Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Art of Collecting Art

Isn't the whole point of things, beautiful things, that they connect you to some larger beauty. The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt

I am an art collector and I am an artist. Those are two identities that I claimed with a bit of self doubt at one time in my life. First came the title artist. As a child, being an artist was one of three potential chosen professions. But being an art collector; hadn’t crossed my mind until years after I had begun to collect art. Like calling myself an artist, thinking of myself as an art collector somehow seemed too high blown for someone like myself raised in a working class family from Iowa. Both the title artist and art collector beg the question of definition. Being an artist is easier to define, whether we are talking professional or amatuer, an artist is someone who makes art. But then does it follow that an art collector is someone who collects art? Of course that is the case. But I think what is even more important is to differentiate  an art collector from someone who buys art simply for decoration. An art collector is someone who loves art. Whether it is the beauty or the perfection of design or a myriad of other emotionally and intellectually scintillating effects, the work of art sets the heart afire. The pulse increases, the air you breath somehow seems lighter and more invigorating. As Donna Tartt's character in The Goldfinch says,

A really great painting is fluid enough to work its way into the mind and heart through all kinds of different angles in ways that are unique and very particular, 'yours yours I was painted for you?'

Historically when I've purchased art, it was not something I expected to do at that time. In fact when I have gone looking to purchase, intentionally from an artist, I've rarely done so. For example, I was at an art opening of artist Stephanie Molstre-Kotz and had made the circuit around the gallery to see her art. I thought it was very nice but nothing particularly hit me. About a half hour later I was standing talking to another attendee looking over the shoulder of this person and I semi-consciously saw one of the paintings, a nude lying on her side that I had seen earlier. But this time it hit me, wow! That's's great! I have to have it. Another time, I was at an artist’s reception for a group art exhibit. The artists were asked to talk about their work and while Richard Brown, a sculptor, was talking about his work I suddenly realized that I had to have one of his sculptures in the exhibit.  I felt anxious and was concerned that someone else was thinking like me and would purchase it before I could, before he even finished his ten minute talk. Irrational I know, but those are the sorts of impulses that drive my collecting.  Another time I saw one of Derek Davis’s paintings online, on facebook!  It made me feel something...more than simply being impressed with his skill, the image struck me; the way the light of the winter day refracted off the fallen tree so crisply and the cool and warm shadows that were cast onto the snow.  I had to have it.  It was the perfect melding of mind and body response. Entirely positive.  Again, Donna Tartt describes the phenomenon,

Images that strike the heart and set it blooming like a flowers. Images that open up some much larger beauty.

There are many types of art collectors and many different reasons and methods. Some more planned and intentional, others more economically driven and another more driven by emotion. As varied as humans are they can range from the famous art collectors such as J. Paul Getty to the humble art student who trades with her fellow  student for works of art.  Interestingly, a collector like Getty actually manipulates the art market simply through the act of collecting art. A piece of art that finds itself in such a vaulted collection can easily double in value simply by the association with such a highly respected collection. The provenance of the painting is golden!

Provenance is everything when it comes to the economic and sometimes emotional value of a piece of art and provenance includes many things but especially the history of the painting, from its creation through its sales history.  Even the title of the work of art is important in its provenance.  Two paintings being equal; the painting with a title is worth more than the one without.  And too, an interesting history, a unique story associated with the story can also have a positive influence on the value of the work of art; for who doesn’t love a good story. The veracity of a good story is important and of course, proof of provenance includes bills of sale and additional associated records. Below is a list compiled by myself and  Art Business News of recommended documentation to include with an art sale and painting records.

* Receipts, certificates of authenticity and other relevant written or printed materials.
* What the art means or what its significance is, either according to the artist or to the gallery that sold it to you.
* Date and place of creation.
* Any stories the sellers/artist tell you specifically relating to the art.
* Any memorable moments about making the purchases.
* Biographical and career information about the artists.
* How or why or any other information about the ways the artists made them.
* Materials and methods of the work.
* Exhibition history of the work
* Save all related books, exhibit catalogues, gallery brochures, reviews and the like.
* Whenever possible, photograph the artists who you collect, especially photograph the artist with the art. Have them sign or inscribe catalogues or gallery invitations for you.

Another distinguishing feature of a good collection is its intentionality or focus.  Is there a theme or a purpose to the collection. A theme may include such things as winter paintings, a certain subject rendered in various media, such as trees, or marine subjects such as the Minnesota Marine Art Museum is centered around.  Or maybe you are intrigued by a certain school of work such as the Northwest US glass artist’s movement.

A collection can be organized in many ways including by date, artist, style, or region. Or it can also be divided into subtopics. For example:
* Pepin County Wisconsin artists organized by date.
* Still life painting of Pepin County artists.
* Still life painting of Pepin County artists including  native trees, plants and other forms of vegetation.
* Nineteenth century paintings of Pepin County artists.
* Modernist painting by Pepin County artists.
* Small format paintings of Pepin County artists organized by size.
* Watercolors of Pepin County artist.

