art · life curation

Art Synchronicities


When I went to the National Portrait Gallery to view the Marlene Dietrich exhibit (you can read all about it here), I got a bit of a surprise. While walking around and trying to find Marlene, I came across a painting that stopped me in my tracks. You can see the painting below:

This painting is the very same one that was my most likely doppelganger, per the Google Arts & Culture app (you know, that app that I wrote about a while ago). Of course, on the app, the painting is listed as being at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA. However, it is currently at the National Portrait Gallery, as part of The Sweat of Their Face: Portraying American Workers exhibit. I’m pretty sure that the painting will return to the High Museum in September, when the exhibit draws to a close.

I examined the painting and found myself smiling. The vivid colors can’t be captured via camera: it must be experienced in person. The focused gaze, the high cheekbones, and the richly hued skin did, oddly enough, remind me of myself. Of all of the paintings to make it to this exhibit, this one made the cut. And of all of the museums I could visit in DC (and there are PLENTY), I ended up at the National Portrait Gallery. And this painting had an entire wall to itself, so I couldn’t miss it as I walked to the Dietrich exhibit. I figure it was meant for me to see it. Oh yes, and here is the photo that convinced Google Arts & Culture that I am Alma’s incarnate:

I’m delighted that I got to see this painting: as always, art is best experienced in person. This is one of several portraits depicting the working class in the first half of the 20th century. I encourage you all to go and experience the exhibit for yourself, if you have the chance!

art · luxury

Art Collectors Conundrum: Culture Clash

As explained in previous posts, Art Collectors Conundrum explores the current issues surrounding art collecting. There are a lot of different issues that impact new collectors as they journey into the art world, and one of those big issues is the dissonance that exists between aesthetic indulgences and minimalist ideals.

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Betye Saar, Blow Top Blues, The Fire Next Time (1998)

The thing is, the culture of today’s wealthy – especially wealthy millenials – leans more toward minimalism and less toward acquisition of material goods. Any time spent on social media will confirm the “shift” from a culture of excess to one of spartan decorating practices. Many millenials favor the bare walls and monochrome decor that makes for clear, appealing Instagram photos. And, if they select art, the art often lacks the color, texture and excitement that used to be favored by collectors.


Betye Saar, Indigo Mercy (1975)

In short, this cultural clash results in fewer “new” big spenders. Bloomberg wrote about the “new elite” and their artistic tastes. The article points out that location has much to do with the cultural difference, too: East Coast “new money” tends to buy art in the more traditional fashion, while West Coast “new money” isn’t as interested in purchasing pricey art “for arts’ sake”.

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Betye Saar, Twilight Awakening (1978)

The key to luring in these potential art investors isn’t as simple as one would think. The most important thing to remember about the new wealthy is that they are earning their fortunes much earlier than the wealthy of previous generations. They just aren’t as likely to be focused on art collecting if they are buying their first homes and starting families.

An interesting way to get the new wealthy interested in collecting could be an art loan program, which allows them to enjoy works for a fixed period of time and then they can purchase the work if they want, or turn it back over to the gallery to “try out” something different. It isn’t a perfect solution but it would provide them with some exposure to fine art and would help them hone in on their personal tastes and preferences.

Those are some of my thoughts on overcoming the dissonance between minimalist goals and owning art. What are your thoughts? Feel free to share your comments below!

(all art by Betye Saar and in the National Gallery of Arts collections)

art · international

International Art: Tom Mboya, Kenyan Artist

While vacationing in Kenya, I noticed that my hotel (Ibis Styles in Nairobi’s Westlands neighborhood) had beautiful artwork lining the stairwells. Upon closer inspection, I saw that all of the paintings – about 30 in total, displayed in sets of 3 amongst 10 different floors – were done by Tom Mboya.

My curiosity kicked into overdrive and I started researching Mboya. As it so happens, Tom Mboya is a local Kenyan artist (no surprise there) that started out working in the hospitality industry before pursuing his art fulltime. The paintings are stunning and lively; from dynamic depictions of life in Kenya to breathtaking portraits of his countrywomen, these paintings draw you in and hold you captive.

Here are a few of my favorites from the hotel:



If you’d like to learn more about Mboya, check out his artist profile here.


art · life curation

Review: Alison “Great Artists and Their Works” Course

I’ve spent the past several weeks working through a few art courses, and I recently completed the first self-paced course I’ve taken this year. has a slew of courses that can be taken online for free, at the learner’s leisure. Completed courses are eligible for certificates of completion that learners can add to their educational portfolios.

I mentioned previously that I was completing the “Great Artists and Their Works” course. The course is approximately 5 – 6 hours long, and features 8 modules, with multiple lessons within each module. Each module discusses a different artist, and the artists are associated with different art movements throughout history (Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical, Cubism, etc.,).


