After hours on the road, we pulled the Land Rover into the driveway of our “new home” for two days on the Isle of Palms, just outside Charleston, SC. In the golden late afternoon sunshine, Pat, watering her picture perfect plants in her pretty pink front garden, and glowing with a smile from ear to ear, waved us into the driveway and welcomed us to her home. Seconds later we were feeling the warmth of her unabashed laughter, and we knew that hers was going to be a house where we felt very at home.
Pat’s home is an artist’s paradise. As soon as we walked in, a stunning collection of paintings, sculptures and antiques greeted us. From her vast collection of old cameras, to her art wall with works from across the world, Pat has filled her home with all sorts of beautiful art. But she maintains that she is not an artist herself…
Well you know, I can’t actually do anything besides raise plants very well! But I’m a very visual creature – I’m a big fan of colour and texture and movement, and I don’t really know when I started to collect paintings… I didn’t study it, I can’t do it! I think just from travelling I just gained an appreciation – I’m a museum maniac; it’s actually my bucket list to be able to go to every worthy museum in the world.
As Pat gave us an impromtu tour of her collection, we were amazed at the way she described each piece. For someone without any formal training in art or art history, her knowledge was deep and her eye was true. She talked about her pieces almost as a mother talking about a child – rejoicing in their uniqueness and beauties, lamenting over their weaknesses, seeing each detail, knowing them inside out. Each painting has a story; how she found it, why she chose it.
There has to be a gut reaction for me. You know I used to work in an art gallery for several years, and it drove me crazy when people there would be looking for things that would just “match” their interior décor. There were lots of decorators too who would come in and help people choose pieces to match their designs – it drove me crazy! They just had no gut reaction.
It’s so hard for me to leave a gallery without taking something that I feel a gut response to – hence the quantity probably – I can’t leave without it! I thought I was gonna have to start putting stuff on the ceiling!
Wanting to understand more about the way that the masters put their paintings together, Pat started to study on her own – from books and videos, she has developed a fuller understanding that allows her to see so much more.
When I was younger, I could only afford posters from the places that I had been, and those were very special. But I can’t stand to just have posters of things anymore – I can’t tolerate the imitation of it. You never see the texture or the shadows, the contrast, the nuances of what the artists did. So I feel like I’m old enough and should be able to afford decent originals!
And when I’m in front of the original art, I could just stand and look at one painting for hours, and just study it. There’s so much to consider when you’re looking at it, and to appreciate talent. When I spent three days at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in preparation for that I got these videos from the library. They were kind of old and farty, but it was different people talking about art and the artists; how they painted, why they painted and what they did, then I was really like oh my gosh, I could see so much more.
Pat also has hundreds of antique cameras and one day she wants to catalogue and display them properly. She fell in love with cameras when she was just a young girl. Exploring the attics of her parents’ home in Jersey City, she came across an old Kodak camera and the seed of her future collection was planted. Later, as she travelled, she bought her first Nikomat camera in Japan. Her love of all things visual was placed into the limelight as she started to experiment with photography; buying lenses, learning the technical skills and spending hours developing films. Pat’s collection of cameras and film projectors now numbers into the hundreds, but unfortunately, many of them are still hiding in their boxes and are not yet on display.
It’s a little excessive isn’t it? I like BIG. “I like large things, large quantities of things”, I don’t do much that’s small or tiny…
Pat is also ‘obsessed’ with her garden. After Hurricane Hugo completely destroyed her home in 1989, it has taken Pat years to rebuild. Her home was absolutely flattened, and the only thing left in her garden was a palm tree. Now the house looks picture perfect; while we were out visiting the sights in Charleston on Saturday, Pat spent her whole day working on the garden. Her inner connection to art, texture and colour also draws her outside of her home into her garden:
I have the same response to nature. I mean, you see all my plants and everything, I’m kind of an obsessive creature. I have this green thumb… I don’t know where it came from, I mean I grew up in a big city with just dirt in the back yard. It just seems to come out of me!
After hurricane Hugo there was nothing there! Every single thing that’s out I planted and grew and nurtured and talked to. When something dies I’m devastated! Things don’t usually die on me – they wouldn’t dare! I have a visceral reaction to nature as well – I grew up in a big city – I just seem to get a teeny interest in something and then BAM I’m living and breathing it. But to me the yard and the plants and the light and the design, that’s about as artistic as I can get.
As much as Pat maintains that she is not an “artist”, it is clear to see that she truly is. She started a framing business several years ago, and has a keen eye for the art of how to frame and mount a work of art, bringing out all the colours, textures and shadows. A piece of art can be destroyed with bad framing, but when someone understands the principles of framing and lighting, they can actually enhance the way that the painting is received.
This “non-artist” is one of the most artistic souls we have met so far on our journey. Her collection, her passion, her laughter, her garden all highlighted her true creativity… After all, Monet’s greatest creation was his garden…