Tattooed girls all over Riverside should park their fixies at the Cummer Museum this summer. Hanging in the Collectors’ Choice exhibit, Mia Tarney’s lush oil-on-linen painting Peony, Coral Charm is enough to have hipster babes flooding Inksmith & Rogers with pictures of peonies and outstretched forearms.
Art collecting takes many forms and has many motives. And while there is a certain upper-echelon bias that comes with the idea of collecting art — something on par with fox stoles and monocles — the nearly 30 collectors represented in the exhibit bring a personal, human facet to the practice.
The theme this year is an open-ended question: Why do you collect art? The resulting exhibit answers in the form of currency, furniture, sculptures, pottery and paintings. It’s an answer that spans centuries, countries and styles — one that speaks to all of us.
This isn’t just about looking at some nice art and patting ourselves on the back for being cultured. This is about forging a relationship with art.
“You find a lot of people who are mystified by art,” says chief curator Holly Keris. “There seems to be a pressure people have about having the right answer. I think, through hearing people’s stories, it demystifies that.”
One collector, Maria Cox, spent a great deal of time exposing her husband to art. Her insight is indicative of the exhibit: Sometimes you go and look at different things. And sometimes, your eyes lock and you realize you’re looking at the same thing. That’s the piece you buy.
David Edwards inherited his collection from his uncle; through that collection he was able to keep that relationship alive. As new art magazines arrived on the shelves, a phone call would take place between the two to discuss what they liked and didn’t like. It was a thread that bound them from Florida to Seattle.
“The viewers will come to understand the different kinds of relationships you can have with art,” Keris says. “Art can be universal. It’s not about right and wrong.”
This might be the least pretentious art show you’ll ever see. There won’t be a need for viewers to chew their fingernails and wonder “Am I interpreting this right? Am I feeling the right thing?”
Joan Newton, a local collector, told the Cummer that her family believes art has a significant role to play for all children. Jordan Bock was one of those children lucky enough to experience art, acquiring his first piece at age 6, a Mary Nemo Moran etching of a pond that he still owns.
Other collectors, like David and Elaine Strickland, treasure American paintings like Thomas Moran’s Entrance to the Grand Canal, a dreamy landscape swaddled in frothy clouds and tear-blue water — a painting that begs a moment of silence, not revolution, pleading with you to put down your phone and appreciate pictures you can like without double-tapping a screen.
But even if emoticons are your thing, the modern tastes of Preston and Joan Haskell are represented in brightly colored abstract works that attract and enthrall. Their piece, Damien Hirst’s Flumequine, is a collection of 108 spots in 108 colors and named for an antiquated antibiotic.
The juxtaposition of a modern piece like Flumequine from 2007 and a more traditional piece like Portrait of a Lady as Evelina from the late 1700s might seem haphazard at first. But Lady Evelina’s crown of brunette curls and love-letter expression beckon beyond the decades. This contrast is indicative of the exhibit’s appeal.
The pieces, like the collectors, are diverse, as are the motivations for collecting. But the reason to experience the exhibit is the same. Stand in the presence of history, personal stories, passion. Contribute to a conversation that spans centuries of artistic expression.