic, figurative imagery and a fine eye for distinctive works, she created a groundbreaking showcase for top contemporary artists, including Anne Gregory, Ken Little, Joan Moment and Mary Warner.
She became sole owner and maintained a loyal following as the Jennifer Pauls Gallery – named for two of the founders’ children – moved to her home in Lake of the Pines and then Roseville before returning to Sacramento to share space with the prestigious Himovitz/Solomon Gallery downtown. Meanwhile, she took up sculpting and painting and changed her name to Maria Alquilar.
In 1986, she sold Jennifer Pauls Gallery to Beth Jones and Dean Moniz and left Sacramento to pursue her own artistic career.
“It was one of the best galleries in town,” said artist Victoria Dalkey, a Sacramento Bee correspondent. “She worked really hard for the people she represented. She worked well with buyers and collectors too, and she championed a lot of women artists.”
Ms. Alquilar painted scenes of vibrant colors and primitive, dreamy images. She received commissions from the Sacramento Art in Public Places program, including ceramic murals at the light-rail station at 29th and R streets and the Fairbairn water treatment facility on the American River near California State University, Sacramento.
Her sculptures and paintings are included in collections in the United States, Mexico and Italy. Her works can be seen at fineartamerica.com/profiles/maria-alquilar.html.
In 2004, she made headlines for misspelling the names of Albert Einstein, Michelangelo, Vincent van Gogh and other historic figures in a $40,000 ceramic mosaic she created for a public library in Livermore. After a public dispute with city officials, she agreed to fix the work.
The former Barbara Pincus was born May 25, 1928, in New York and worked in the garment district as a child. She earned a humanities degree at Hunter College, married Frank Taffet and settled in Sacramento in 1949. In addition to raising three children, she was a social worker and taught at Marvin Marshall and Thomas Kelly elementary schools in the San Juan Unified School District.
“As a schoolteacher, she was fabulous – always making puppets and painting the windows,” her daughter said. “Her classroom was exploding with art.”
Ms. Alquilar lived “a vivid, unscripted life punctuated by great sorrow and boundless joy,” her family said. Devastated by the 1973 death of her husband from a heart attack at 48, she changed her name to Maria Alquilar “to put her old life behind her,” her daughter said. She spent 13 years in Santa Cruz and moved to Miami in 1999. Her son Paul died in 2005.
A slim, elegant woman with strong opinions, she was a dynamic and influential figure in the Sacramento art community. She was widely respected for her expertise and her devotion to representing both the business and creative interests of artists.
“She was very eccentric – very colorful and full of life,” said Jones, now co-owner of JayJay gallery in Sacramento. “She was expressive and creative in how she represented herself. She was very warm and always had a big smile.”
In addition to her daughter Gilda, Ms. Alquilar is survived by another daughter, Francine.
A memorial service is being planned. For information, call (916) 454-5655.