Collecting art can also be an intellectual exercise.  If you don’t personally know the artist, research the artist and their sales history.  A well organized collection can often be more valuable as a whole than the sum of the individual works.  One new art collector was told by the great collector Chandler Coventry to try and amass as many diverse pieces by an artist as possible, and these include incongruous works, so by the time your collection is mature, you have depth and breadth.

Head and heart. Someone once said that when you look at art that moves you, you see it with your eyes but that it goes directly to the heart, bypassing the brain.  Another says, ‘it’s like falling in love’, which may be the closest to the truth yet.


Donna Tart, (October 2013), The Goldfinch, Little Brown and Company, Art Provenance: What it is and how to verify it. Art Business News, How to Collect & Buy Art, Art Business News

Friday, May 27, 2016

Deep in Art Events

Just finished a week with thirty artists in my gallery painting within the area, a culminating exhibit and now more show and sales. But moving on to the Fresh Art Tour next weekend June 3-4-5. I'll be exhibiting many new pieces painted while in Grenada this last winter.  This is one of the more unusual ones. But very intriguing. Title?  36 x 36 " acrylic.

Jean Accola
Accola Gallery
502 2nd Ave East
Durand, WI 54736


Sunday, March 6, 2016

I Got an Oildown

No I didn't get a massage with oil, and no I didn't get an oil change, but instead finally found one of the last three servings of Oildown, the national dish of Grenada at Babes.  Oildown is a culinary staple of the island, and the reason there were only three servings left at Babes restaurant is because when they make Oildown, there is, as Andre our driver said, "never any left".  If Oildown is available on the menu, that is what the Grenadians have.  Unfortunately for Andre who took us to Babe's we got the last three servings.  It was better than I expected. I'd heard about it; how you layer assorted meats or seafood, breadfruit or root crops, green bananas, yams, coconut milk and greens and stew it down until what remains is a savory stew with a coconut oil sauce.  I asked Babe how she made it and this is how she described it. She sauted the green spices: green onion, celery, thyme, possibly dill, and any assortment of green herbs, but very likely Shadon Benny the cilantro-like leaf. Then she lays that in to the stew pot with the chicken and pork, adds a West Indian curry, breadfruit wedges, green bananas, yams wedges, coconut milk and tops with callalloo leaves.  It was perfect, the meat and vegetables tender to the bite, not mushy; the sauce a golden gravy, not too salty or under spiced.  Babes is a sweet roadside bar and restaurant on the highway near LaSagesse area of Grenada. The shady verandah at lunchtime is a pleasant oasis. Babe cooks and serves her customers with a smile and a joke. As we were leaving, happily content, another woman came out of the kitchen, quietly standing in the doorway as if to see who these folks were who were raving about the Oildown.  When we asked her name she too said, Babe!  We figured that that is why the place is called Babes, not Babe's. It's Babe One and Babe Two.

I had wanted to be sure to have Oildown before we left and I figured I could probably get it at the Friday Night Fish Fry in Gouyave.  Luckily I got it at Babe's because there was no Oildown in sight at Gouyave. The Fish Fry is a weekly event in the fishing village north of St. George's.  Canopies are set up over the street where vendors stand over stovetops frying fish and grills for lobster. There is every type of side dish you'd expect such as fried plantains, Johnny Cakes and much more.
Gouyave Fish Fry
Picnic tables between the food vendors when not filled to capacity are the place to sit while you eat  your lobster topped with garlic butter wielding a plastic fork.  It's a unique experience and something everyone must do at least once while in Grenada.  Buses ply the routes between Gouyave and St. George's, packed like Sardines we return to the capital city sated with piscean pleasure.

I celebrated my fifteenth birthday this last week on Leap Day, February 29th.  Our friends Jim and Martha came down from Minnesota to spend the week and help me celebrate. We went to the Beach House Restaurant.  This highly recommended restaurant was in a beautiful setting, on a beach south of us, with open air, white napkin service.  Very special and romantic.  I have to admit that the day or two leading up to my birthday, I was feeling strange, sort of depressed.  At odds with my normal 'even keel'.  I questioned what I want to do with my future.  I just felt strange.  But the nice dinner with friends and my loving Yata and I was back to normal.
Birthday Dinner
 We had also gone snorkeling that afternoon and that is one of my favorite activities.  I saw a turtle, a pair of French Angelfish, and many more unique underwater corals, gorgonia and more.  It was lovely. We revisited the Underwater Sculpture Garden but this time, with a guide to be sure we found all of them.  Although it's a really unique concept I realized, that you just can't beat a beautiful healthy reef for beauty and awe.

