Collecting Art: A Way of Life

I grew up in a house that loved art. My parents took me to art museums from a young age, and I remember enjoying the silence of a gallery, and gazing at work that seemed impossibly old and incredibly beautiful. We had our favorites, The Norton Simon in Pasadena is one we visited at least once a year. When we lived in Dallas we visited the Amon Carter museum to view paintings and sculptures by Frederic Remington. My dad’s favorite artist was Johannes Vermeer, and he and my mom planned an entire trip to Holland to visit his birthplace.

Aside from the tapestries my mom created, the art in our house was primarily prints, but not the kind you would find in a typical furniture store. This Bernard Buffet print, Still Life With Pumpkin, is ingrained in my memory, as is the magical house in the middle of the yellow field. Both of these prints remained in my parents’ house until I sold it earlier this year.

My mom was an avid crafter. She made several tapestries in the 60s and 70s, primarily large and colorful flowers. This one is abstract, it fit the mid-century modern feel of our home in Louisville, KY. On the back of this photo she noted, “My first tapestry. This picture does not do it justice. February, 1966.”

Mid Century Modern tapestry, Ellen Newberry.

When I met Dave, I was already programmed to appreciate art, and wanted to start my own collection. At the time he was building wall constructions. I still remember the day he showed me a basket full of wooden rods, and described how he was going to put them together. I was fascinated, and asked him a bunch of questions. Eventually he had a show and I was enthralled with his work. Imagine my joy when the piece that I had seen as a basket of rods was hanging in the gallery, and I overheard him tell someone, “That one isn’t for sale, I made it for Carol.”

Crib Death, Dave Clark.

The first piece of original art I bought was made by our neighbor Mick. We still have the paintings we selected together from him, but I’ve lost track of the one I picked out for myself. I remember a sense of pride, not only in buying original artwork, but buying it directly from the artist.

Through the years, Dave and I have purchased many pieces of art. In our house we have nearly fifty pieces from artist friends local to Long Beach, and another twenty or so from friends who live elsewhere. We still select work together, yet the pieces I select for myself always have special meaning.

From Eric Vonhunter, I picked this one because I used to own a Brownie Camera.
A collection of prints from Dave Conrey, Sarah Soward, Cody Lusby, Alice LeFae, and a print that spoke to me during the downtown Art Walk. We have many prints we select together, but these I selected for myself.

A few weeks ago, when I visited Stephanie Han’s studio, one of her paintings jumped out at me. I have an affinity for birds, I don’t really know why. Maybe I was a bird in a previous life. Sometimes I go out in my yard just to listen to the birds “talking” to one another. Stephanie’s painting spoke to me because it’s a bird, and also it’s on a yellow background, my favorite color. This Thoughtful Raven has so much personality.

Thoughtful Raven, Stephanie Han.

Collecting art is fun, and it fulfills a deep seated need in all of us for personal expression. There are many avenues open for people who want to collect art, particularly local art. First Fridays in Bixby Knolls, especially in the Art Expo building, the Art Walk downtown on Second Saturdays, as well as Fourth Fridays on Retro Row are all great sources. Beyond that, art is all around you. Old prints, like the ones I grew up with when they were new, are available in thrift stores and antiques collectives. You owe it to yourself to go out and start collecting art. The added bonus? Not only will it make you happy, but when you purchase directly from local artists, you make them happy too.

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6 Comments

  1. Great article, Carol–I’m honored to be a part of your collection 🙂

    1. Aww…I’m glad you’re in it too!

  2. This is an inspiring article. I got a little choked up with the mention of the piece Dave made for you

    1. Those were the days…but we’re still as in love now as we were then <3

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