Audio (Podcast)

Don’t Be Scared of Art

Sarah Webb
By Sarah Webb

Welcome to Plaid Radio by Plaid for Women and the #NoMeanGirls movement.  Enjoy today’s show and be inspired to change the world.

Sarah Webb (SW):  Welcome to Plaid Radio I’m your host Sarah Webb and I’m with today’s guest, Jennifer Klos. Jennifer is based in Dallas, TX as an Art Advisor who assists private collectors in acquisition of fine and decorative art specializing in modern and contemporary art.  As president of Collector House Inc., Jennifer enjoys sharing her eye, knowledge and experience of the art world with clients in a fun and accessible manner. This podcast is being included in our Fear series, so we’re going to break down some fears around art with Jennifer and get into her expertise.  Thanks for joining us Jennifer.

Jennifer Klos (JK):  Thank you for having me.

SW:  Well I’m so excited to have you on the show because, honestly, I don’t appreciate art as much as I should. So as an advisor and curator and educator, today we’re going to explore a little of your background. So, first tell us how did you get into art, is this something you knew you always wanted to do? And of course, I need to know about your time in New York and London. So, give us a little background on yourself.

JK:  Ok, great!  Well, I like to always tell my story that I was probably studying art from a very young age.  We can all see with our eyes and see the world around us and culture around us, but I probably didn’t know it at a very young age, but I was always very interested in book illustrations so even as a young child when we would read books, part of those illustrations were what made my imagination truly appreciate art and sort of the world around us.  It wasn’t until high school when I took my first art history class. I had taken studio classes throughout my childhood, learning to paint and draw. That was something that certainly enjoyable to me but was a challenge and so when I started art history it really brought this enlightenment to me that you can look at history through culture and through images that have been created by artists for centuries now. And so, it was really not until I could see that maybe there is this bigger art world out there and once I entered into college and chose art history and French as my majors at Vanderbilt University, I sort of became immersed in it. And then truly it began to shed light on any kind of travel I did. So, any travels I did to other cities, I would choose to go to museums first off because I wanted to! And to see those works in person and it really just helped to build upon my own visual vocabulary. So, I think that we all are learners and I just love that aspect of learning. So, I think that I knew that it was something that was driving me not only personally as a passion but if you can create a job and create something that you love and utilize that passion that is great and, so I do feel fortunate that I’ve been able to purse that for all of my almost my adult life.

SW:  That’s amazing. You talked about your parents, you were interested in drawing and things like that, did you ask to do those things or are those things that your parents just said “hey, I kind of noticed your… you doodle a lot. Let’s put her in some art classes.” Explain that to me.

JK:  Well that’s actually a great point to bring up because I do have a twin sister and I like to say that we actually helped to inspire each other through the idea of making and creating things. So, we would always love to pick the next art or craft that was out there, we wanted to test our knowledge of it, so, if it was available and it was a new material we tried it. So, I almost think I credit her and my parents in being open to that so that we would choose, ok, we’re going to try these paints today.  We’re going to try these pastels.  We’re going to… we did weavings, we did friendship bracelets, any kind of clay, we made all kinds of clay in the oven. There was actually, thinking back there’s not probably a material that we didn’t tackle.  We even did a huge marbling set where we marbled our own paper and were making our own cards.  So, it was this idea that we just kept with this experimentation and it was something that then I think it shed light on the fact that perhaps there is this whole world out there and there’s so many different artists and the way we treat the materials around us that then I kind of wanted to pursue, ok, who are the experts in these fields and what other cultures are out there that we can look at. So, I am, very much a materials based art historian in that sense. So, I not only look at historical context but I’m very driven by materials. So many of my own questions when I meet artists, or I go to galleries, when I see art in person, I always ask, “what are the materials? Or question with what am I seeing in front of me? Is it gold? Is this a different kind of mixed media with the paint?” So its… it’s kind of the way we look at art.

SW:  That’s very interesting. Your mother must have liked cleaning up. I made slime with the kids and I was like, “ok and now we’re done with art for the day!” and that’s a pretty simple activity, so, its really great to have parents that support that.  I have to make myself do it. It’s good that you had that really naturally. Now tell us… you graduated from Vanderbilt. What did you do next? Did you get on a plane?

