Over the past 40 years of my life, I have purchased and collected more than 500 pieces of art. This collection includes drawings, paintings, sculptures, fiber art pieces, posters, photographs, tribal animal fetishes, lithographs, chromolithographs, serigraphs and more. It embraces a diversity of styles: Impressionism and Postimpressionism, Expressionism, Realism, Minimalism, Symbolism, Abstract Art, Op, Pop and Psychedelic Art as well as Folk, Tribal and Outsider Art. My taste in art is, quite obviously, varied.
About a month ago, my curator friend Mary, who’s very familiar with my collection, made the following observation. “Patrick, you have such a large collection of artwork. Have you ever thought of displaying part of your collection publicly beyond your online shop Dogbotz Boneyard?”
Wow! I thought to myself. “There’s so much, Mary, I wouldn’t know where to begin.”
“Ok, I can appreciate that,” Mary responded. “So, let’s limit the parameters. If I said to you, select three pieces of art from, say, five different artists, what would you select? And why?”
Yup, that certainly simplifies things, I mumbled to myself. Fifteen pieces out of more than 500! “Let me think about it, Mary. I’m not an art historian or critic, so I’m not sure my selections would have much meaning to folks other than me.”
“You don’t need to be a historian or critic. But, other people — collectors and not — are always intrigued as to what others see in the art they acquire, whether they hold the same opinion or perspective,” Mary said.
So, I agreed to Mary’s challenge and after several weeks, I had made my decisions. Please note that I value and cherish all the artists and their works that I’ve collect throughout the years, but the five artists I’ve chosen hold a very special place in my heart because their works speak to the essence of my own mortal journey. Also, please know that the artists below are listed alphabetically by last name to avoid any artificial ranking system.
Intensely intimate is the first phrase that comes to mind when I contemplate the artwork of Maine artist Philip Gladstone. Whether it’s a man and his dog sitting or leaning on the edge of bathtub (Brady’s Bath), or a naked young man seated on the floor with a teddy bear beside him, both connected by a ball of yarn (Love Me), or a bare-chested young man leaning on a rooftop air-conditioning unit while another gentleman works in an adjacent rooftop office (Dusk), I feel as if I’ve entered, in a voyeuristic way, a very private moment in the lives of each of these individuals. My mind is intrigued by each scene, wanting to know more about each subject, whereas my spirit at a very intuitive level understands wholeheartedly the story being told.
Philip Gladstone’s paintings have been compared to Caravaggio, Pablo Picasso and Diego Rivera, to name a few stylistic influences. I perceive those qualities in many of his works, but in the end, for me, it’s all about the underlying stories, many of which have erotic tension and undertones. And I find that quite compelling, especially in a world titillated by the pornographic yet oblivious to the sensual.
Kathleen Kills Thunder
Of all the artists whose works I’ve collected, I have purchased the most pieces from Kathleen Kills Thunder. Coming from a Native American heritage, I immediately relate to the themes, subjects, and symbolism of her paintings. Though I also have many of her beadwork and jewelry pieces, I find Kathleen Kills Thunder’s paintings to be ideal icons for reflection and meditation. I admire her works because of the manner in which she blends a bright color palette, which, in part, reflects her Spanish heritage, and her imaginative use of Native American subjects, from the creatures of Earth Mother (Queenie and Babies) to tribal craftswomen, from war ponies (The Warrior Horses’ Last Battle) to medicine men (Peyote Man). Her compositions are brilliant with color, fluid with geometric shapes and natural forms, and profoundly reflective of the human experience and its inherent truths. Her paintings speak with the ancient language of the spirit world made modern by the abstract techniques of waking dreams.
Of the fifteen art pieces that I have chosen to honor my friend Mary’s request (and for this blog), three paintings are particularly dear to my spirit. The Warrior Horses’ Last Battle is the first of them. Here’s why.
I have worked in various capacities for twenty-plus years now in the nonprofit charitable world. I have been a dental clinic office manager of an AIDS/HIV center in Milwaukee, where I saw folks battling the harsh realities of a life-threatening illness while struggling to move away from being treated as pariahs into a place of acceptance and love. I have been a director of fundraising and marketing for a senior center in northern Illinois, where I have seen our elders struggle to maintain independence, dignity, and self-respect while faced with the illnesses that come with old age and the depression that emerges as they see their circles of spouses and friends dwindle before their very eyes. I have also worked at a hospice in Illinois, where I often witnessed the final journeys of people, from 6-month-old infants to young mothers afflicted with cancer to the elderly, who struggled with and finally embraced the process of letting go.
