Get to know your local Tower District shop through a Q&A with the owner, Tony Fernandez.
Is parabolic gallery an art gallery or a furniture store? Or is it both?
It’s a gallery for both art and design, and by design, I mean furniture and household objects as well as purely decorative items or utilitarian objects that have a sense of style or merit to their design. I try to present these objects the same way I would display a sculpture or a framed watercolor still life. This gives me the opportunity to create small moments of beauty from unexpected materials.
What makes the furnishings in your store unique?
The pieces I select for my inventory are a reflection of my personal taste, which is very eclectic. My life experiences have exposed me to a world of good design from many cultures and periods, allowing me to appreciate all sorts of design influences, from fine art movements to pop culture trends. Sometimes items are literally unique one-of-a-kind pieces, but mostly they are objects that become unique in the eyes of the beholder because of how I choose to arrange them, how I present them. For example, I recently found a rusty gear from a huge industrial motor. To me, it was sculptural, like a primitive African tribal ceremonial object, yet it was made even more interesting because it came out of a 1940’s piece of American heavy machinery. I cleaned it up, oiled it to bring out the rich oxidized patina, and put it on a pedestal. Suddenly, its distinct sculptural qualities became undeniable. When I placed it next to a 1961 Italian abstract expressionist painting, the vignette was complete!
Introduce yourself and talk about your design background.
My name is Tony Fernandez, and I am the owner of Parabolic, a gallery for art and design located in the Tower District. I’ve been into architecture and furniture design since I can remember, and that has everything to do with my experience of architecture growing up. My formative years were split between living in Southern California and Central America, back and forth, for blocks of years at a time. As a result, I was inspired by the mid-century modernist work of obscure Latin American architects as well as the modernism of mid-century suburbia. This led me to pursue a degree in architecture from USC, where many of my professors had studied under some pretty big names in California Modernism back in the 50’s and 60’s. Architecture provided a solid foundation for my design career, which has included furniture design and interior design, as well as the sensitive remodeling of mid-century modern houses to better suit the needs of 21st-century clients.
You’ve spent a lot of time in southern California, why Fresno?
Having lived in L.A. for over 30 years, I decided to venture north because I was ready for a change. I have two sisters, one who lives near Santa Cruz, the other a Fresno resident for the last 25 years. After my parents passed away, I felt the need to be closer to my sisters, so I came to Fresno to see what it was like. I met a lot of talented Fresno artists and designers with a desire to raise the bar around art and design in Fresno and the Central Valley in general. That’s a challenge that appealed to me, so I stayed.
What styles inspire you?
I’m a modernist at heart. I always have been, and always will be. I’m inspired by the way the great modern architects, designers, and artists looked at the world in fresh new ways that were not a rehash of traditional, historical styles. Their approach to design is still alive and lies at the heart of any progressive approach to improving the quality of life through design.
What would you consider your particular style is?
While my style is rooted in mid-century modernism, I am by no means a purist. I’m eclectic, and by that, I mean that I love to mix things from other periods and cultures in ways that stimulate my mind. If I’m bored with something, I have a hard time selling it, so my style reflects my ever-present fascination with discovering beauty in unexpected juxtapositions.
Why choose the Tower District as the home for your store?
If the Tower were a guest at a cocktail party, she would be wearing the coolest vintage outfit, drinking a local IPA, and telling some hilarious stories from “back in the day” … and that’s who I’d want to hang out with! The Tower is considered a mostly bohemian, progressive and free-thinking neighborhood existing in counterpoint to a predominantly conservative city. It’s where individual expression is not just tolerated, but embraced. That appeals to me because Parabolic has a distinct point of view. It’s not your grandma’s antique store, and it needs to be in a location that reflects that. What’s just as important is that there is a sense of community in the Tower District. It’s home to a variety of vintage and antique stores, each with its unique style and focus. If you truly love exploring INDIVIDUAL POINTS OF VIEW in a retail experience, you will venture into the Tower District and have a shopping adventure instead of literally “buying into” whatever corporate America says is cool.
Are you available for custom designs? Can a customer request something to be specifically designed for them?
By all means, yes! I’ve had clients come into my shop because they liked what they saw in my windows, only to have them bring me on as a design consultant for the home they are remodeling. With my experience, I can help my clients with everything from finding the perfect vintage lamp for their desk to designing an original, one-of-a-kind piece of furniture just for them.
Any personal favorites in your store right now?
There is a hydraulic stretcher from the 1930’s that I’ve converted into a multi-use table. I replaced the original gurney top with a thick glass top. You can adjust the tabletop height using the hydraulic lift, much like a barber’s chair so that it can go from cocktail bar height to dining table height in a matter of seconds.
Who are the other artists you feature?
Currently, I carry a series of hand-crafted cement pieces from Edward Albert Design, a local Fresno firm whose work combines a sophisticated artistic vision with outstanding technical expertise. Their Hemispheres line recalls mid-century architectural pottery but interpreted with their singular artistic sensibility.
I also show work by Elijah Medina, a native Fresnan artist whose paintings are like Technicolor strolls through the dream landscape of his imagination. He has an extraordinary intuitive approach to color and pattern that is impressive.
Parabolic is located at 431 E. Olive Ave., between Roosevelt and Wilson.
Hours: Wed – Sat 11-7 and Sun. 12-4, or by appointment.
Website: www.parabolicgallery.com. It will soon function as an online store in conjunction with the brick and mortar location.
Follow us on Instagram @parabolicgallery and like us on Facebook @parabolic559.
Also, be sure to follow Tower Vintage Merchants Association @tvmafresno on Instagram to keep up-to-date on what all the participating Tower vintage stores are planning every month for our Tower Vintage Hop.