Hunters and collectors


Dear Artist,

Over a recent 48 hours, an intimate group of tail-waggers embarked on a treasure hunt of public art. Our gang, like an itinerant, vibrating organism, scrambled up and down the hills and in and out of the eucalyptus groves to identify creative miracles, dotted like superstars among the natural wonders of this coastal oasis. Like an Easter egg hunt, the expedition signalled a kind of exultant celebration of worship and quiet human endeavour.

Fallen Star, 2012 steel-frame house, concrete foundation, brick, chimney, garden, lawn chairs, table, hibachi-style grill, bird bath and bird house approx. 180 x 215.98 inches by Do Ho Suh (b. 1962)

Fallen Star, 2012
steel-frame house, concrete foundation, brick, chimney, garden, lawn chairs, table, hibachi-style grill, bird bath and bird house
by Do Ho Suh (b. 1962)

We could have easily been, instead, a gaggle of birders, skulking through a migratory bog, the taxonomy of valuable finds helped along by a guidebook and a collective company of devout eyes and hearts. While waiting, timeless, for a blinking neon riff on sin and virtue to activate on a building’s frieze, a biplane flew overhead pulling a banner selling car insurance. From there, a spotless cobalt sky cut into a hilltop feat of architectural engineering. We chorused on the recent resurgence and appreciation of California Brutalism. Past the parking lot and around the corner, each took a turn reading from a giant slab of granite, inscribed with messages of human truth. The gums, originally introduced to this area for railway ties then abandoned for their slow growing and meandering trunks, swelled and perfumed as a control group for beauty.

The hunters and collectors had each brought with them their own touch point for wonder, though words are not obligatory for cult-life. Silent questions like, “How is it made?” “What are the materials?” “How do I feel?” and “Am I inspired?” were implied as we circumnavigated the largest and heaviest or dragged our noses across the brushwork of a stand-out fresco. The makers, long-returned to the introversion of their studios, had left for everyone their ideas and execution, tucked into the landscape to compete with the sunset and public signage, construction zones and the noble reckoning of the seagull’s droppings.

Landing, 2016 7724 Girard Avenue, La Jolla acrylic paint by Heather Gwen Martin (b. 1977)

Landing, 2016
7724 Girard Avenue, La Jolla
acrylic paint
by Heather Gwen Martin (b. 1977)



PS: “If Venice sinks, the collection should be preserved somewhere in the vicinity of Venice.” (Peggy Guggenheim)

Esoterica: “The man who has honesty, integrity, the love of inquiry, the desire to see beyond, is ready to appreciate good art,” wrote Robert Henri in The Art Spirit. “He needs no one to give him an ‘Art Education’; he is already qualified. He needs but to see pictures with his active mind, look into them for the things that belong to him, and he will find soon enough in himself an art connoisseur and an art lover of the first order.” The Stuart Collection at the University of California San Diego and the Murals of La Jolla each exist to commission public art projects, enriching cultural life and making art accessible to everyone in their communities. “I am interested in art as a means of living a life; not as a means of making a living.” (Robert Henri)

Geisel Library, University of California San Diego, 1970 designed by William Pereira

Geisel Library, University of California San Diego, 1970
designed by William Pereira (1909-1985)
Erik Jepsen photo

The Letters: Vol. 1 and 2, narrated by Dave Genn, are available for download on Amazon, here. Proceeds of sales contribute to the production of The Painter’s Keys.

“Send all you have for loveliness, / Buy it, and never count the cost; / For one white singing hour of peace / Count many a year of strife well lost.” (Sara Teasdale)

“Design is not making beauty, beauty emerges from selection, affinities, integration, love.” (Louis Kahn)




  1. How beautifully you characterized our time spent together in the presence of such impressive art works and architecture, not to mention Mother Nature. To me the most lasting memory will be the shared space and conversation that we all preserved from our overly busy lives to meet and consider our thoughts and reactions.

  2. The introversion of the studio and the relationships between what is public and private art are intriguing. Do we really ever own what is created or are we simply offering stewardship for its continued existence? This question seems to resonate not just for the collector but also the maker. I paint because I am a painter but then what? Do I share this work or tuck it under old sheets in the studio loft, keeping it private? If it is sold to a collector, do they keep it on their own walls, passing it down to family, or will it be donated to a public space? If a work is initially contracted for public viewing from the outset, what measure are in place to ensure it remains a public work and is not simply packed away in a vault somewhere not to be seen for tens of years? Ah Sarah, the questions you have sparked with this letter! Thank you!

  3. Holey-moley Sarah, did you swallow an art dictionary. My old mind was not keeping up and I have more questions than answers ie: what does that mean. Time to settle your whole body back on planet, Earth…

    I look forward to your letters, always, thank you for caring and carrying on.


Leave A Reply

Featured Workshop

Exploring Still Life in Oil with Laura Robb — Advanced Techniques for Capturing Light and Depth in Your Paintings
January 15, 2020 to January 22, 2020


This workshop/retreat will be ideal for artists who are serious about improving their painting skills, but who also enjoy great food, terrific accommodations and a bit of adventure. The instructor has many years of experience in both teaching and painting and is dedicated to passing along her knowledge to those who are eager to learn. Small class size will insure individual attention. We will be working from life and previous experience mixing color will be necessary.


Casa Buena Art Retreat, between Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan, is a calm and beautiful place to relax and explore your creative energy. Please check out their website for photos and detailed information about this exciting opportunity Non-painting travel companions are welcome too.

For more information on the instructor or to contact her, please visit late afternoon sun on the tip of Savary Island's Indian Point highlights the design elements of the logs and the summer surroundings of the island.

Featured Artist

My enjoyment in representing the beauty of our world with strong design and bold colours is what drives my passion for my landscape painting of Savary Island and other parts of our amazing planet.


Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

Subscribe and receive the Twice-Weekly letter on art. You’ll be joining a worldwide community of artists.
Subscription is free.