At Home With Art

Tap into local art world for home décor.At Home With ArtTapping into Tallahassee’s art world for home décor.

By Brenda Grindstaff

When it comes to creating a living space that expresses personal interests, values, prestige and tastes, incorporating original art into your home works wonders to yield a visually stimulating dwelling that’s all your own. With a pool of local artists that includes university instructors and those featured at such venues as the Art Park at Railroad Square and a growing number of other reputable commercial galleries around town, Tallahassee is ripe with opportunities to explore, acquire – and live with – quality original art.

“You go to any city in America and see the same stores, the same things,” said Beverly Frick, a longtime patron of area artists. “This (original art) is a way you can claim something uniquely yours.”

“If the place where you live hosts a thriving, extraordinarily talented, indigenous art community producing a great range of styles with high craft and culturally relevant originality, why buy a reproduction of a piece from a bygone and possibly illusional era after a nonliving, non-local artist whose culture is not your own?” asked Thomas Eads, photographer and owner of Thomas Eads Fine Art, a gallery at Midtown Manor. “Why not instead participate in the dynamic, resource-rich, heritage-drenched culture of our own region by taking possession and title to our artists’ sensitive interpretation of our world as it exists now?”

In part, Eads and others have found that some Tallahasseeans may shy away from purchasing original art because they feel intimidated because of a lack of knowledge. But art needn’t be reserved for those who appear to be possessed with art-savvy sophistication.

“There are no rights or wrongs when it comes to selecting artwork,” said Sam Fleeger, artistic director and curator at LeMoyne Art Foundation Inc. “It’s taste. Go for what you like.”

Concerns about cost and pricing can give additional pause. However, while recognized world masterpieces can demand tens of millions of dollars, original art available for personal enjoyment often is surprisingly affordable. Particularly in a market the size of Tallahassee, pricing tends to be fair and reasonable.

“Trust the artist to be fair,” said Fleeger, who concurs with LeMoyne executive director Allison McCarthy that artists know how much time and materials are invested in any given work. Other factors include the artist’s career stage and reputation, aesthetic quality, originality, and supply and demand.

The best way to become knowledgeable about art is to get out and experience it. Go to galleries both locally and elsewhere, look and ask questions. Take advantage of show openings, lectures and special events at artists’ studios. Check out gallery and artist Internet Web sites, art books, magazines and broadcast specials. Other local sources include the Downtown Marketplace, art fairs and restaurants.

“As you learn, you’ll discover your tastes,” Eads said. “It will become easier to discern good from excellent, a fair price from unfair, and so on.”

Children’s art – produced by your own offspring or purchased at school auctions and such – can be equally uplifting and joyful, for when you purchase a piece of original art, you also are capturing the spirit and expression of the moment in which it was created. Take some art classes, such as those offered at LeMoyne, and try your own hand at creating – or take an art history class.

“Art can’t hurt you,” Frick said.

A Tale of Two Patrons

Whether it’s as simple as sunlight falling on a bowl of lemons, the pleasing shape of a kitchen appliance – or an intriguing collage with wedding-cake figures, garden gloves and dogs by Tallahassee artist Miffie Uhlfelder –   Frick has a keen appreciation for color, form and beauty. It’s apparent at every turn of her 1940s-era, renovated Old Town home.

Bursting with color that includes walls of Milano red, straw yellow and blue green; fuchsia-colored Chinese rugs accented with aqua; yellow and pink slip-covered furniture; rich tropical prints of antique Barkcloth; and vibrant original art reflecting some of Tallahassee’s finest, Frick’s home exudes pure joy. Frick, a Panama City native and longtime Tallahasseean, is a well-known portrait photographer who grew up with original art in her home. Over the years, in addition to collections of pottery, chalk ware, Art Nouveau prints and art passed on from her mother-in-law, Frick has collected a number of local artists’ work.

“When you buy art locally, you buy it with your heart,” she said. “The most vibrant communities support their artists.”

Frick said she tries to take at least a little time each week to check out local art. She is an enthusiastic advocate of the Council on Culture and Arts’ monthly “First Friday Gallery Hop.”

“(Art) allows your own home to resonate with who are you,” she said. “I think art is so essential in your life, and having original pieces is so essential – but it doesn’t have to be something that’s beyond your budget.”

She credits interior designer Julian Mathis, ASID, with pulling together the overall look of her home by using Frick’s existing furniture, art and accessories. Mathis spent a day hanging art and placing furniture and such when she moved into the home three years ago.

