Inspired by the recent screening of the documentary film about Herb and Dorothy Vogel at the Milwaukee Art Museum and the exhibit of the Vogel’s gift to MAM, I wanted to find our own Milwaukee-based Vogel to interview for this series on art collecting. I found Sally Cartwright, an exuberantly friendly Bay View resident who was all too happy to invite me in, and share her art collection with me.
Sally is not a practicing artist, nor is she married to one. She’s not the child of an artist, was not an art major in college and did not grow up in a house full of art. She is not fabulously wealthy, although I do not intend to suggest the opposite. She does not work for a museum or gallery, and she does not live in Manhattan. In short, she is decidedly not from the art-world circles that most people imagine “Art Collectors” to be from, and yet she is in fact an art collector. And an art enthusiast to boot.
Her start was as simple as this: In college—while pursuing her MBA—she had to take an art appreciation class, and at some point got invited to a fellow student’s art show. She enjoyed it. After attending a few more art exhibits and museums as a young woman, she realized she was hooked.
Like the Vogels in 1970s Manhatten, Sally is a regular at Milwaukee’s area art happenings such as Gallery Night and the Lakefront Festival of the Arts. Here is what I learned about her outlook on life and art when I met her recently.
“It’s like the more you see out there, the more there is to see,” she says, with excitement. “I am not trying to be an art expert or anything, I just love seeing artwork and meeting artists, and learning about their experiences and processes.”
Sally’s collection includes a number of well-known Wisconsin artists, such as Fred Stonehouse, Stacey Steinberg (see second image, left) and Jeff Darrow.
The collection is not wholly made up of Wisconsin art, however, and in fact one of her most prominently-displayed pieces in her home is a wire mesh “shadow sculpture” by Randy Cooper of Colorado (see first artwork, right), which features a female torso—about the size of a dress dummy—that projects sensuous, three-dimensional shadows on the wall behind it, almost like kinetic art. Sally poses with a flashlight all around to demonstrate it to me.
Another prize is a giant painting of an orchid (see image, below right), which Sally commissioned from artist Susan Tolonen, a Milwaukee-based painter and children’s book illustrator.
“Sometimes you buy a piece because it speaks to you, and you hang it somewhere where you can spend a lot of time with it. But other times you really just need something to enhance a particular space in your home. This is a decorative piece, but it’s also a fabulous work of art. It welcomes me upstairs.”