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Collectors3

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Collectors3

  1. 1. need a headline to go here T hey could be called citizen curators. These painstaking collectors of art and artifacts. Their homes are mini-museums, providing display space for the collections, which hang like trophies from the walls or sit prominently on tables, lined up in formation for the enjoyment of only those allowed to view them. Their collections provide clues to where they have traveled, whom they know and what they value. It is the key to what fascinates them, where they find beauty and what provides some of the meaning to their lives. To get invited to see the collections and hear the stories behind them is like getting a rare glimpse into their hearts. We were graciously invited Writ ten by J. Sharpe Smith into three homes of people with a special eye and a photoS by William J. GentSch particular knack for finding the unique. nov dec jan 08/09 127
  2. 2. collectors Jack Jenkins This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption A Storyteller Connects copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is T dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption hey stare out at you from the wall. The Masks. Each mask, though certainly an objet d’art on its own, copy. Some are scary, others friendly—the pale sea is a window into the ritual dramas performed by the green Moon Mask associated with Canadian tribes, known as the “First Nations,” that lived transformation and protection of spirit and the along that country’s northwest coast. They also represent Sun Mask whose rays shoot in all directions. the collecting efforts of Jack Jenkins on the western coast On the scary side, “Tsonaqua,” known as the wild of Canada and in the Northwest United States over the last woman of the woods, makes lightning with her two decades. supernaturally loud voice. Her undulating black and blue Jenkins began to study the principal First Nations face contrasts with lips smeared with the red blood of the tribes of the northwest coast of Canada, which include the children she has eaten. “Bookwus,” the wild man of the Tlingit, Tsimshian, Bella Bella, Bella Coola, Haida and the woods, sports an eerie green face, menacing black brows, Kwakiutl, back when he lived in upstate New York, not far sunken eye sockets, flaring red nostrils and a full set of from Canada. This interest led him to purchase his first growling teeth. He brings the dead back to life during the mask—one of an owl, the harbinger of death—in 1986 from winter dance season. a British Columbia museum shop. 128 des Moines city Magazine nov dec jan 08/09 129
  3. 3. collectors Masks, in general, have special meaning to Jenkins, presentations, similar to a Native American powwow, take who served as chairman of the theater department at place in longhouses with a bonfire in the middle. The story Simpson College in Indianola, teaching and directing plays is told and then acted out in dances to a drumbeat, with for 18 years. He has put a lot of thought into how actors singing and chanting by the chief and tribesmen. These can adopt personas by using masks, whether actual or presentations pass down the each tribe’s myths from psychological. generation to generation. “If you are playing a character, you are psychologically “They are preserving their culture and sharing it,” says masking yourself. It’s fascinating to me and always has Jenkins. “It was probably sacred before Christian times, but been,” says Jenkins. “In actor training, we do exercises in today it is still revered because it is their mythology, their masking. If I can eradicate your face and give you another story, their culture. It’s interesting. Some of it is funny and face, then you can behave differently.” other times it is scary.” Sometimes, it is the mythology behind the mask that Turning Knowledge into a Passion makes it a must-have. One example is the striking red, His interest in the First Nations’ mythology led him to black and white mask that depicts the Raven, a key figure journey to western Canada and the Northwest United in multiple tribes’ mythologies. In one story, the Raven, States nine times, always keeping an eye out for masks. He known as a transformer but also as a lustful practical joker, has purchased masks from galleries and museum shops, as steals the sun from an evil being and places it into the sky. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy well as directly from tribes and even from the artists In doing so, he dribbles bits of light, which becomes the caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption themselves. Once, he created his own First Nations art tour stars and the moon. “I knew the story and so I had to have copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy of western Canada, which included sites with the most a Raven,” Jenkins says. caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is totem poles, the equivalent of a multiple mask carvings One of Jenkins’ most treasured collecting experiences dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption stacked one on top of another. came recently. After witnessing a traditional Kwakiutl copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy In one instance where serendipity intervened, he was ceremony at a cultural center in Ariel, Wash., he met Chief caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is in Stratford, Ontario, for the summer-long Shakespeare Tsungani, who had carved the masks and taken part in the dummy caption copy. festival and he happened upon the Diving Killerwhale ritual. Jenkins then purchased a mask the chief made that Chilkat Moon Mask in Gallery Indigene. It is now in his depicts a deer that transforms into the face of a man. As a collection. Jenkins regularly checks out the Douglas fellow theater lover, Jenkins felt an instant kinship with Reynolds Gallery in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he Tsungani. has purchased several carvings by Beau Dick, a prominent “He was a charming man. I admire that they have been artist represented there. able to translate storytelling into a living art,” Jenkins says. One good place to see masks in action is a First “Storytelling is a universal art. We all tell stories. It lets Nations ceremony, where tribal members wear the masks people know who we are and where we came from.” to depict characters central to their mythology. The 130 des Moines city Magazine nov dec jan 08/09 131
