Collecting local art

October 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

John and Pat Martin have filled the walls of their home with local art.

John and Pat Martin have filled the walls of their home with local art.


With a collection that includes works from more than 30 local artists, Pat and John Martin are deeply connected to the Sonoma County art world. Every room of their Petaluma home contains artwork that spans genres, styles and mediums, reflecting a pursuit of beauty and meaning unique to the couple’s history together.

From roots in his mother’s art-filled home in Grass Valley, through 35 years in Berkeley, a career as CFO of two Marin hospitals, and his eventual settling in Sonoma County, John’s love of art has grown to include his own pursuits as a painter in oil and acrylic. Pat, a massage therapist and Eden Energy Medicine Practitioner, is an equally devoted art lover. To fuel their passion for art, the two regularly take workshops, read voraciously from their massive art book collection and frequent museums and galleries in the Bay Area and New York.

When they married and started collecting art together 15 years ago, the pair discovered their harmonious artistic instincts. Their visits to galleries or artists’ studios would more often than not follow a pattern: They would individually walk around, quietly viewing and absorbing the artwork, then reconvene to discover that they were eyeing the exact same one or two pieces. Neither one views their purchases as investments; rather, the artwork is brought home to bring enjoyment and inspiration to their surroundings every day.

“It’s really great when you’re constantly affected emotionally, inspired, even cajoled on some days by a piece of art that reminds you of things you’ve done together, places you’ve known and loved,” says Pat. “Your eyes skim across a piece time and time again during the day and it really does something to your soul. It’s beautiful and meaningful on so many levels.” Each piece in their collection has a special resonance for the couple — whether it’s the bold color and freshness of a Janet Moore landscape of West County or the whimsy of a Nancy Morgan ceramic featuring fish bursting out of the pot’s surface.

The Martins enjoy watching artists develop, change and grow. They personally know most of the artists represented in their collection. As Pat and John cultivate those relationships, the artists themselves become part of the experience of the art. “We feel that when we buy a piece of art, we bring the artist into our house,” says John. The result is a home that resonates with all the creative energy of the Sonoma County art community.

Pat says she is always struck with the infinite variety of ways artists see things. “Art exposes you to different minds, great minds, allowing you to see things in fascinating new ways,” she explains. She also speaks of artists’ “hardworking hearts” as they generously share their gifts in workshops and in demonstrations at open studios, recalling in particular Micah Schwaberow’s in-depth wood-block printing demos and Mario Uribe’s tireless devotion of time and energy to the local arts community.

John believes Sonoma County is special for its support of public art. “I think that one of the things that’s important to the artist community here is the value of public art — the fact that we have public art,” he says. “The development tax creates an environment where art is more valued by the community and where the community experientially is enhanced by the art.”

Pat cites the myriad of people working hard to keep the region’s arts alive. “You take ARTrails, Sonoma County Museum, the Arts Centers in Petaluma and Sebastopol, the art walks, the local galleries, the wineries and gardens that feature art — you keep it all stirring around, ultimately it makes a big difference.”

The Martins believe it is vitally important to support local artists for the richness they provide to the community fabric, and collecting is a great way to show that support. The couple recommends taking your time when perusing studios and galleries. For example, when Pat and John embark on their annual ARTrails Open Studios tours, they don’t try to see more than five or six studios per day, allowing them plenty of time in each one.

When asked if she has any advice for novice collectors, Pat says, “Do it! There is no right or wrong; if a piece resonates with your soul, then that’s what you need to go home with — don’t leave that behind. And don’t be afraid to spend time and ask questions. You’ll learn so much and develop an even deeper connection to the artist and the art.”

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