(picture from

I found this to be a very helpful free course, and a suitable, though compressed, art history introduction. I was enthralled by the artists I’d never heard of before – namely, Caravaggio, Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Jacques-Louis David – and I’m glad I spent the time working through this course.

While I enjoyed the class, it isn’t without its flaws. It relies on videos created by Khan Academy, so you could just as easily study directly from the Khan Academy website. Also, the course has a single, cumulative examination at the end instead of quizzes sprinkled throughout the modules. In my experience, students learn better when they are periodically quizzed instead of assessing their knowledge after many concepts have been discussed and analyzed. Finally, there were a few questions that tested learners on concepts that weren’t taught in the course (I had to use Google for the answers).

Overall, I enjoyed the class and would recommend to anyone that wants to get familiar with some of the great names in art. If you decide to take it, let me know what you think about it!

art · hollywood glamour

A Glamorous Touch For Your Snail Mail . . .

Recently, the United States Postal Service announced that Hollywood icon and civil rights activist Lena Horne will be honored on a commemorative stamp.

The stamp, depicting Lena with her signature wide and warm smile, is a fitting tribute for a woman that lived a full and fascinating life. I am especially fond of the fact that the stamp depicts a mature Lena (the photo used for the stamp was taken in the 1980s, when Lena was in mid to late 60s).

See the lovely stamp for yourself:


I’ll be ordering my stamps before they sell out! I advise anyone that’s interested to grab a few sheets and keep at least one of them for your collection. These can be purchased at your local post office or through the USPS website.


art · Uncategorized

Buy Art and Support Public Schools

I recently received an email from Reynolds Gallery in Richmond, VA, explaining a special campaign for the month of February. The gallery is donating 10% of sales proceeds generated in February to support Richmond Public Schools. The gallery announced, “We want to do our part to improve the lives and education of our city’s children.”

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Reynolds Gallery was founded in 1977 and emphasizes a connection with local artists. That, along with the promise of donating 10% of February’s sales to public education, is a convincing reason to check out their offerings and see if there is any work that you’d love to own.

The contemporary pieces featured in the gallery are great for every collector, from the novice to the expert. I like Robert Stuart’s “From White to Red” (2017) and Andras Bality’s “Monhegan Sunflowers” (2017).

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I also found Doug Gray’s “Guthrie Theater Lobby Oct 1977 Minneapolis” (2017) enchanting. It gives Piet Mondrian vibes, no?

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Check out the online shop and see if there’s anything you’d like to get for your own collection! Remember, a portion of the proceeds will go to supporting a better educational environment for Richmond Public School students.

art · luxury

Art Collector Conundrum: Insecurity

In this series about issues surrounding inexperienced art enthusiasts, I want to explore another problematic aspect of art collecting. Namely, many new collectors and aspiring art professionals have a great deal of insecurity when entering into the world of art.

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The Holy Family with Saints Francis and Anne and the Infant Saint John the Baptist by Peter Paul Rubens

Like many other prestigious and exclusive arenas, new entrants find themselves overwhelmed and, ultimately, insecure about their knowledge, their ability to find their niche, and their own personal tastes and judgment. How many of us can relate to being the neophyte with a differing opinion that is promptly “put in place” by the resident expert? The more elite the group, the more devastating these interactions can be to the novice.

The point of this discussion isn’t to blast the experts that offer a different perspective to newcomers. Every subject needs experts that are willing to share their knowledge and guide their predecessors. This guidance can help new entrants avoid making costly mistakes on their journeys.

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A Forest at Dawn with a Deer Hunt

This also isn’t a criticism of the new entrants that will ultimately need to grow their confidence in their own tastes and knowledge in the art arena. There’s something to be said for discerning when to take the advice of someone else and when to stick with your stance, however unpopular. There are many experts that had to go against the grain at different points in order to establish themselves.

Ultimately, this is a consideration of what can be done to reduce insecurity when entering the art world. Knowledge, on its own, isn’t enough. The art world is the intersection of business and aesthetic tastes. The business portion can be taught and modeled for new entrants. To some degree, even the aesthetic part of art collecting can be “taught”, via exposure to many works in different media, from different periods of time and movements, and from various countries and global regions.


Venus and Adonis

So what does reduce insecurity? In a word, experience. The novices have to embrace the experiences that they must have, and they have to be ready to have MANY experiences outside of their comfort zones. Experience will teach a novice who to listen to and who to disregard; it will also help a novice learn when to listen to “gut nudges” and when those “nudges” are more fear-based (and generally inaccurate) than intuitive knowledge (which is usually spot-on).

To all of the newcomers to the art world: gain all of the experience that you can, remember that you BELONG wherever you’re going, and take comfort in the fact that you don’t have to know everything to be skilled, competent and worthy of your space in the art world.

(all art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, photos from and )