Family of fine art painters celebrates 10 years of working together
The family that paints together works, goes on vacation and spends afternoons and weekends together when they can, at least that’s the case for the Wiley family.
This year, the Wileys celebrate 10 years of working together at the René Wiley Gallery, 2128 Postoffice St. in downtown Galveston, and a family heritage of three generations of fine art painters.
From early childhood, daughters Samantha Wiley and Rachel Wiley-Janota were exposed to art, trained and inspired by their mother, painter René Wiley, whose own mother, Janet Clugston Ressling of Conroe, was a painter and René’s mentor.
“We were surrounded by art at her house,” René Wiley said. “It felt like a natural part of life.”
Rachel Wiley-Janota, who paints Galveston coastal landscapes and seascapes, remembered traveling with her grandmother and the whole family each year to European cities where they visited museums housing the world’s great art.
“I never realized how special that was until I became an adult,” Wiley-Janota said.
Samantha Wiley, primarily a portraitist, also was profoundly influenced by her grandmother, affectionately called Mimi.
“Mimi’s whole house was covered in huge portraits,” she said.
The family in 2002 moved to Galveston along with sister Sarah and father Ben Wiley, a fishing boat captain who now manages the gallery.
Previously residents of Galveston’s East End Historic District, René and Ben Wiley bought acreage and moved to Hitchcock in 2016. The three daughters and their families all live nearby.
“We have seven grandkids, aged 2 months to 7 years old, and all the kids and grandkids live within a mile of our house,” René Wiley said.
The gallery came to life after Hurricane Ike, which struck in 2008. Formerly a Pilates studio, the building changed hands after it was flooded in the storm.
Open 359 days a year, the gallery is fundamentally a way to support everyone’s painting habit, enabling René, Rachel and Samantha to show and sell enough work to make a living.
“There’s so much freedom as an artist in having your own space,” René Wiley said. “It’s a big place to make a big mess and a nice place to show everything.”
The more ability to show generally translates to more sales, and with Ben Wiley managing the business side, René and her daughters have more time to paint.
Recently, René and Samantha were commissioned to paint portraits of, respectively, philanthropist George Mitchell and his wife, Cynthia Woods Mitchell. Both paintings will hang in The Tremont House and were dedicated in May at George Mitchell’s 100th birthday commemoration. George Mitchell, an oilman and developer, died in 2013. Cynthia Woods Mitchell died in 2009. Both were instrumental in the redevelopment of Galveston’s downtown among other island endeavors.
Rachel was commissioned to make paintings of the USS Gabrielle Giffords after the ship was commissioned in 2017 in Galveston, and has painted on commission for Texas International Terminals in Galveston.
All of their work celebrates the place and people they love and, together, mother and daughters have turned the solitary act of painting into a family affair.
“Sometimes, when we’re working, we send each other images and talk about them,” Wiley-Janota said.
“We’re lucky,” she said. “We know from our mom that it takes hours and hours every day to become a good painter.”