Retiree’s art collection takes shape and color.
Settled in a colorful home in White Bear Lake, a 5-foot-tall ceramic giraffe sports a cigarette hanging from its mouth. Dangly diamond-like earrings and gaudy gold boots complete the look.
“It’s fun, and I get a kick out of her,” says Kathy Hoelscher. “That’s why I bought her.”
Hoelscher collects art but doesn’t consider herself an art collector, never mind the eye-catching glass pieces and vibrant paintings that dot her Lake Avenue home.
“It just happened,” Hoelscher says. “I’m not an artist, and there’s no theme or anything like that. If I see something I like, I’ll try to get it.”
The Traveling Collector
Hoelscher’s collection, pieced together over some 30 years, is best described as eclectic. There’s blown glass; vibrant oil, soft watercolor and encaustic (hot wax) paintings; and rudimetary metal sculptures. There’s even a garden sculpture shaped with old bowling balls.
Hoelscher’s pieces have come from all over the world. She purchased a watercolor in France and a smaller painting in Ireland. There’s a piece from Venice and several from London.
“I like to buy from street painters,” Hoelscher says. She’ll often purchase the art and then have a photo taken with the artist.
How does she know when she wants to make a purchase? Does she consider the difficulties of carrying art up and down the cobbled streets of foreign countries?
“You never know if you’ll ever be back,” she says. “I usually buy small paintings. They’re unframed, and they’re easy to carry.”
Though she’s had pieces shipped back to the states, more often she comes prepared. She always starts a trip with empty space in her luggage. She also buys local. In fact, White Bear Lake artist Mike Judy is one of her favorites. She enjoys going to the American Craft Council show in St. Paul each year and also fancies Art at St. Kate’s, Saint Paul Art Crawl and the Art-A-Whirl in northeast Minneapolis.
She really loves the crawls, as that’s a format that allows attendees to visit one gallery after another. “Going to studios and galleries [is] like going to art museums,” Hoelscher says.
For Art’s Sake
Hoelscher’s passion for art comes, in part, because of the opportunity for different interpretations.
One of her favorites, a piece titled Boys, Girls and Oranges from Russian-American painter Alexandra Rozenman, is a perfect example. A pair of baby carriages can be found in the lower right corner of the painting, but the viewer’s eye immediately goes there. The carriages are illuminated from what could be a harvest moon. There is a tapestry and a grouping of four oranges.
A flowing glass sculpture sits on the wall of Hoelscher’s kitchen. It reminds her of a fish at sea. To her neighbor, it looks exactly like an electric guitar. They’re both right.
“What would we do without art?” Hoelscher says.
A Happy House
Collector James L’Arbalestier wrote in his autobiography, “Beware of acquiring things of the same nature: two is a coincidence; three is a collection.” Hoelscher has an art collection by any definition.
“I’m running out of space,” she says. As a remedy, she’ll relegate some of her tired pieces to less-used places in her home. “I have a couple pieces I only see when I do the laundry, but I still like seeing them, and they still make me happy,” she says.
She also has pieces displayed (stored) upstairs. What she won’t do is part with any of them. “Oh, no, I’m not selling,” she says.
Her philosophy, first and foremost, is to purchase art that makes her happy. Whether she has a place for it is a consideration, but not a major factor. And, yes, she likes functional art like lamps and tables (one of her treasures, purchased in Door County, Wisconsin, is a handcrafted end table made from authentic beaver-gnawed sticks), but she doesn’t seek them out. Instead, functionality is a bonus.
One of her oldest collections consists of 10 antique water pitchers. They’re each unique and very colorful. They sit in an inviting sort of way atop her kitchen cupboards. Hoelscher isn’t comfortable calling herself a collector, nor is she comfortable admitting her art has a theme.
But to anyone who visits, her theme is obvious. It’s colors. Bright, bold colors. The reds are rambunctious, and the blues are boisterous. The yellows yell. And somehow it all fits together. The flat art, waxy art and glass art all get along. The square pegs (willow lamp base, beaver-gnawed table and patinaed brass bear) fit right in.
“There’s no rhyme or reason, but my art makes me happy,” Hoelscher says. That’s reason enough.