Written by Caitlyn Cooney, Curatorial Intern
A collector’s passion for art is an integral part of their personality. It affects the way they view the world around them, the way they experience life, their relationships with people, and the decisions they make every day. For Maria Cox, art has been a part of her life since birth, shaping her experiences long into adulthood. She and her husband, Donald, have collected various noteworthy artworks since the early 1970’s by revolutionary artists of the modern and contemporary era. Over the years, the Coxes have come to obtain a snippet of one of the most groundbreaking periods in American art.
Cox grew up with an artistic way of viewing life. Both of her parents were architects, frequently exposing her to the elements of design and creative viewpoints through contemporary art and architecture. She obtained her undergraduate degree in art history, and continued her passion for contemporary art from there. Her interests were directed toward the artists that were changing the art scene, the creative fabric of their contemporary culture. She states, “When Donald and I went to galleries, we saw a lot of things—mundane things, the ‘try-hards’—but then we saw Rauschenberg, and you could just tell he was having fun. And we liked the ‘fun’ of art.”
Of the two pieces from Cox’s collection currently on view at the Cummer, Keith Harring’s Two Dancing Figures (1990) represents this avant-garde, “fun” interest. Contemporary art in the last few decades had been entirely focused on pushing the limits of what defined “art”, the way we viewed and interpreted art, the way we viewed our culture, and even the way we viewed ourselves. Keith Harring embodies this very movement towards the disjuncture between art and life seen since the 1960s with his graffiti-esque characters and stylized compositions. His child-like illustrations captured a nonchalance about “high art”, and shifted the definition of what art could be.
This passion fed every area of Cox’s life. In describing the way art affected her marriage, she states, “We fed each other.” It became a part of their relationship and daily lives. They would immerse themselves in the experience of looking for something they were passionate about, learning about the changing landscape of their contemporary art scene, sometimes visiting as many as 28 museums and galleries in a day. Cox went on to describe the way she and Donald selected pieces for their collection stating, “You’re looking for something that excites you, that you want to live with, that you want to take home. You can go and look, and be looking at different things, but sometimes your eyes meet and you realize you are looking at the same thing. And then you buy it.”
As a collector, Cox strives to capture an era that was all about change, progression, creative thinking and fun. Her passion surpasses that of her aesthetic tastes, fueled by the concepts and influences of the innovative artists represented in her collection.
The exhibition Collectors’ Choice: Inside the Hearts and Minds of Regional Collectors will be on view from May 17th to September 14th, 2014.
For more information, please visit the Cummer’s website at https://www.cummer.org/