Sunday, September 16, 2007

Akron Day 3 -- Laura Bidwell collection visit

My 3rd day in Akron I had the chance to view the collection of Laura and Fred Bidwell. The Bidwells were instrumental in making the Akron Art Museum expansion happen, and I knew that they are passionate photography collectors. They had an architect design their home for the optimal pleasure in viewing their collection. As I walked into the foyer of their home, the treasures that Laura first showed me did not disappoint.

First to catch my eye was a photograph that is among my favorites of all contemporary photographs: an Adam Fuss Daguerreotype of a water drop. I love this work and lust after it every time I see it. (The Daguerreotype theme was extended in another room with a haunting and lovely Dag of hands done by New York artist Jerry Spagnoli). Also in the foyer was work of Susan Derges. Those who read my blogs from the London shows know how much I like and admire this artist. A fine example from the "Observer and the observed" series was on view.

Photography fills this home. It is on every wall and catches your eye wherever you look. I could write a laundry list of the artists that fill the collection, but I think it's more important to say something else. I was really struck by how the Bidwells have commited to live with the art that they buy. It fills their home, their eyes, and their thoughts. While there are some "greatest hits" photographs, I was more struck by how personal the collection is. The Bidwells have followed their own muses. Also notable is how they have positioned the art so it creates conversations among the works. There are no real themes at play, but Laura and Fred have found harmonious juxtapositions that really encourage the art to comment on itself. The Dags are one example of this, but there are also interesting threads that include water, statuary, and cityscapes. It was a pleasure to see.

Before I finish, I can't resist mentioning a few more faves. I loved the Abe Morrell camera obscura scene in the front hall as well as the two Tim Lehmachers to the immediate right and left a you walk in. Upstairs are 2 monumental Lynn Davis photos that provide endless opportunity for reflection and meditation in the bedroom. This collection visit was a perfect way to sum up my Akron trip.

When I was a child in Akron, my parents filled our home with art and artists. When I think back, I remember Akron as a place that was ripe with creative people and artistic pursuits. Coming back as an adult, I see it hasn't changed.

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