By Bob Krauss
The Louis Pohl Gallery on Fort Street Mall started with Jesus' parable of the talents. It's an example of what can happen when a probation officer falls in love with an artist in Our Honolulu.
"I had quit my job as probation officer when I met Louis," said Sandra Pohl, watching the door for customers. "I was tired of working with people in trouble. My idea was to open a small retail store that would make people feel good. When I asked if I could sell his art, he told me the parable of the talents. I didn't know what he was talking about."
Why did you ask to sell his paintings?
"Because Louis Pohl was the best artist in Hawai'i."
The parable is about a master who gave one servant five talents, another two, and a third one, then went on a journey. The first two servants traded and doubled their talents. The third buried his. When the master came back, he praised the first two for increasing his talents and scolded the third for being slothful.
The probation officer and the artist set up housekeeping in Pohl's studio on the Old Pali Road. She was in her 50s, he was pushing 80 but lied to her and said he was in his 60s.
"It was a great place, very spiritual," she said. "An 'auwai flowed under Louis' studio. When it rained up in the forest, the noise was so loud you couldn't converse. Every day, Louis asked me to marry him. He said, 'You're the one I've been looking for all my life.' "
They went down to the Health Department but didn't have enough cash in their pockets to pay for the marriage license. The man behind the window refused to take a check or credit card but they talked him into marrying them anyway.
Louis Pohl had been named a Living Treasure by the state Legislature for his work in art education. He taught art to disadvantaged children, helped other artists arrange shows and funded cooperative art galleries.
So Sandra and Louis started a foundation dedicated to promoting fine art and, because of her background in social work, to addressing the social and health issues that they felt were being neglected. Their capital was stacks of original Pohl paintings. A moody masterpiece of the Makahiki god is worth $25,000. His bird series goes for $1,000.
After Louis died, Sandra went to church and learned what the parable about talents means that Jesus wants you to make them grow. That's why she talked Campbell Estate into letting her move into an empty store where she can trade her husband's art for money to support community projects.
"Art is harder to sell than food," Sandra confessed. "Most dealers have a frame shop or use the gallery as a tax write-off.
"I borrowed money to do this. My daughter is supporting me. I have a year to make this work and I'm having a wonderful time. This is what the parable of the talents is all about."