The Art of Collecting: A Visit With Kelly Knowlton

We recently went to visit Kelly Knowlton, whose collection of Oklahoma artists’ work will be featured in the Gardiner Gallery from August 20 – September 21, 2012. In the video below, summer intern Crystal Labrosse asks Knowlton some questions about his collection, his background, and what inspires him. She shares some of her own thoughts about the experience in the accompanying text.

When the Curator of Collections and the Gallery Director invited me along to visit Kelly Knowlton’s collection of Oklahoma faculty artists to take notes while they selected pieces for the first show of the fall semester, I was thrilled to be part of such a wonderful opportunity.

My enthusiasm continued to grow seeing his collection of work by artists such as Oscar Jacobson, James Henkle, John O’Neil, Doel Reed, and an impressive assortment of J. Jay McVicker’s work. As they were selecting pieces to put in the show, it was great hearing Kelly’s excitement about particular pieces such as his McVicker collection.

J. Jay McVicker, “Afternoon Shadows,” etching and aquatint, private collection. This print, an impression of which is in Knowlton’s collection, is an example of early work by McVicker that was heavily influenced by Doel Reed.

His beautiful collection of McVicker’s work shows just how versatile of an artist McVicker could be. Out of all the various artists’ work I saw at Kelly’s home, McVicker’s pieces definitely made the most impression on me. I could see how he changed and evolved as an artist over time. Some of his pieces reminded me of OSU’s own Doel Reed, while his later pieces were reminiscent of early 20th-century Russian modernist Kasimir Malevich’s Black Square.

J. Jay McVicker, “Abstract Lines,” acrylic on canvas, private collection. This is an example of McVicker’s late abstract work.

This opportunity allowed me to see how a professor and art movements could influence an artist. It also gave me the appreciation for artists like Reed and Malevich that I might otherwise have not noticed. It was a great opportunity to see someone without an art background be so excited and passionate about art; his excitement even extended to his charming cat, whom we saw jumping around and lying between the art pieces as if showing off the artwork herself.

Note: the images of McVicker’s work in this post are not from Knowlton’s collection.

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About osucurator

Louise Siddons is Associate Professor of Art History at Oklahoma State University and founding curator of the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art. She maintains this blog as a record of her students' work with the Museum's permanent collection as well as more generally with topics related to museum studies.
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