For the five homeowners featured on this year’s Art Tour of Homes, presented by Legend Realty, art is an extension and expression of self. We asked each of the homeowners to share how they came to appreciate collecting art and to offer advice for the novice art buyer wanting to start their own.
What is your favorite piece of art in your home and what is the story behind it?
Beth Griggs: That’s kind of like asking if you have a favorite child! If I have to pick one it would have to be a piece by Carlton Nell that I saw
years ago at his exhibition at the Huntsville Museum of Art. They used the piece for the exhibition announcement postcard and I kept it on my fridge for years….I was finally ready to see if it was available and I contacted the artist. He had just gotten the piece back from a gallery and seemed happy to hear that I had loved it all that time.
Pat Ammons: This isn’t an easy answer because we both have a favorite piece. My favorite is a lithograph of three red birds I bought at Pike Place Market in Seattle. I love everything about the piece, from the modern lines of the birds and their vibrancy to the white over black background on which they are painted to the blue dot that stands in contrast with the other colors. Lee’s favorite is a large watercolor of leaves falling into water by Huntsville artist Yuri Osaki. We saw the work at Monte Sano Art Festival several years ago and walked away and back again three times before deciding we couldn’t leave without it.
Donna Castellano: My favorite piece of art is a gift from the late Bill Nance. I had the privilege of getting to know Bill when he helped with my book, Through the Garden Gate: The Gardens of Historic Huntsville. Bill was an artistic genius and an incredible teacher. Months after we finished the book, Bill showed up on my front door, dangling this exquisite piece of art from his finger. It is a multi-media representation of our family in a garden, framed by a stunning garden gate.
Chuck Vaughn: I have an ongoing friendship with many of the artists I collect, and the pieces are as different as the artists. Very often, I have acquired pieces after I have gotten to know the artist and come to appreciate his/her way of looking at some part of the world or his/her aesthetic sense. I define art in a broad sense, and include utilitarian objects that have been created not only for function, but with beauty in mind. I tend to value those objects for what they reveal about the maker
Sharon Doviet: My favorite piece is a fantastical portrait purchased recently called “Pink Bride.” The color and details are beautiful, but there are tiny details signaling trouble and decay — that I interpret to remind us youth and beauty do not last forever.
How did your design aesthetic come about – organically as you went along or did you have a pre-conceived vision? How does it continue to evolve today?
Beth Griggs: No pre-conceived vision here. My house is pretty eclectic. My parents taught me to love antique furniture, but my art taste tends toward whatever moves me, whether it be landscapes, folk art or anything created by local or southern artists. A few “weird” pieces thrown in.
Pat Ammons & Lee Roop: We buy what we love. We have everything from traditional landscapes to outsider art and mix them together to
suit us. I would say we have evolved in the sense we’re bolder in what we purchase, making no excuses for what we like. We are also more willing to take the plunge on more expensive pieces because we know how much joy we will ultimately get from them.
Donna Castellano: Initially, I had a fairly simplistic view of art and purchased pieces because I wanted to see pretty paintings hanging on our walls. But as I became more educated, went to art shows and festivals, talked to artists and familiarized myself their methods and motivations, I became drawn to art that spoke to me on a deeper level. I connect to landscapes and pieces that reflect the southern experience, and I have a serious addiction to pottery. Mike and I collect artwork by southern contemporary artists, which is a fancy way of saying we buy local.
Chuck Vaughn: I think it is important that we continue to see, to learn, and to grow. I believe my aesthetic continues to change, and I hope it always will. I don’t think I’ve ever bought any object knowing clearly where it would land, or worrying about how it would fit in with the rest of my things. I tell people that my design aesthetic is this: I think that walking into a room should be like going to a family reunion. You know that everything or person in the room is related, but the objects in a room shouldn’t look alike any more than every member of a family would. And there should be a bit of tension in the room (just like at a reunion, LOL). One or two odd pieces of furniture or paintings should look “not quite at home”–just like the crazy uncle or cousin that everyone fears might make a scene when the family gathers. I’m only being a bit tongue in cheek.
Chris Russell & Sharon Doviet: Our design aesthetic comes from our travels. We love to see new places and experience new ideas. Art is the same. A painting can instantly make you feel like you’re in another time and place. Magic!
What advice would you have for homeowners who are new to art-buying? What would you to say to people who have pre-conceived notions about what it means to be an “art collector” and that buying art isn’t for them?
Beth Griggs: I have never considered myself a “collector”. I buy what speaks to me. I would tell people to just do the same. I have found a lot of what I have at local events and galleries. Panoply, Monte Sano Art Show, Lowe Mill, Little Green Store and Gallery are great places to start.
Pat Ammons: Trust yourself and buy what you like. Huntsville is full of incredibly talented artists working in all kinds of media. You don’t have to have a lot of money to start collecting original art, either. We have pieces we love that cost less than $25. Don’t be afraid of color – you might be surprised how well the most abstract piece can fit in a traditional living room. Support your local artists and always check out Panoply, the Monte Sano Arts Festival and other venues and take time to talk to the artists. When you know the person behind the painting it can mean so much more.
Donna Castellano: Explore! This is an adventure with no end date. Every time I think I’ve no reason to buy more art, I will visit a gallery or walk through an arts festival and see something that touches me. Art is personal. If it doesn’t make you feel something, if you don’t recognize some part of yourself in a piece, don’t buy it. If you do, then do not hesitate. Don’t get caught up in where it will go; it will find a place. Buy what you love and the collection creates itself.
Chuck Vaughn: If you’re just getting started collecting, you may be more comfortable beginning with pieces that are relatively inexpensive. You might consider starting with utilitarian objects that are handmade, like pottery. Generally much more affordable than painting or sculpture, pottery is still made by hand, aesthetically pleasing, and useful on a daily basis.
Sharon Doviet: I don’t consider myself to be an “art collector.” That sounds so fancy. I just know when I see a painting I love, I can’t stand not to have it. It’s like it’s yours already and if you don’t buy it, YOUR painting will go to someone else’s house! I still have regrets for art I didn’t buy.