The Artist Sees Differently: Blair Sutton

Blair Sutton, Museum Assistant

Blair Sutton. Photo: Rick Sutton

How did you learn about the Phillips?

I visited the The Phillips Collection on a field trip about four years ago while attending Sweet Briar College (Sweet Briar, Virginia).

Do you feel you are inspired by the Phillips art?

Yes, I am inspired by Gene Davis, Nicolas de Staël, and the intricate colors that Pierre Bonnard used in his works.

Do you listen to anything as you paint?

I listen to a wide variety of music – anything from Van Morrison, Katy Perry, Fats Domino to Diana Ross & The Supremes.

Who’s your favorite artist in the collection?

I would have to say my favorite artist in the collection is Vincent van Gogh.

Do you collect other artwork – or anything?

Yes, I do collect other artwork. I am lucky to own an original Theresa Pollak ink on paper and a Charles Sibley painting on canvas. Continue reading “The Artist Sees Differently: Blair Sutton” »

The Artist Sees Differently: Alec MacKaye

Alec MacKaye, preparator

Photo: Claire Norman

How did you learn about the Phillips?

This is a funny question [for a Washington, D.C. native]! Like asking how did one first hear about the White House or the cherry blossoms or Neil Armstrong. I heard about The Phillips Collection because it holds a place in United States cultural history, in D.C. history, and  in the art world. It may not be among the loudest of voices in the museum-iverse, but some things don’t need a brass band or sky writing to announce their presence.

Not to mention, being a fifth generation Washingtonian, I suppose I learned of the Phillips before I was born – my mother’s next-door neighbor and sometimes painting instructor was a man named Edgar Hewitt Nye. Two of his paintings are held in The Phillips Collection (and many more in the MacKaye Collection!), and his wife, Elizabeth Quackenbush Nye, was my parents’ English teacher at Sidwell Friends. So you see, it would be difficult to pinpoint exactly when I first heard of The Phillips Collection – it was part of me before I knew it.

You’re a musician, a writer, and an artist – do you feel you are inspired by the Phillips art?

Yes – and then more broadly, through it. There are a few certain objects that float before me when I am thinking of something, usually a Alfred Pinkham Ryder or a Philip Guston or a John Marin, and more than that, working here affords me the opportunity to see more than just what we hold. The small Hiroshige show we had a few years back changed the way I dream.

What do you listen to as you’re making art?

Silence, unless I want or need something to force my hand – then its Library of Congress field recordings or punk rock or dub reggae.

Who’s your favorite artist in the collection?

I won’t tell which ones I usually say I like most,  names that most people recognize – instead I will give a couple of names that should send folks to the “search” function on our website, since they likely  haven’t seen them on our walls:  Henry Gershwin, Joseph Solman. I like these two not necessarily for their high finish or classic theme but more for their direct delivery. Continue reading “The Artist Sees Differently: Alec MacKaye” »

The Artist Sees Differently: Sandy Lee

Sandy Lee, IT support specialist

Sandy Lee in front of his home display, “iconic 41,” 12 paintings for his wife’s recent birthday. Photo: Lisa Hasegawa

Were you an artist before you started to work at the Phillips, and how did you learn about the Phillips?

My father was the print shop manager for the US Catholic Conference, now the United Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Growing up, I had TONS of paper and pencils available as well as a light table for tracing my favorite images.  If you’ve seen the movie Seven Pounds there’s a printing press featured that was the same model my dad had in our basement.  I typeset my own business cards at the age of 12 (I think I was the only 6th grader with lead-type business cards, “Sandy Lee Artist-for-Hire”!) and in my teens began airbrushing t-shirts in high school.  I studied Art Studio at the University of Maryland College Park focusing on illustration.  I only learned about The Phillips Collection a few years ago when applying for the position of IT Support Specialist.

Do you feel you are inspired by the Phillips?

Absolutely.  This facility, and its rise from near disaster make me grateful that such a place still exists.  The works within still amaze me–it seems there’s always something new hanging from week to week.  I find myself going to more and more museums and evaluating them against the Phillips.  It’s such a great venue in which to view masterpieces. It really is inviting and personable.  After a near 20 year hiatus from painting, I decided to pick up the brush last year and produce the 12 canvases in the photo for my wife’s 41st birthday present.  We were both surprised.

What do you listen to as you paint?

Lady Gaga, metal, movie soundtracks, even podcasts of Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!.

Who’s your favorite artist in the collection?

Raoul Dufy.  His paintings remind me of the backgrounds painted by Philip DeGuard for the Looney Tunes Pepe le Pew cartoons!  Very whimsical and vibrant.

Do you collect other artwork – or anything?

I have a few lithographs, tons of comic books, and the Spectrum series of fantasy art annuals.  That all started with an inadvertent trip to the Society of Illustrators museum in New York City.

What’s your favorite Marjorie Phillips painting?

My favorite Marjorie painting is Night Baseball(1951). You can tell by looking at it how much she loved the sport.  I’m foremost an ice hockey player and fan, but I give full credit to women who appreciate sports.

-Rolf Rykken