  4. 4. collectors Mark Pritchard This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption Real Life Captured in the Miniature copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is I dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption f paintings give us a window to the past, these works In the times before photography, miniature portraits copy. are like looking back through a keyhole. The delicate were mounted in gold lockets, broaches and bracelets and oval portraits, which can be 1 1/2 inches in diameter, date served as a way to remember a loved one while he or she back to the 16th to 18th centuries. In an incredibly small was away on travel. On some portraits, a lock of hair is space, these artists packed in an extreme amount of detail attached to the back of the frame, adding to its personal with a wealth of color, usually depicting the head and value. Additionally, a family might take the portrait to a shoulders of the subject. To put it into perspective, prospective suitor to show him their daughters. compared with contemporary portraits these antique works of art are what a Japanese garden is to an Iowa Collecting as Social Activity cornfield. Collecting for Mark Pritchard grew out of his friendships The main producers of miniatures were the French and the camaraderie that he experienced during his time and the English, who painted originally with watercolor on living in Milan, Italy, in the 1990s. He would get together vellum (animal hide). Then in the 18th century, ivory and with his buddies and frequent the monthly antique fairs enamel were introduced as substrates. that were held along the canals, which were designed by 132 des Moines city Magazine nov dec jan 08/09 133
  5. 5. collectors Leonardo da Vinci. The outdoor markets, featuring 500 to Small Paintings of Big Dignitaries 600 vendors, were an antique collector’s paradise, offering Before there were paparazzi, miniature portraits everything from furniture and paintings to jewelry and documented members of royal families, prime ministers, clothes. military and civic leaders and their families. Interestingly This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption One day, a friend began explaining the value and enough, some of the first miniature portraits depicted King copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy history of miniature portraits. Little by little, Pritchard Henry VIII, who evidently did not share the same respect caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is learned about miniatures, and the more he learned, the for other people’s (including his wives’) heads. Pritchard’s dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption more fascinated he became. Collecting miniatures is prized pieces include images of Napoleon and Josephine copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy popular today for the same reason people liked them in the and one of Shakespeare, painted in the 1840s by an caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is 17th and 18th centuries: Portability. Irishman named Bernard Mulrenin, who has work hanging dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. “Miniatures are easy to purchase and take with you in in the National Gallery in Dublin, Ireland, and the National your luggage, if you are away from your hometown,” Portrait Gallery in London, England. Pritchard says. Pritchard’s quest for miniatures took on a whole new Little Morsels of History scope during his vacations along the Mediterranean Sea. One could easily collect portraits of only royalty or Antiques markets would take place every Sunday, Tuesday aristocrats, but Pritchard is not drawn in that direction. He and Thursday. During three-week vacations to Nice, counts among his favorites in the collection depictions of Cannes, the Riviera and other points in the south of servants, ladies in waiting, maids and other average France, Pritchard and his friends would venture out, one in people, who provide a realistic view of their time. search of silver; another, paintings of roses; another, “These portraits are not stylized, but are warts-and-all miniature portraits; and another, gold-leaf frames. Each images of real people from the 17th and 18th century,” says had a purpose. Pritchard. “Therefore, they serve as a historical record of “My buddy who also collected miniatures and I would the time the portrait was executed.” sprint across the cobblestone streets from one stall to the The images piqued Pritchard’s curiosity about the next, trying to get first shot at the ivory miniatures,” stories behind them—what kind of lives they led. Each Pritchard says. “I got a lot of practice using my elbows.” He image of a face is like a morsel of history that was probably has been successful developing a collection of 50 or 60 never written down. “History is not always made by miniature portraits since 1993. royalty,” he says. “It is made by the common folks as well. I admire the plain, common people.” Today, Pritchard’s miniature portraits are not only images of European history, but are also a constant reminder of his own history, his time in Italy and his vacations to France. 134 des Moines city Magazine nov dec jan 08/09 135