The next night we went to YOLO Sushi Bar & Restaurant at the Port Louis Marina near our apartment. Yata was unsure about this choice as he associated Sushi with raw fish and isn't interested in eating raw fish.  But we were very satisfied and delighted by YOLO (You Only Live Once). I had the signature Volcano rolls served with a cup of flaming rum in the center of the rolls.  Like many of their rolls, they were wrapped in crispy salmon skim instead of seaweed.  Yata had the Alaska rolls which had Shrimp tempura wrapped in rice and seaweed.  Excellent.  We also enjoyed a bottle of Montepulciano wine.  Dining was al fresco, lit by the harbor lights of the marina, the carrenage and the port of St. George's, wow!

We realize how fortunate we are and strive to appreciate all we are able to do, eat and enjoy.  If only everyone was able to do the same.

We return home this Tuesday and we will definitely miss this lovely island. It has been great. Unless we are deluding ourselves somehow, we'd say this is the best destination in our seventeen years of travel in many ways.  Especially for us at this age.  It's safer than anywhere we've been, including the US, I believe.  It's very clean and relatively litter free.  The poverty is minimal. Education is good. There aren't lots of feral dogs running around like so many countries we've been.  The telecom/internet is excellent. The public transport is excellent. The healthcare appears to be excellent (there is a large medical college on the island, St. George's University). The climate is warm with a rainy season. There is abundant fresh water due to the mountains as well as abundant fresh fruit and produce. The sailing/cruiser culture is strong and brings a nice element to the island. There are a few things that could be a problem, such as hurricanes (this island was seriously damaged in 2004 by Hurricane Ivan), it gets really hot in the middle of the day, public transport although it's prolific, can be a bit dangerous with aggressive driving on narrow roads (we saw the aftermath of a serious crash not far from our apartment).

But it'll be nice to get home and see our wonderful grandkids and their parents, our friends and to sleep in cool comfort (we've been sleeping in temps from 75 to 87 every night here).

We will be back, maybe next year. We are thinking we might like to spend more time too on the island of Carriacou, just north of here.  And maybe some sailing around Cuba???

Two paintings

In the Year 2100, 12 x 12 acrylic

Azure Tube Sponge, 24 x 36 acrylic

Friday, February 26, 2016

Butternut & Brie Ravioli

Looking at the menu for one of the best restaurants in Grenada I noticed that they offered Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce.  I've made this a few times in the past and always enjoyed it, improving on my technique each time.  I had some Brie cheese that was near expiration so I ventured that that might be nice to incorporate into the ravioli as well. It was a great combo!

Butternut and Brie Ravioli

Makes about 20 to 24 raviolis

1 small Butternut Squash (when cooked you'll need about 3 cups of squash)
Wonton or Eggroll Wrappers (you can make four raviolis with 2 Eggroll Wrappers
1/4 pound of Brie cheese
salt to taste
1/8 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 egg
Olive oil
1/2 stick of butter

Steam squash until soft. Mash it in a bowl adding the spices and mix well.
Drop 1 heaping tablespoon of the squash mixutre in each corner of the Eggroll wrapper.
Place a thumbnail sized slice of Brie on each squash.  Make an egg wash with the egg, whisking.
Brush the eggwash liberally around each spoonful of squash.  Lay another Eggroll wrapper on top and press down onto the bottom wrapper, sealing around each squash laden corner.  Cut the dough around each ravioli discarding excess.  Lightly oil plate and lay each ravioli on plate, lightly oiling additional raviolis added to the plate to avoid sticking.

Toast butter in a pan until the milk solids are a medium toasty brown.  Remove from heat. Avoid scorching.  Set aside.

Bring a 4 qt. pot of water to a rolling boil.  Add four raviolis at a time gently to the water.  If they stick to the bottom, gently loosen. When they float to the surface, remove with a slotted spoon, set in strainer to let water run off.  While still warm, arrange on a serving plate and drizzle with the browned butter.

Tip: If you make more than you need at a meal, they can be frozen (keeping separate until frozen) for
a few weeks. Simply boil, slightly longer than when they are fresh.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Grenada Paintings

Calvigny, 24 x 36"

Self-portrait, 12x12"

Venus' Nipple, 12x12"

Conch, 36x36"

Friday, February 19, 2016

Cocoa Tuna with Passionfruit Ginger Sauce

 This recipe is almost entirely from the book The Spice Necklace by Ann Vanderhoof

4 Tuna Steaks cut about 3/4 inch thick
4 T ground cocoa powder ( I used the cocoa balls which are infused with spices and used for a 'tea')
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 T brown sugar
1 T coconut oil

Rub steaks with the spice/cocoa mixture. Heat pan with the coconut oil. Sear steaks to desired degree.  Turning once. (about 2 minutes per side for medium/medium well)

Passionfruit ginger sauce:

4 T butter
2 finely chopped garlic cloves
2-3 inches peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger root
3 T coconut milk powder
2 T flour
3/4 c. passionfruit juice
1 T dark rum
1/4 tsp tumeric

Saute garlic and ginger in the butter until lightly golden. Add flour and coconut powder and stir the resulting paste until it's a nice dark gold.  Then add the juice, rum and tumeric and cook until it thickens.  Serve over or alongside the steaks. This is also good on steamed provisions such as yams, plantain, etc.