JK:  You know the hardest part about graduating from Vanderbilt was that I was not ready for the education to end. I actually wanted my art history classes to continue. So, I had started taking a couple of graduate level classes my senior year in Nashville and had spoken to my professors at length and said, “you know, what would be my next step to pursue?” And through many different discussions, I could go into a Master’s program or a PhD program, but I was very lucky to find the Bard Graduate Center, which is a school [that’s] part of Bard College, in Manhattan and it specializes in the history of decorative arts and design. And that is really a specialized art history degree where we look at culture and art through the lens of objects. So more in the everyday context of the way in which cultures have lived. So, we look at furniture, glass, ceramics, textiles, fashion and many other different materials. Wallpaper. So, any of the other sort of creative, what we call the decorative arts but sort of the other designation beyond just painting and sculpture which is considered fine art. So, it really ended up opening up my eyes and lens up to the way we look at history and art history through how people live. And it certainly was something that… cultures, there’s been a progression, an evolution of styles… artistic styles, but also that idea of materials and the way things are made and that’s what really got me focused on this fascination with living with art and the way we live with, even if it’s just a piece of historic furniture we can look at that in a really unique lens as well. And if even for any collectors today or for museums to have these specialized collections of decorative arts, too. So, moving to New York City was certainly a thrill and something that became a part of me, cause if you can live in New York you can make it anywhere, but to see the art world there and to really live there and embrace so much of the activity and excitement of The City in terms of its role in the art world was something that I’m still grateful for today. So, when I travel for clients today I’m grateful, so grateful that I feel so comfortable in New York and love The City and it’s actually formed a lot of who I am.

SW:  Great.  So how did you end up back in Oklahoma City?

JK:  So, I am a native of Oklahoma City and I had been familiar, of course, with the museums and the cultural institutions there in Oklahoma City and across the state and at the time when I even went to Vanderbilt as a freshman I didn’t know where I would end up of if I’d move back to Oklahoma City or not but after I had graduated from Bard, I had a unique opportunity to move back to Oklahoma City and start at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art as an Assistant Curator. And to take the knowledge that you actually have gained in the classroom and to actually be working on those exhibitions and projects within a museum setting it was an incredible opportunity. And one that I really felt proud about moving back to Oklahoma City and sharing the knowledge I brought but also with the awareness that I understood the history of Oklahoma City and the way our arts institutions have evolved and really actually what was maybe needed in the sense of inspiring others in learning about art. So, I think it was a really nice combination of… it was a really nice and fun time to move back to Oklahoma City.

SW:  In our chat before this, you’ve talked about an exhibition you put together that intersected film industry, fashions and textiles.  That seems like a few of my favorite things. I love costume design and wonder how historically accurate is? I watched Pride and Prejudice over the weekend for the bazillionth time and I’m like, “Oh, the costumes, how cool is that!” So, what did you bring to Oklahoma City? What was your role in that and how did it help the city?

JK:  Well, it was such a unique opportunity to… when I first started talking to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art that I was interested, then I sent in my application to join the museum, I had learned about their interest in costume design and film design and in my previous year in New York City I had this great opportunity to intern at the Metropolitan Museum of Art at the Costume Institute and to actually see the way they display their costumes and throughout their exhibitions had put together really thoughtful academic exhibitions where we’re looking at the history of fashion and costume, just made me even more excited. So, when I did join the museum, my first exhibition was to co-curate the Hollywood costume design exhibition called “Sketch to Screen, the Art of Hollywood Costume Design” it was yet again another opportunity to really enact what I had just been learning and immersed in and to apply it in a really unique and personal way to Oklahoma too. We not only looked at a lot of the Hollywood genres that have evolved over the 20th century, we looked at silent film the femme fatale we looked at classics like Gond with the Wind from the beautiful, wonderful, collection at The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas. We worked with lenders from Los Angeles all the way across the country to New York City and then also even had lenders from Oklahoma City that were from some of the Western films. It was a really nice way to personalize it, to just get a new audience into the museum that may have been intimidated by art in general. So, with this topic of fear you know in the art world, it’s something where, some people often actually think that they are maybe intimidated of scared of the museum because they think that they aren’t going to understand what they are going to see or maybe they’re going to feel, you know a different way, perhaps a little insecure, but I actually like to turn it around and say, the museum is the best place to go to learn and to see new things and you can take in as much or as little as you want. I even told many guests this when the exhibition of costumes was on view, spend some time in front of even one object that you really are captivated by and you don’t really need to feel daunted by a museum experience and so, certainly depending on the subject matter it can be as accessible or in depth in terms of history, the way we look at exhibitions at museums. I think at the outset I tell everybody, “we all have our own lens of interpretation so even if you want to look at it in a stylistic way there’s nothing wrong with that. If you can truly look at art and appreciate what you see in front of yourself and describe that. So, there’s many ways and many levels of interpretation, but I do think that the film exhibition was a fun one because film… most people have seen a movie before. But you can relate to the screen and the idea that we really do live and really embrace now film, but certainly now in this digital age.