  6. 6. collectors Harriette Lubetkin Traveling Different Paths W hether winning a painting at auction from The result of the Lubetkins’ collecting is an intriguing, Sotheby’s in New York or obtaining a eclectic home décor. For example, pieces of Southwestern piece through bartering, the collecting Indian and African pottery purchased from dealers and style of Robert and Harriette Lubetkin auction houses make for object d’art that is very interesting proves there is no single method to adding to one’s to the eye. Not too mention being fine examples of artwork collections. from other cultures. There may be larger, more prestigious personal Friendships with the artist have led to a number of the This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy collections of artwork in Des Moines, but there is none more Lubetkins’ collection and commissioning experiences. caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This interesting. Just as they do not limit themselves on how they Their relationship with Des Moines native Doug Shelton, is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption acquire the artwork, the couple draw no boundaries on now living in Tucson, Ariz., led to the first work they copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is which artists to collect, whether it is a simple abstract collected. They traded a 100-year-old cartoon from the dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is painting of a horse executed by the internationally known Chicago Tribune for a Shelton painting called “Tunnel of dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption minimalist abstract painter Susan Rothenberg or a Love.” Later Shelton would paint Robert’s portrait. copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is sculpture made by their former car mechanic. Another friend and local artist, the late Karl Mattern, a dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. 136 des Moines city Magazine nov dec jan 08/09 137
  7. 7. collectors Drake University instructor, painted Harriette’s portrait. agreed to fund the trip in exchange for a piece yet to be But one of the Mattern paintings in their collection was painted. Kelly, unfortunately didn’t sell anything at the actually purchased by accident. The framer discovered the exhibition, and needed even more money to bring his hidden treasure behind another painting they had bought artwork home. Robert again supplied the funds. Pretty This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption from Mattern’s widow. soon, he was out several hundred dollars. copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy “We like to get to know the artists, but that is not Eventually, Robert’s confidence in the artist was caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is always possible,” Robert says. Luckily, Harriette makes rewarded with quite a large abstract painting. The story dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption friends quickly. When contemporary realist Philip doesn’t end there. When the commissioned piece copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is dummy Pearlstein was at the Des Moines Art Center to give a talk, developed technical problems, Kelly happily replaced it caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. This is Harriette approached him with a proposition. She wanted with a piece that had twice the value. dummy caption copy. This is dummy caption copy. to trade him a Native American rug for one of his prints. With children in Chicago, the Lubetkins regularly go After she handed over the rug, a print came in the mail antiquing and gallery hopping in the Windy City. On one days later. such visit, they purchase a purple-infused expressionist portrait painted by artist and sculptor Robert Arneson. An Eye Open for the Unique Why go to a gallery when your mechanic is a sculptor? Harriette’s eye for the unique paid off when she spied an The “Muffler Man”—made from used car parts, including a industrial-looking chest made to store screws at a hardware muffler—is a whimsical piece that Harriette commissioned store in Lake View. The store owner refused to sell it to her from, of all people, the man who kept their car in running until years later. Today, it serves as a unique end table. She order, Jack King, after noticing a similar sculpture had been added an industrial-size nut to the top of the chest as a sold from in front of the shop. whimsical accent. The Lubetkins’ collecting style tells a lot about their Tenacity has helped Robert as a collector. He lusted personalities. They share a joy for life and hold no after several mid-’20s art deco chairs owned by a pretensions about their collections, which span from downtown shoe repair store, but the shop owner wouldn’t Meskwaki artifacts, Southwestern and African pottery to budge. Finally, Robert got an idea. He purchased several fine art, art deco house wares and more. When asked why new chairs and offered them in trade for the antique chairs. she chose one piece or another, Harriette has no And now, after some refurbishing, the glistening chrome complicated explanation. “I just liked it.” What is next? and black leather chairs adorn the Lubetkins’ kitchen area. Who knows? Robert says it all. “We always keep our eyes Sometimes collecting requires not only friendship, but open,” he says. “We are always looking for whatever patience and a little faith. When Robert was approached catches our fancy.” ■ by friend and local artist Richard Kelly, who needed travel expenses for an art exhibit in Washington, D.C., Robert 138 des Moines city Magazine nov dec jan 08/09 139

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