Abstract Collage

I bought several pieces recently from an artist named Janet Ahrens. She is an Iowa artist that starts by making her own paper. She adds squares made of various materials, such as porcelain, tile, rock, or plastic. Found objects, usually twigs, may also be used. She puts them in very deep frames, but not shadow boxes. Some are titled, but most are not. She does not like to put titles into her work, because she does not want to put her interpretation on it. This way, the viewer is allowed to come up with their own interpretations.


I see abstracted landscapes and cityscapes. I love the juxtaposition of the natural with the man made and the irony of the coarse material that is man made, but looks natural. The framing of the piece also intrigues me. There is a mat around the field, but the art doesn’t fit inside it. She purposely places part of it outside the allotted space. To me, this is representative of the creativity of humanity, refusing to stay within their self-imposed bounds. It also shows the wild forces of nature, where such bounds are irrelevant.


I purposely arranged the pieces in an order that followed this sort of irreverence. The pieces are placed so that they form a definite grouping. They are aligned along the center, but not on any edge. The distance between the top and bottom of each piece was kept the same to give more structure.


I hope to see more of Ms. Ahrens art in the future.


What I look for in Abstract Art

Abstract art. Strange images of lines, blobs, fields, and whatever. Some people love it, some people hate it, and I would like to say no one really understands it. Even a lot of artists who make abstract art don’t claim to understand it. It could be highly symbolic, like Aquarium by MAGIC.


Some have no significance outside of themselves, like these pieces by Shawn Wolter.IMG_2972

As an amateur art collector, what do I look for in abstract art? First, color. If the colors catch my eye, I am much more likely to buy the piece. I particularly like contrasting colors like the red, black, and white on the piece above. I will admit that I tend to buy particular colors. My walls are like a palette, just like an artist might have. If I don’t like the color, I won’t buy it, even if I like the imagery.

Second, depth. The shininess of Aquarium made a big impression on me, particularly with the flatness of the black and blue on the piece. The random lines contrasting with the different shades of white on the Wolter piece on the left draw my eye. I am a fan of Rothko and his color field paintings because of the interplay of the colors involved in the pieces.

Third, composition. How are the elements arranged on the piece. Are they interesting? Do I connect with it in an emotional way? Are the shapes interesting enough that I can look at it over and over and still be entranced? Do they symbolize anything to me? What was the intention of the artist? Do I agree?

Do not fall into the trap of thinking that just because the art is simple it was not difficult to make. Believe me, it isn’t easy to make paint scribbles look good. It also isn’t easy to make color fields have depth and interest.

As with any art, you have to connect to it on an emotional and intellectual level. Look carefully at the art in the shows you attend. Talk to the artists about their techniques and why they do what they do. If they mention an inspiration or another artist that they admire, go look them up. It makes looking at blobs more interesting than you can imagine.

The Importance of Supporting Your Artists

I found out the other day that one of the artists that I have bought from in the past is reducing their output. This is for the simple fact that they can’t make enough money being an artist to make ends meet. Being an art collector and fan of this particular artist, I feel this as a loss. Art is part of our culture. When we look back at the times of history, we look at the books, the paintings, the murals, the letters, the sculptures, the music, and the dance. We don’t look (generally) at the bank statements. The world is driven by the creative types.

I can’t name the first commanding officer for Fort Des Moines. I certainly can’t name his second in command. These are people that were fantastically successful in their career. Let’s be honest, here. I doubt anyone who would read this post cares who they are, what they did, or what effects that had. These are people who, in effect, founded the capital of my State. But everyone knows Grant Woods. Everyone knows one of his students, Jackson Pollack. Is it because the Army is that much less important than the arts? To be honest, my answer is yes.

It isn’t that the military is unimportant. They are vital to the health and safety of our culture. The arts ARE that culture. The protectors are always less important than the protected. The vault is not as valuable as the items inside. Members of the military are honored for their sacrifice, and rightly so. What better way to honor them than to glory the freedom and culture that they risk their lives defending?

Support the artists you buy from. Promote them to your friends and family. Buy consistently from them.

Article on Art Collecting

Many people learn more about art and art collecting by reading about art. This can be books, magazines, on-line article, and blogs. Obviously, I think that is an important outlet for learning about art and art collecting, since I blog about it. I have also found that discussion groups are helpful in learning about art, art collecting, and artists. There is an art collecting group on LinkedIn that I follow and sometimes post comments. It has been a very positive experience for me as a collector.

Recently, one of the members posted a link to an article on art collecting that I thought I would share. The article can be found here.

While the article is supposed to deal with Asian contemporary art, it really has good advice for any art collector, including amateur art collectors, like me. The best point in the article, in my opinion, was when Mr. Wemhöner said not to worry about liking what you bought 5 years from now. Buy what moves you right now.

Your tastes are going to change. I started collecting exclusively landscape paintings. I now have more abstracts. I had thought that I would have a 50/50 split between sculpture and paintings. That has not happened, and I have many more paintings than sculptures.

Does that mean I’ve made mistakes in buying? Not at all! I still enjoy the works that I bought years ago. I hope to enjoy them for years to come, but if not, I will be more than happy to rotate them out and into storage for a while. Who knows, perhaps I’ll find in the coming years that the works that I enjoy now have lost my interest and the “older” pieces will capture that passion again.

The only real mistake you can make is falling in love with a piece and regretting that you didn’t get it.