This is my first interview in an ongoing series on art collecting.
After the work leaves my studio I have often wondered about the relationship that develops between the artwork and owner; how their perception of the painting or drawing may evolve over time, what compels them to collect and how the piece informs and fits into their daily lives.
Lucy Thompson-Urban Planner in the City of St. Paul. Art Collector.
“I think a large part of the way I look and participate with art has to do with my interest in urban design and architecture.”
TC: Have you an overarching aesthetic for your home and life?
LT: Simplicity. Solid colors, no patterns or prints. I like clean lines and visually accessible elements. For me that means calming. Home is my place to restore and re-energize and so simplicity is part of that-I don’t fuss with things. I really don’t think about my design aesthetic-people will tell me when they visit that my house is very readable but I don’t think that I need to get this piece or that thing, I just buy things that I like and put them together so I am not thinking about the whole necessarily. Yet, when I walk into this house there is a whole here that works for me.
TC: That always seems like the best place to be-you have a clear sense of what’s important and so if you trust that, whatever you bring home will marry to your other things. I always try to encourage people to not focus too much on a certain spot for an artwork because it may live there for a while and then it may move.
LT: Yes-I would think that it should move-that spatial understanding is always changing.
TC: When did you begin collecting art?
LT: I started really collecting when I bought my first house-maybe 25 years ago. I’ve been more deliberate about it since then. My ceramics obsession has been deeper and with me for a long time. I really collect what I like and don’t over think it. I trust my own aesthetic and taste
TC: What do you collect?
LT: Ceramics, original works on paper-watercolors, landscapes and small paintings, limited edition prints, and jewelry
TC: What motivates you to collect?
LT: I enjoy bringing beauty into my home. It makes me feel good to be surrounded by artwork on my walls and shelves (framed art, ceramics) and wearing it too, whether jewelry or scarves. It’s also a way for me to express myself and there’s something about a collection, or ensemble of like objects that intrigues me. I like to travel and the object often reminds me of a unique place or experience I had.
TC: What do you consider when deciding whether to collect something?
LT: Some of it is elusive and hard to explain but it may grab me in some way and I just have to have it! The piece can also be an addition to something I already have-so I am building or creating a series or grouping. It may express a place I’ve been (e.g. my landscape art of New Mexico, lake rocks from Lake Superior). I like remembering places through art. I also respond to the materials something is made out of and this is especially true of jewelry.
TC: Where do you typically look or go to experience art?
LT: We are really fortunate here-in one day I can go to Native American All My Traditions Gallery, the Museum of Russian Art, the Weisman, the Walker and there have been days I’ve done three of those (laughing). Besides galleries, I go to Art Fairs. Usually I buy directly from artists.
TC: What do you like about buying from artists?
LT: Well, I love meeting them, putting a face and personality with a piece-that in and of itself is great but also when they share what they were trying to convey or were inspired by. I don’t have to know that to enjoy a piece. But I like the access-it means more to me that I have met the individual who made the work. My favorite artist venues are studio visits it’s very powerful to see where the work is made and I especially like the home-studio gallery.
TC: Can you talk about this painting you purchased from me a few years ago entitled “Little C-Spin” or other pieces of mine and what you respond to?
LT: I love the architectural quality of the shapes and how this can relate to the urban environment-especially these columnar forms. As I look at it over time I find that it continues to affirm what I originally liked. Many of your pieces seem to be part of a larger whole with expanded areas for small zoomed-in study. The use of exuberant color and bursts of activity and numbers within the piece interest me and you have an intriguing way of interpreting nature. I like the little hits of red here and with this small cradled painting I like it unframed as it’s not so precious.
TC: I know you are fond of the square too. The cradle panel paintings always seem more accessible to me partly because the sides invite painting making it possible to view the piece at an angle and not just frontally. This was fun-thank you Lucy!
LT: You’re welcome-anytime.