SW:  Yup, absolutely.  I think museums are doing a good job of making art more accessible with talking audio tours and things like that. I remember going into museums and just being looking at the stuff and going “oh that’s nice.” Or “I wonder how that was made?” and no one was there to answer my questions, or I was even too scared to ask. Museums are kind of like libraries, it’s quiet. But I always get a talking tour and I always learn something I never even knew existed. And it’s helped me even form more questions. Even if they don’t have those hand-held tours, I’m a little bit more… I know what to ask now. Sometimes it like, I don’t even know what to ask! “This is a beautiful painting, and I don’t even know who this person is.  I don’t know if it’s a watercolor. I don’t know if its…whatever.” Sometimes we feel like we don’t even know what to ask and I think museums are doing a good job on that.

JK:  I think there are now so many interesting ways for audiences to get involved in a museum and I encourage people to do that so even if they are clients of mine or they’re looking to learn more about art, I actually encourage them to go to museums and find out what they spend the most time in front of. What really captures their attention and something that makes them feel a certain way. It makes them feel that they want to learn more or that they just have a nice good feeling by spending time in front of something. And then also, there is art that does challenge you and that, on the other hand, I like to say is an aspect that we all endure, and I even see art sometimes and it makes me think, it makes me challenged and oftentimes if I think about it a second or third time or I’m still thinking about it the next day, then I really do think that even I was touched by something that I hadn’t even seen before. So, I challenge myself every day and I think that’s a part about learning art, seeing art is that there is new work being created all the time. And it is so unique to the artist, and then it also becomes unique to each visitor as well. There is a real personal side of interpretation. So, there’s no wrong way to look at art, in other words. So, I think that is something key to understanding too, there is really no wrong way.

SW:  Well, you’ve really been focused on education. Educating yourself, and then sharing that with other people. How is the culminating to the work you’re doing today with clients?

JK:  So, I like to tell people that by looking and asking questions… so, as an art advisor I help suggest works of art for private clients and I also consult with other interior designers and architects, and it starts a little bit of that educational process, because art can be something that ends up being quite personal to whoever is buying it. Now there are all sorts of reasons for collecting, so do you want to collect because it’s something that you are going to enjoy and it’s certainly going to be fun but you’re going to be living with it. Are you going to be collecting for a certain style or time period or a certain culture or part of history, but then on the other hand it can just be somewhat fun and also in a decorative aspect as well?  So, that we are looking at art in the way it enhances an interior, even if it’s the interior of a house or an office building. But certainly, I do emphasize education because I think that by understanding either who the artist is and more detail about the work of art, it’s going to bring you that excitement, it’s going to give you that story, and I do think that art tells a story and by understanding a little more about the story we understand a little more about the world. And so even if it is an artist that may be making or creating work locally here in Dallas or it could be an artist living in another part of the United States or even another part of the world, their own experiences are certainly ingrained or a part of the work of art that they have made. So and certainly the time period or their own influences, geographic influences, there’s just a whole multitude of ways we can interpret art, but I think by educating others we can with that level of appreciation then rises and it also inspires others to… whether it’s other family members within your household or other visitors that come visit your house and see that art, it’s going to inspire them, it might start a new dialogue, and I think it makes all of us that much smarter in the way we’re looking at everything in the world. And I do love all of our digital technology in that I can connect with any artist either by Instagram or online, but I think that by living and seeing art and having it in person is such a personal experience that makes all of us take it to a level where we fully appreciate it.

