Lorne Lassiter and Gary Ferraro talk about art that moves them
This interview was edited for clarity and brevity.
Tell me about how you began collecting.
Lorne: I had a traditional family, travelled regularly and visited museums. Majored in art history and spent junior year in Florence, Italy. Always enjoyed the arts. I can visualize but I can’t create… I was a dancer. Never really had the creative part of the experience. I began collecting in the late ’70s early ’80s. I met (gallery owner) Dot Hodges, the only game in town, when I moved to Charlotte in 1980. She introduced me to North Carolina ceramics and glass. Through this affiliation, I acquired a small Dale Chihuly “Sea Form” and a nice Harvey Littleton “Sliced Form.”
Gary: I began collecting when I was doing my doctoral dissertation in Kenya. I collected two Makonde sculptures which we still have. We really got turned on in 1999. We happened to be living in a condo in the Fourth Ward. The Mint Museum of Craft + Design opened uptown not far from where we were living and there was a reemergence of the arts district, galleries were open and showing intriguing work. During one of MMCD’s first Founders’ Circle weekends, we met Washingtonians Jane and Arthur Mason on a street corner, offered them a ride to Jerald Melberg’s gallery, became smitten with them and many other visiting collectors during that weekend. Thus began our passionate affair with craft, collecting and traveling together with our newfound friends. The group had such energy and opened doors that we hadn’t had opened to us before. We also traveled to Prague with the Mint group. Trips such as these along with visits to artists’ studios, collections in private homes, museums and galleries became the focus of our collecting journey. We always felt welcome!
What inspired you to collect glass, bamboo and ceramic?
Lorne: We are eclectic lookers and collectors. We rarely go looking with any one artist in mind, although we try to do our homework and be well informed on who/what we might see. We never have an idea where something will fit in our house, but that is all part of the curation process, which we enjoy very much.
What are several of your favorites in the collection?
Lorne: The Gareth Mason ceramic vessel form is an especially compelling piece. We hadn’t seen this work before. We had, however, had the occasion to see Marc and Diane Grainer’s wonderful collection of British ceramics, so we understood the aesthetic in which Mason was working. Gareth Mason’s piece is all about tactility, texture, the fire.
Gary: It really attracted Lorne. Lorne went to hear the artist speak and was even more intrigued. So we acquired this piece.
Lorne: I look at the hand, texture and emotion. Gary looks at craftsmanship, precision and such. Moments like these are stretch moments in our collection continuum. It’s not so much that we’ve pivoted from one medium or genre to another. Instead we respond to the aesthetics of work we see, consider and ultimately collect. We’ve also gotten intrigued by collecting women artists. It’s not that we directly pursue this but many artists we are interested in are women.
Tell us about your relationships with people you collect. Glass artist Tobias Mohl?
Gary: He asked us if we would lend (a piece we’d purchased) to his exhibit at the Glasmuseet Ebeltoft in Denmark. We decided to go for the opening: We surprised him and then spent the next few days visiting with him and his wife. We attended a concert together, we lunched together close to the museum and then visited his hot shop and gallery where his work is on display. We learned so much and we have such a wonderful relationship.
What drew you to this piece by Michael Lucero?
Lorne: Well, it has the same sort of deliberate, destructive quality, maybe related to Gareth Mason. What I see is the wonderful mix of color, textures, it’s totally in the round, it’s a really provocative piece!
Gary: I went along with it as an attempt to break away from my need for classicism.
What drew you to your Preston Singletary piece?
Gary: I think this duality represents in Tlingit culture (indigenous to the Northwest) the moiety, a two-pronged kinship system. This is content that I had been teaching in my kinship lectures. The figures are totemic. I love the surface, it’s done with powder. It looks a bit like wood.
What advice would you give to someone who’s just starting to collect?
Lorne: You just start! Jump in… You’re going to make mistakes. We learn by arranging and appreciating the new relationships that we discover.