An Eye for Art
Collectors curate their homes with the work of local artists.
Photo Essay by Mick Schulte
Bringing a work of art into your home is an intentional, purposeful decision. Both the creator and the collector find a way to express their personality and style through the piece, and a mutual appreciation for the work connects the two. The artist might be a friend or a stranger, and the purchase might be premeditated or impulsive. However it begins, the work of art becomes a defining element in the home and in the lives of the homeowners.
The Triangle is a place where many collectors and artists find their counterparts. With entrepreneurs, young professionals, retirees, and everyone in between, the area is brimming with eclectic tastes and talents. A handful of local art collectors were generous enough to invite us into their homes to view their special pieces.
Derek Hennigar, Artist
Collector: Mary Regan, from North Raleigh
It’s no wonder Mary Regan has an eye for talent, given that she is the former director of the North Carolina Arts Council. Regan found Derek Hennigar at the Carolina Artisan Craft Market, an annual show where more than 100 artists from North Carolina present their work.
“I went to the show and saw lots of solid wood tables, but I needed something that didn’t take up so much space—then I turned a corner and saw Derek’s bentwood tables and I just knew I had found the perfect fit. It’s like it was made to go here,” Regan says.
For his tables, Hennigar uses solid native woods and mixes established joinery, carving, and finishing techniques with his own design perspective. When he delivered the table to Regan’s home, he agreed that it worked well in her space. “This piece combines flow and geometry, presents minimal visual weight, reflects the beauty of its surroundings, and serves as a durable table,” he explains.
Beyond the exchange, Hennigar also enjoyed his visit with Regan. ”Mary is an encyclopedia of North Carolina culture, and her collection of art, craft, and books reflects a life-long immersion. We could have talked for days.”
Hennigar’s studio is located in Polk County; visit OrdinaryFurniture.com for more information.
Craig Kassan, Artist
Collectors from Cary
Only a fraction of the artwork displayed in this Cary couple’s home is shared in this photograph. With names like Norman Rockwell and Alexandra Nechita adorning the walls, their condo is a three-story contemporary art museum displaying a collection they have built over the past 35 years. “We have almost any kind of art you could imagine, and it fills our house. Even our elevator and garage have some custom pieces we commissioned,” say the collectors, who prefer to remain anonymous.
The couple encountered Craig Kassan’s work at the Carolina Artisan Craft Market and purchased his piece called “Chi.” It’s made from walnut on a bronze background with a canary-wood sphere. “I was trying to capture the expanding energy of ripples in water when a stone is dropped into it,” Kassan explains.
In his work, Kassan turns wood to create wall sculptures, hollow forms, burl dishes, and natural-edge hollow spheres. He also designs and builds custom furniture.
“My wife and I delivered and installed the sculpture in the Cary couple’s home and they showed us all of their amazing artwork. I am honored to be part of that collection,” Kassan says. His studio is located in Franklinton, and his website is CraigKassan.com.
Andy Smith, Artist
Collectors: Jeanne Maher and Gail Tilton (sisters), from Raleigh
Gail Tilton began collecting art after reading Uncommon Clay, a book written by Raleigh author Margaret Maron. The characters in the novel traveled to Seagrove, the state’s famous pottery town, and Tilton made the same trip after finishing the book. The first pot she bought was a Ben Owen III.
Her sister, Jeanne Maher, who also appreciates the arts, currently serves as treasurer of the North Carolina Arts Council. “Our mother was an artist and an art teacher, so we grew up around [an appreciation for art],” Maher says.
The sisters first met potter Andy Smith at the annual Carolina Artisan Craft Market, which this year will be held November 2nd through 4th in Raleigh.
“Andy is so nice and personable. When artists are friendly, you want to support them,” Maher says. Gail was attracted to the earthy colors of the glaze Smith uses. She also liked the matte finish rather than a glossy one. “You can see he has an advanced skill because of the thinness of the pots, and each one has a unique shape,” Maher notes.
Smith’s studio is located in Marshville, or visit his website, RakuByAndySmith.com, for more information.
Jean Cheely, Artist
Collectors from North Raleigh
Recently, the collectors who own this North Raleigh home celebrated 50 years of marriage. While they prefer to remain anonymous, they told Midtown: “Over that span of time our tastes and budget have changed dramatically, but something we have always enjoyed is purchasing art from people we know.”
When their longtime friend, Jean Cheely, displayed her artwork at a show sponsored by the Duke Raleigh Hospital Guild, the couple bought her glass sculpture titled “The School.”
“I love the unique colors and how it reminds me of the coast,” explains one of the collectors. “It also reflects light in different ways depending on where you stand.”
To make the piece, Cheely used two types of glass—art and dichroic—and fused them together in a kiln using a programmable temperature-control system. She has done this type of artwork for 18 years, and teaches a glass-fusing class at N.C. State University. In addition to glass sculptures, Cheely creates jewelry using some of the same fusing techniques.
Cheely, also the co-owner of Cary Gallery of Artists, helps organize Final Fridays, where local artists are featured around the town of Cary from 6pm to 9pm Her studio is located in Apex, and her website is JeanCheely.com.
Wayne Webb, Artist
Collector: Amelia Lane, from Raleigh
For the last 12 years Amelia Lane has co-hosted the Lasting Impressions Open Garden and Art Show right outside her back door. Her yard is full of winding paths that lead to colorful displays of flowers, plants, and artist Wayne Webb’s interesting metal creations. When Lane and her gardening friend, Beth Jimenez, first decided to have a show, they went to a frame and art shop in Cary called The Nature of Art, and there they found Webb’s work.
“We were looking for people who had nature-related pieces and then we saw Wayne’s critters,” Lane says. In addition to his many bugs and animals that are on display at the annual show, she also commissioned him to make a garden gate for her. “The greatest thing about Wayne is that he’s very personable and extremely positive. We love having him at the show every year.”
Webb uses recycled materials to make his metal creations, some of which can take up to two years to complete. “It’s like a treasure hunt for me,” Webb says. “I shop at flea markets, yard sales, and even junk yards. Sometimes I have all the right pieces in the beginning, but I usually collect the parts of a sculpture over time.”
Webb’s studio is located in Rocky Mount, or you can visit LastingImpressionsLeaves.com
for more information.