SW:  I think that’s fair.  You know so many times art is seen as elite or something that only the wealthy can enjoy. And I probably get this idea from visiting museums, you know museums got the best of the best an experience vs… I’ve probably never seen anything museum quality in a home and one of my family’s favorite pieces, was actually, during the ducks in blue, country era, my mother loved that… and so she took one of the paper towels from Brawny or something, and had it framed and that was our art.  I mean my family just didn’t grow up appreciating that, but she loved that piece. Like even now, I’m telling you about piece that was a paper towel that in our family was like, that’s what home meant at that time. How do we break down those barriers of what art is and that it’s only for some people in America at a certain wealth level?

JK:  And Sarah, that’s probably one of the best points to bring up, is that there is art… really art is for everyone and it is made by so many different people that really… it’s much easier for me to tell clients that art really is at every price point and that’s why my role as an art advisor, I think, is an important one because I also want to show the client that there is levels of art buying at every level. So, yes, we can look at art that is even under $100, $500, $1000 all the way up to the museum quality, multi-million-dollar level. All the intrigue is still about who bought the $450MIL Leonardo da Vinci that was recently sold at Christie’s and so there’s a lot of dialogue about that even at the very highest collecting power that is still so very rare. That you would have a buyer on the other end who’s increasing it by 10MIL, 20MIL, or 30MIL at the very last moment. So, I do like to dial that back and say, even as a museum curator or former museum curator I still take a very much curatorial eye to what I see and value in the art world. So, I also want my clients to get the best they can at the level they can afford. So, whether we start small and we look for a great work or it’s a drawing or a work on paper that’s at $1000 or we might put in place a collecting plan over the coming year and say, “well let’s look to see if there’s two to three” or maybe they’d just like to buy one a year. You can build upon that and get excited. I like to also say that the art world moves quickly, but also moves slowly. So, if you can take time within that span of this education and this learning of the way we look at images, and see the different values as well. Sometimes I know the sticker price, the sticker shock, can be a lot so I try to talk clients through that so that when I send them materials, or I show them in person, but I also like to place that emphasis on there is a reason for the value and that value is set most likely by the gallery. If it’s a contemporary work of art, that piece is by a living artist, and the values have been tracked over time to where that artist’s career has evolved. So, if those works are now the price of a medium size canvases now let’s say, he’s gone up to 30 or even $50,000, we can track and look to see where that artist’s career was at the beginning if he is in the middle of a career or towards maybe the end of this artists career which is where we deem emerging, mid-career, or established artists. So, oftentimes there is a reason for the value and even if it is hard to sometimes understand, we can oftentimes place that artist within a larger context and then I want that client to obviously understand the value because it is an investment. So, buying, really any, art can be deemed an investment, but I also do think that it’s key to remind yourself that we can’t control the art world, it is not the most stable environment either, there are intrinsic values that are within objects made of gold and such, silver, but at the outset we really can’t forecast necessarily what a work of art would be in the future. But we can also make a wise decision on that, too. There are many different factors that we can look at.

SW:  So, when you’re talking about these different price levels, we also have to consider home design and home décor.  So, if I have French Country home, there are certain pieces of art that maybe, paintings of adobe homes, that’s not going to fit, you know.  It’s just not going to go with my décor or the design of the house.  How do you help either clients or home designers and decorators find that piece to make it look like it belongs, but I still want to love it and I’m going to want to love it for a long time because you’ve talked about this investment? I’ve got to LOVE this piece of art.

JK:  So, when it comes to home design, and the way we actually live, I tend to, certainly, emphasize the fact that the work of art doesn’t necessarily have to match the couch or have to match your pillows.  Historically, a work can be from a different culture or a different time period or it even be a contemporary work of art, in that French country house. Or even if it is a… let’s say you have a Georgian style home that you might have some early American furniture or even British furniture or even some of the darker heavier furniture, but I also think that then that’s a perfect opportunity to introduce, maybe lighter color palette and a more contemporary works of art or photography or mix in something a little bit unexpected. So, I actually like to think of it as, the work of art can not only work well with the space and enhance it, but I also think it can kind of really introduce a new element to the room.  So, if its playing with scale, maybe you have a very large wall and we focus on how do we break up that space of large wall with multiple smaller pieces or if it can hold a large work, then that can even make a space feel bigger. So often times I will say, even if you have a small space, sometimes actually the larger the art is, it can actually make it, really feel bigger. So, we can play not only with color, scale, proportion and also, stylistically. I’m very much of the camp that you can mix styles, you don’t have to have all of one type of art, I don’t even actually come from this train of thought that even the framing has to match. I do think that things can dialogue with one another. So, I learned this trick when I began at the museum, the very first month that I was there from the director that was working there at the time, Carolyn Hill, and she just looked at me and said, “you know these works are… I think they’re in conversation together, they are in dialogue together.” The two works were facing each other in the gallery and then we also looked at what the corner looked like, are these works talking to one another. And I still remember that from a very early time period. So, I think now I look at that in people’s homes. Let’s look to see what this painting is going to do for the rest of the room.  So, I do, at the outset, think that some decisions can be always made better than others and that for the most part it is fun and inspiring to push the boundaries a bit in the way we look at art and the way we live with art. It doesn’t have to all match, if you have an all-white interior it doesn’t necessarily have to look like an art gallery.  It can go all different directions.