Some of Frick’s pieces include a red-hued palm tree by Ron Yrabedra, Ralph Hurst sculptures and, center stage in the living room, a colorful abstract by Trevor Bell. She wakes each morning to a sunrise scene by Lyda Toy. Other pieces include a collage and puff paint work by Ruth Deshaies and a painting by Sam Kates. The dining room boasts a pair of Mary Mabe still lifes, in addition to the Uhlfelder collage, and the kitchen has a recently acquired work by George Milton. Frick’s home office is a particular treat, with a 5-by-6-foot painting of a dancing woman in red and tulle by Jo Ellyn Rackleff.

“I’ve had it for three years, and every time I stand here (viewing it), I see something else,” Frick said of the work, which she lists among her favorites.

When asked if she ever tires of a piece she has purchased, Frick said that “I never regretted buying anything.”

Like Frick, Esther Frieden grew up with an appreciation for art, is a longtime supporter of Tallahassee artists, and collects only what moves her. The Los Angeles native relocated to Tallahassee in 1949 when her late husband, Earl, joined the chemistry department at Florida State University. With generous use of wood, glass and masonry, coupled with cathedral ceilings, exposed beams and dramatic angles, the south-side home they designed and built in the 1960s is an architectural delight. It also is a fitting space for the numerous pieces of artwork they have collected through the years.

One of the first things noticed upon entering Frieden’s home is the approximately 4-by-5-foot striking acrylic collage titled “Four Masks,” by the late German expressionist and former FSU art professor Karl Zerbe.

“I love color and form. That’s why expressionism appeals to me,” Frieden said.

As is the case with the Zerbe collage, a number of Frieden’s acquisitions have been inspired by the artists she has met through volunteering at LeMoyne. She, too, counts works by Milton, Hurst and Yrabedra among her collection. Among her favorites is a work by Nancy Reid Gunn, titled “Red and Yellow Figures.” As a gift to Earl Frieden, noting his scientific work with tadpoles, Frieden commissioned a copper frog sculpture by Fred Holschuh. Her most recent acquisition is an abstract, hand-painted tissue collage by Denise Choppin.

“Getting to meet the artist is easier compared to if you’re in a larger city,” Frieden said of the advantage of collecting local artists’ works.

Frieden’s home also displays personal treasures that reflect a love of family and sense of heritage. Two groupings of charcoal sketches from her late great-uncle are in the living room. An impressive still life by her mother graces the dining area. Another particularly interesting piece by her mother is a framed photo collage created by cutting out images of herself at different ages. Also displayed is an impressive still life by one of Frieden’s grandchildren, done at age 9.

Artwork recalling special times, places or milestones brings further warmth and personality to a home. Frieden’s includes a sand painting that she and her husband purchased
in Thailand – they met the artist in a hotel lobby – and a “Last Supper” purchased in Southern Brazil, reflecting the culture of the area.


Art-Smart Décor

When decorating, should you pick a piece of art because it “goes” with your current sofa, or purchase a sofa because it goes with your art?

Seasoned interior designer Mathis said not to worry about this proverbial “chicken or the egg” dilemma.

“You pick (the art) because it speaks to you and you like it,” he said. If what’s talking is a variety of styles or genres, that’s OK.

“I find the space is more complex and interesting when a mix of media, styles and colors are present to work with,” Mathis said. In reviewing clients’ art for placement, he has discovered that usually there is an underlying theme throughout, such as color or texture, which can be used to unify the overall look.

Be it wall pieces, sculpture or personal items such as a hatpin collection or a christening gown turned into 3-D art, the way it is displayed makes a big difference on impact and appeal. Wall color should complement artwork, not compete with it. Wall groupings generally look best with complementary or similar framing. A new trend, Mathis noted, is frameless art in which the canvas wraps around to the back. In photography groupings, Mathis recommends keeping like images together, such as sepias in one group, full color in another, and a section for family portraits.

“There is an art to hanging artwork,” he said.

Proper lighting is essential, too, to help draw attention to the beauty or importance of specific works. Track lighting works well for both traditional and contemporary art, with lights to accentuate each piece. Some track lighting available on the market can be incorporated fairly easily into existing ceilings, Mathis noted. He recommends dimmers, which can be adjusted to set mood, and placing lights on several different circuits to provide additional accentuating options. Lighting doesn’t have to be elaborate, however. Numerous table and clip-on portable lights are readily available for as little at $10.

Don’t forget the outside or garden area of your home. Use sculpture, mosaic, three-dimensional plaques and lightening for dramatic and shadow effects.

