Collecting a Life

View of the author’s collection installed in the entrance gallery of her New York apartment. From left to right: Robert Rauschenberg, Silkscreen #3 from The Seat of Authority (1979), screenprint, 30 5/8 x 23 1/8 inches; Jasper Johns, Untitled (Coca Cola) (1971), lithograph, 39 x 29 1/2 inches; Robert Motherwell, Pauillac #3 (1973), lithograph and screenprint, 35 5/8 x 18 1/4 inches; Robert Motherwell, Pauillac #4 (1973), lithograph, screenprint and collage, 35 3/8 x 18 1/4 inches. Below, in acrylic display case: Lynne Allen, Ita ta Win Bag (2003), photolithograph on 19th-century goatskin land document, linen thread, horsehair tassel, collaged square, leather hanger, approximately 6 x 4 x 3 inches. Photo: Elliott Mickleburgh.

Collectors always remember their first purchase. When I was a college senior, I bought a small oil painting, Boat in Harbor, by a sophomore named Barbara Gerson for $30. She needed spending money and I wanted to help her. I remember (to my current horror) asking her to repaint an impressionistic area of the composition. Fortunately, she said no.

From that early, inexperienced beginning, I went on to study and teach art history; I looked at collections in museums and galleries; I took printmaking classes in woodcut, etching, engraving, lithography and screenprint; I ran an art gallery and worked in museums. My collection evolved to reflect all these stages of reinvention. I focused on prints because I could afford them, and as I learned to identify the different techniques, their surfaces became increasingly intriguing. Furthermore, through their developmental states one could follow the working process of the artist, much as one can follow the rewriting stages of an author.

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