Every so often we put the spotlight on a local collector. We'll give you a little background about the collector and then talk about one or more topics that may be of interest to other collectors.
Rome Celli grew up in Rochester. He also attended school in Rochester eventually graduating from St. John Fisher College with a BA in political science in 1982. He's married to a former arts reporter for the Democrat & Chronicle, Elizabeth Forbes. They have two sons in college. Rome is a residential real estate broker by profession.
Rome has been collecting local art for over 30 years. He has served on numerous non-profit arts boards including the Pyramid Arts Center and it's successor organization, Rochester Contemporary. He also operated a small commercial art gallery in downtown Rochester for several years in the late 1980s, early 1990s hosting both in gallery shows as well as what we would now call "pop-up" shows all over town during that time. Rome is one of the organizers of Rochester Art Collectors.
Rome it not a fan of art openings since it's so hard to focus on the work at a party. He'd much rather see the work on a quiet day away from the crowds. A studio visit with the artist is by far preferred. One way or the other he very much likes to meet with the artist and talk about the work before he makes a decision to buy. He not only wants to understand the artist's thinking, techniques and approach he also enjoys just getting to know the artist as a person. Ideally, he prefers to meet at the artist's studio but it's not uncommon to meet at a coffee shop, a gallery or somewhere else. Rome met Jappie King Black at an exhibition space and Jane Lichorowic at a coffee shop. Unless the work is already familiar to Rome he rarely buys a piece upon a first exposure. He likes to think about the work and come back to look again and talk about the work with the artist, if possible, before buying.
We asked Rome about a couple of recent acquisitions...
Jane Lichorowic is an emerging artist who graduated with a degree in illustration from RIT and now works as an illustrator at the University of Rochester's Laser Lab. She currently lives in the Southwedge.
Her recent work, like the piece above on the right, features an organ of the human anatomy integrated with botanical elements such as flowers or ferns. She says she rarely begins with a specific image in mind. She may open up an anatomy book, see something that inspires her and begin. The rest comes to her as she moves along. Acrylic and paper are her preferred media. The line work on her paintings is carefully done with ultra fine brushes. Colors, contours and shading are done with a variety of slightly larger brushes. You'll note the work has a strong graphic presence.
Jappie King Black is a retired educator currently living in Brockport, NY; the site of a vibrant creative community centered around SUNY Brockport. Jappie was born in Detroit and studied textile design at Rhode Island School of Design receiving her MFA from Syracuse University in fiber with an emphasis in sculpture. She also studied at the Ateneo Fuente, Universidad de Coahuila; Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico. Her work has been shown at many galleries across the United States.
As you you might expect from her degrees and as you can see from the photo on the right she works in three dimensions and is most well know for using grapevine, bark, wood, wire, fibers, wax and occasionally quills to construct her sculptures. Much of the gravevine work is figurative and ranges widely in size from larger than a human figure to a size that would fit comfortably in your hand. She's done indoor and outdoor site-specific installations involving dozens of individual pieces as well as singular pieces. In addition to producing sculptures made of natural materials she also makes bronze castings.
Jappie and Rome met on a chilly afternoon this past Fall at relatively new, non-traditional, appointment-only exhibition space: Lout Cow in Spencerport, NY. Loud Cow is located on the grounds and in the barn of a property owned by artists, Aaron Delehanty & Jane Esther Mahoney.
Jappie's work was installed alongside work by Allen Topolski. Both artists were showing a fairly large amount of work at that venue. Rome & Jappie spent about an hour walking around the show chatting about the work and catching up. In the week or two that followed they exchanged many messages, photos, and ideas. They met again at Loud Cow to talk in more detail before Rome settled on "Winged Dragon Lady" (above right).
Although Jappie has been making similar imagery for some time Rome chose the work because it felt to him like it spoke to the popular culture and politics of the moment around female empowerment. Rome saw a connection with pop culture icons such as the "Mother of Dragons" character Daenerys Targaryen from the most popular TV show in history, Game of Thrones.
As a matter of personal policy Rome says he does not negotiate over price with artists. He believes artists have the right to price their work by whatever method makes sense to them. So, as much as he might like to purchase a work he may not be able to do so. "Everybody has a budget," says Rome. In his mind he can either afford the work or he can't. If the artist is able to sell their work for the price requested, so much the better for the artist! Rome's loss is someone else's gain according to him.
Although the pieces shown in this post are figurative Rome collects a wide range of styles. He's particularly found of portraits of one kind or another. Unconventional portraits are of particular interest. Most of the work in Rome's collection is two dimensional although he does have a number of three dimensional pieces as well. In the end a piece has to have an "edge" - to challenge Rome - in order for him to be drawn to it.
Not all the art in Rome's collection was made by local artists. Rome is an enthusiastic member of the Print Club of Rochester. Each member of the Print Club receives a print chosen by the Club's board every year. Usually the Club will pick an artists outside or the Rochester area. When they pick a local artist that's a bonus from Rome's point of view. Regardless, Rome enjoys interacting with Print Club members many of whom are local artists.
"Collecting artwork by local artists is a joy to me," says Rome. "Every acquisition either begins a new relationship or refreshes an established relationship."
Header image © Roy Sowers 1999
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