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Here at Krrb Classifieds we love a good collection, especially one that’s unique. From where the collection began to the most significant item, we want to know the story behind it all. So we’re reaching out to collectors everywhere to find out what they collect and why!
Today, Jen Pywell joins us to discuss her art collection, how it all started and her favorite piece!
First off, why did you start collecting art?
I started collecting art simply because I like it. And that has not changed since I bought my first piece over 15 years ago from a street artist in Union Square. I was 17 years old so my tastes were pretty raw and goofy. I didn’t know I was starting an art collection, I was just buying something which happened to be art. It’s a painting of a silly cat in a cape and reads: “My Cat is a Super Fag.” I thought it was so funny and still love it. My taste hasn’t changed much.
With all collections, art finding is an obsession and you can’t have too much art. My biggest inspirations are Herb & Dorothy Vogel—who accumulated a multi-billion dollar collection over their lives with modest public servant salaries. She was a librarian and he worked at the post office. They hoarded it all into a one bedroom apartment in LES. Now they have a wing at the National Gallery. I want to be like them when I grow up.
What’s the rarest piece of art you have in your collection?
I collect very old ornithological prints and have one from the 1700s of Birds of Prey. By virtue of its age and condition it is probably the “rarest” piece in my art collection—even though it is not an original. It pictures really neat drawings of owls, vultures and hawks. I admire it everyday.
Which piece of art has the most significance to you and why?
The piece of art that has the most significance to me is a painting my great grandmother (whom we called “Gowee”) painted of Magnolia branches in a red vase against a green background. As a child, the painting was in my Grandmother Isabelle’s dining room and I remember slurping down Campbell’s Chicken and Stars soup while staring at it. It was there for all our family get togethers and it was the one thing I wanted after my Grandmother passed away. My boyfriend at the time was a very talented realistic oil painter and he hated it because by all snooty academic standards it wasn’t painted particularly well. But that doesn’t make it less beautiful. He is long out of the picture but the painting still hangs in my bedroom. I spend every morning daydreaming into it. My Mom still has the vase in the painting and my husband and I just planted two Magnolia trees outside our new home in Corvallis, Oregon.
What do you look for when adding art to your collection?
I try to seek out original pieces of any medium (I have a lot of prints already) from up and coming artists and vintage pieces that are affordable. When I had a corporate job, I could spend more; now that I am self-employed—I budget. But that doesn’t stop me. Since our home is a less than 960 sq. ft bungalow, I go for smaller pieces. I also cruise estate sales and thrift stores for folk art and amateur work, which can be really beautiful and unique. I have bought some amazing original artwork for under $10—like a South American tapestry of llamas and farmers working under the sun and mountains. Someone spent a lot of time working with their hands on this large and very detailed piece.
I am on the market for abstract work in order to “diversify,” my collection. My friend joked that it’s like a menagerie on the walls, with so many EYES staring out at the room, staring back at the viewer.
Where do you go to find art and what’s the most unique way you’ve obtained a piece?
When I lived in NYC, for contemporary art, I preferred going to artists’ open studios, like Greenpoint Open Studios, Bushwick Open Studios, Gowanus Open Studios and Hunter MFA Open Studios. It’s like a treasure hunt to go into old industrial buildings, roam the hallways and find artists working in their spaces. I like to chat with artists and follow their careers. I make sure to get on their email lists so I can go to future openings. Buying direct from artists is definitely more affordable than from galleries and I feel more of a connection to the piece when I know the artist. Also I can usually take the work home the same day. Now that I am on the west coast I have been attending our local Corvallis Art Walks (CAW) and look forward to Portland Open Studios in October, as well.
I don’t enjoy viewing art in traditional white wall galleries; it’s sterile and claustrophobic. I appreciate art in context. The most unique place I bought a piece of art was in LES in a tiny gallery converted from a newspaper and candy stand. You could barely even turn around in the space that was literally wall papered with art. My husband and I fell in love with a tiny tiny shark oil painting. Jon’s favorite movie is Jaws—so it was a no brainer. What was a night out on the town randomly turned into an art viewing and buying occasion. And it was small enough to fit in my pocket on the subway ride home.
Where do you store or display your collection?
I am proud that ALMOST every piece I own is on the walls. I made it a point when my husband and I moved every piece across the country that we would get it all up and be able to enjoy it. Because of that (and because many of the pieces are small) we have arranged them on big walls—salon style.
I also like putting artwork in peculiar hiding spots, too. I have a hilarious wood sculpture of a bear snuggling with a cat, given to me by a really talented neon sign maker named Gasper Ingui. It’s in the bottom of our closet where we have our laundry hamper because that is naturally where a bear and a cat would snuggle.
All of the “misfit” art that doesn’t really have any other place to go we just jam into our laundry room randomly. It’s a little weird but it’s up on the wall!
Everything that is unframed I keep in a large portfolio. We used to have a big flat file but had to ditch it when we moved out West.