SW:  For me, this is why I need professionals, because I can’t imagine.  Well, if you have an all white house, you would do one solid color, or you would do white, those are you only choices. I think it’s good to employ professionals to help expand your brain on that, cause that’s definitely not my expertise. Thank you for sharing that.

So, Plaid for Women promotes a hashtag, #NoMeanGirls, because we want Plaid to be a place for women to encourage each other, build each other up; with so much individualism in the art world, do you see it as a “mean girl zone” or do you see judgment take place in the industry as well or are people recognized for what they are doing individually as contributors?

JK:  You know, I think this is a great topic to also bring up and it’s relevant in many different aspects of our lives, even as women, but I actually look at the art world as one that has expanded so much to not only women working in this field but women artists in general, and we can almost trace it back to some of the artists of the 1970’s and art historians of the 1970’s that were saying, “why were there no great women artists?” because they were really not being included in this established realm of art history and so the way art historians started looking at the art, some of the women were not included in these big anthologies and so Linda Nochlin, who just recently passed away was one of the famous art historians who would really discuss so many of these issues and would bring this up, but I think the way the field is changing and the way we’re even culturally looking at females we can support one another in this field and I think many of my best mentors in the field have been other females and so I was able to have some incredible internships in New York City and they were from other women that looked at me and said, “you just have such a passion and we’d be happy to have you here. We want to be able to learn from you and we’re going to teach you things as well.” And so, I think it’s actually been the women in the art world, for me, that have been the most supportive. I think we’re going to probably see that even evolve in the future and I’ve actually had two messages from people on Instagram saying, “Oh, we love that you include female artists on your Instagram page!” and I thought well, that’s so nice that they would acknowledge that and I said secondly as an art historian I’ve probably always gravitated to looking at what some of the talented women are creating. I don’t consciously try to set that apart to a certain extent, but I also do want to take the time to acknowledge that there is a lot of wonderful art being created by females and that we are changing art history and the way that we’re looking at that. I think there are more and more opportunities for even people like me to be working in a still somewhat male dominated art world.

SW:  Thank you for sharing that and, yeah, the history was written by men, so I can easily see how women are generally excluded in a lot of that. Thank you for being on the show today. I feel like I’ve learned something and hopefully our listeners have broken down some fears on art, it doesn’t have to be scary. When I met Jennifer, I was like, “Ok, we’ve got to talk about this because I think that it’s a very intimidating topic.” And she’s like, “this isn’t intimidating at all!” “well, you make it not intimidating!” it’s definitely opened up my eyes a little bit.  More appreciation and I need to get out there and visit museum more and just be exposed to more because I think that’s part of the process as well.

JK:  Definitely.  Well, thank you so much for this opportunity.

SW:  Absolutely! Well, how can our listeners connect with you if they are interested in engaging more?

JK:  Any of the visitors can send me a direct message on my website, which is www.collectorhouse.com and sign up for my newsletter. I send out a bi-monthly newsletter of what’s happening in the art world. You can also find me on Instagram, I’m @jenniferklos and I also have a second account that I’m starting and going to really going to elaborate on in 2018 with all art images today.

SW:  For our listeners, I’ll put all those links in the show notes, so you can find Jennifer on whatever your favorite social media is, and we will track down this new secret, new to be announced account and include that as well. I’ll be her and she’ll give us the inside scoop on that! Thank you so much for being with us! That’s a wrap for Plaid Radio.

Sarah Webb
A bit about me, I'm a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, employee and volunteer. I am married and have two children - one who aspires to be a secret spy ninja and the other wants be a doctor for toys...Read More

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