For potential buyers concerned that they will tire of a piece or change styles, there are options. Moving a piece to a less significant space for a while can give it new life later, Mathis said. For collectors with larger inventories, rotate pieces from storage. Reframing also can revitalize dated looks and, in some cases, make an inexpensive piece look grand. Reselling a quality piece, donating it to a foundation or auction for a possible tax deduction, or passing it on to friends or family are other options.

If you know you would like to include art in your home, put it into your design budget. As in any design project, it is recommended to focus on one room unless you can afford a complete redo. Interior designers can be contracted for overall projects, and many, including Mathis, can be hired on an hourly basis to offer expertise that often saves clients costly mistakes in the long run. Expect to pay anywhere from $75 to $150 per hour. Some gallery operators, too, provide consulting and installation services for home and office art.

Art as an Investment

Investment-grade art collecting requires a substantially different level of research and financing compared to decorative or pleasure investing. Authenticity must be determined, market prices need to be assessed and monitored, insurance and security needs to be maintained, and works must be routinely inspected to ensure that they remain in quality condition – a good idea for any piece of art.

“This is truly a realm for investors who possess or can access expertise in both valuation of art and in investment strategy,” said gallery owner Eads.

“The important thing is if one was to become a serious collector, one should really pick one or two artists that you’re interested in and learn everything you can,” said an area collector who focuses on the internationally recognized postmodern artist Robert Rauschenberg.

Attracted to art since childhood, and after much research, including taking art history classes at a university, the collector – who prefers to remain anonymous – purchased his first serious piece with his wife using money they received for their wedding. It was a Rauschenberg acquired from Christie’s in New York. Over the years, they have acquired additional Rauschenbergs, along with a couple of other select postmodernists’ works.

For potential investors, the collector recommends concentrating on artists who already have established reputations and made it into art history books. He notes that while one certainly can catch a rising star, there is a potential for a “” scenario in which the value falls very quickly. Go to New York, if that’s where the artist of interest’s work is being sold, to visit galleries and find prices of previous works sold before making an investment. Art dealers can help facilitate purchases, as needed.

“Sometime when I look at my artwork, I just feel uplifted because of the message the artist is relaying and the beautiful colors and knowing that people all over the globe consider some of my art to be important, and because of this historical significance in the history of art and culture,” said the collector.

Finishing Touches

Regardless of your intentions for acquiring art, and as great as the Internet is for exploration, nothing compares to experiencing art firsthand to fully appreciate a work’s particular nuances. When it was founded in 1964, LeMoyne was the only place to purchase original art within a 100-mile radius, with the exception of going to an artist’s home or studio. It continues to be an integral part of Tallahassee’s cultural landscape.

LeMoyne brings in about nine shows a year, each featuring four or five different artists regional to international appeal. Through the years, LeMoyne curator Fleeger said sale prices for art shown there have ranged from $125 for a watercolor to $50,000 for an oil painting. LeMoyne also sponsors the annual Chain of Parks Art Festival, with 100 artists represented. For 2007, it is scheduled for April 21-22. In addition, LeMoyne host gallery talks and art-education classes. Details can be found at

Eads opened Thomas Eads Fine Art in Tallahassee’s blossoming, de facto design center at Midtown in January 2006. He called on architect Hugh Bosely to design the modern display space, which provides a perfect venue for original painting, photography and sculpture by regional artists in styles ranging from realism to abstract. Eads, an accomplished photographer who also earned a doctorate in molecular biophysics from FSU, brings in new exhibits about every six weeks.

Eads also represents more than 20 established artists. They include sculptors Barbara Balzar and Mark Dickson, painters Jeanne Greenleaf and Rob Cunningham, and photographers James Valentine and Stuart Nelson. Price points start at a few hundred dollars for a limited-edition photography print. Eads also hosts various learning opportunities at his gallery and an up-to-date Web site at, showcasing artists and events.

“Gallerists and curators are usually the richest source of information about local artists and their works,” Eads said. “Seek them out and ask good questions. That’s what they’re there for.”

Another source for locating area artists is through the Council on Culture and Arts’
Directory of Artists, located at

When in doubt about value, consult an expert as well. While originals have more value, art dealers also can discuss options regarding limited-edition and giclee prints.

When you buy art you enjoy and that reflects your interests and tastes, even if the artist doesn’t become “famous,” you still will have the pleasure of owning an original. And that in itself is of value.

”You’re buying a piece of history,” said LeMoyne’s McCarthy. “It tells a story and recalls that time. Forty years later, it’s going to speak to you about the time and sensibility and place through subject, composition and palette.”

Categories: Archive