Considering Collecting: An Interview with Shannon Robinson

BLOGblock-gregory-classical-still-life-with-moth-28x32-oil-3600By Georgina Kolber, Curator of Exhibits, Collections & Programs

The first installment of our Denver Collects program series will go out with a bang, as we experience the boundlessly energetic Shannon Robinson [President of the Colorado Dominican Vocation Foundation (CDVF) and Chairperson of the Mizel Community Board] discussing one of her favorite topics: collecting art. In the first three Denver Collects programs in the series, Ivar Zeile of Plus Gallery spoke to us from a gallery director’s perspective, and four private collectors toured and dazzled us through their art-filled homes. In this, our last Denver Collects program (for now), Shannon’s unique presentation will use tales of famous collectors throughout history as a springboard from which to lend us practical tips on how everyone can become a collector.

As president of the CDVF, Shannon has curated and produced the Windows to the Divine® Art Exhibition for all its eight years. This year’s show, held at Arthaus in RiNo from May 17 through June 6, features more than 50 artists, including Quang Ho, William Hook, Emilio Lobato, Jill Soukup and Daniel Sprick. After her talk on collecting, Shannon will guide us through this dynamic exhibition, and then we’ll tour a few more galleries in the RiNo district.

As part of our series of blog posts, called “Considering Collecting” (which began with this examination of a handful of collectors), I asked Shannon a few questions to whet your appetites for the June 1st Denver Collects program:

GK: When did you start collecting things?
SR: I started collecting as an adult when I first started practicing law. An artist representative came to our firm bearing art works for sale, and I foolishly opted for a Monet poster with a lavish frame. When I learned that I could have had an original work of art for nearly the same price, I never bought another reproduction print again.

GK: What is your most beloved artwork and why?
SR: I can’t narrow it down to one as I love so many of them. But, I would say that two of my favorites are by two young artists, LuCong and Greg Block. The first work is a contemporary portrait by LuCong entitled “Hymn without Words,” which is a breathtaking and dramatic female portrait by, in my opinion, one of the best portrait artists in America. The second is a still-life by Greg Block entitled “Classical Still Life w/Moth” (pictured here), which is not only a masterful tableau with striking drapery and lighting, but depicts objects which evoke a narrative for me that is personally inspiring as I strive to fulfill my own calling to honor the divine and offer hospitality and affirmation to artists.

GK: Are you inspired by any specific collectors or collections?
SR: Louisine Havemeyer was not only one of the greatest American women collectors, but also an important advocate of the suffrage movement. I am exceedingly impressed with the collections built and donated by the Mellon family (Andrew, Paul, Ailsa) to the National Gallery of Art. I am also a fan of Herb and Dorothy Vogel because they built an art collection on a modest paycheck, which is something I believe everyone can do.

GK: How did Windows to the Divine come about?
SR: The Dominican friars approached me in 1997 about starting a Foundation to help provide spiritual and financial assistance to the first-year students (“novices”) studying in Denver. During their year of discernment and study, the novices serve the elderly and homeless by volunteering at facilities like Samaritan House and Mullen Home. In the process of forming the Foundation, we decided to create an event in honor of Fra Angelico; the patron saint of artists and a Dominican, who was one of the great artists of the Renaissance. So, we now hold the Fra Angelico Celebration of Art & Spirituality every other year; the focal point of which is the Windows to the Divine Exhibition, which features the works of renowned and emerging artists from Colorado and around the country.

GK: Tell us something about Windows to the Divine that we should note in particular:
SR: Windows to the Divine is like no other art show in the country. It is unique for a number of reasons. While we make no judgment about what is “spiritual” art and leave that to our artists, and while most of the works are not explicitly sacred, we find that the beauty and diversity of the imagery exhibited produces a special spirit in the exhibition that is not experienced elsewhere. Our exhibition is also unique because of our partners such as the Mizel Museum, Fine Art Connoisseur, Southwest Art Magazine, Abend Gallery, Gallery 1261, Plinth and Saks Galleries.

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