At a very subliminal level, the two horses of The Warrior Horses’ Last Battle struggling to remain alive reminds me of the sometimes difficult challenges we face throughout our own journeys, and that the ramifications of truth haunt me, in a healthy way, to the very marrow of my bones. That may not have been her intent in creating this piece of artwork, but I am still thankful that Kathleen Kills Thunder had the inclination to paint it anyway.
Nine months ago, the name David Silva would have meant nothing to me. Had it not been for Jason, another of my art collector friends, the name would still remain a mystery to me to this very day. Knowing that I enjoy Pop art, Jason recommended that I peruse the charcoal and colored pencil works of contemporary Brazilian Pop artist David Silva at a well-known online website, and so I did. I was delighted by what I saw and thus acquired several David Silva drawings.
I greatly appreciate the artwork of David Silva because of the diverse subjects he portrays through his Pop art images and the emotional content emanating therefrom. Sometimes he presents the viewer with a subtle mystery; other times, with playful and erotic vibrations; and yet in other works, with the haunting reality of loss and grief. Be it Batman and Superman in amorous embrace (Unspoken Love Affair between Superman and Batman — I wonder what the folks at D.C. Comics would have to say), a sailor getting ready to depart on his next cruise (In the Navy — very Village People, for sure), or a young child’s hand reaching for the dog tags of a deceased soldier-father (For Whom the Bells Tolls), the artist reveals his joy, his compassion, and his humanity.
For those unfamiliar with Pop art, it is an art style that uses aspects of the larger or mass culture, such as advertising, comic books, TV cartoon characters and other mundane cultural images or objects to emphasize the more banal or “kitschy” qualities of the culture it inherently mocks. Irony is the most popular expression used by Pop artists. Among David Silva’s work, the Pop art element of irony makes sense for such drawings as In the Navy or Unspoken Love Affair between Superman and Batman. But what about his other drawing, For Whom the Bells Tolls?
With great sadness, I must admit that, in this war-beleaguered age in which we live, a scene focusing on the demise of a soldier has become all too familiar, all too casual, and to which we have become all too desensitized. Ironic, perhaps; Pop, disquietingly so. But, I believe that, in For Whom the Bells Tolls, David Silva depicts a shockingly profound sense of grief that we must admit, embrace and then manifest its inherent lesson so we can attain a world peace that transcends political and religious diatribes, the unrelenting need for greed, and the blinding desire for revenge. For Whom the Bells Tolls is the second piece of the fifteen I’ve selected that touches my soul in a most insightful way.
Several years ago, I decided to turn my collector’s eye north to my neighbors in Canada. I found some truly gifted artists throughout that country creating some spectacular pieces of art. One of my personal favorites is Judy Thorley, a signature member of the Toronto Watercolour Society. Although Judy Thorley originally began painting in transparent watercolor, she presently explores mixed media with acrylics, collage and photo transfer. She enjoys working on distressed surfaces with multiple layers, and she is inspired by many things, both natural and manmade, from decaying old walls covered with peeling posters to the latest fashion magazines.
To me, Judy Thorley’s works have an Art Nouveau quality, wherein she establishes a unique balance of the natural with the manmade or manufactured (Pandora), the architectural with the figurative (Chained), and the established with the innovative (Chivalry). Her use of multiple layers of colorful elements, distressed surfaces, and uneven textures evokes scenes that portray mythical subjects or images that harken back to another era (which is true of the three pieces selected).
Judy Thorley is one of the few artists whose works that I collect for which I do not prefer one of her pieces over another. All have great merit, and I enjoy taking the time to just “inhale,” if you will, the essence of each one.
I just can’t help myself! I am a longtime, avid dog-lover, especially of Labrador Retrievers, who I’ve always humorously called “the drinking buddies” of dogs. So, when I discovered the artwork of Roger Wedegis, himself a self-acclaimed lover of Labs, I was immediately taken with his canine compositions. I am deeply touched by Roger Wedegis’s paintings because of his capacity to capture the playful nature (In the Hibiscus), the loyal companionship (I’m Ready), and even the ineffable spiritual dimension of community (Spirits in the Night) that these four-legged creatures share with us, their human cousins. Whether portrayed in a natural or urban setting, the artist’s subjects gently remind me of why dogs have for millennia been our best friends and most devoted guardians.
Spirits in the Night is the third painting of the fifteen pieces I selected that I find especially endearing. Are the three Labrador Retrievers looking at Grandmother Moon real dogs or are they the spirits intimated in the title of the painting? In the end, does it really matter? For me, no, as the genuine heart-felt message I discover is to take the time to remember and honor those canine companions who show or have shown me the awe of unconditional love and to reflect that vibration back, like the light of the Moon, to all life.
So, there you have it: my response to my friend Mary’s art challenge! But, again remember that I genuinely admire all the artwork I’ve collected over the years, which I hope to share in future blogs.
All the best,
Dogbotz Boneyard, LLC