The Doug + Laurie Kanyer Collection: Much more than collecting collage.
We interviewed Laurie Kanyer to talk about her collection and all the things she and Doug have been doing in the art world since the 80s.
TWS –You collected art for a long time…
LK –Doug and I met in 1977 when we were in college. As a teen, I was in an art school pull-out art program for 3 years of my formal education. I went to art school one day a week and regular school 4 days a week. We had morning art history lessons, and afternoon lessons in the seven arts. By the time I met Doug art was firmly ingrained in my life.
Doug was a very good student and was also a very talented athlete but had not been exposed much to art. So when we met, he taught me about sports and I taught him about art. We were both pretty poor and would have dates going to galleries and sporting events on and off campus. It was a wonderful time.
We began to collect art as we believe it enhances and improves the quality of one’s life. We feel making art ignites the best of the human soul, the most pure and holy, if you will, of the artist, to give it voice, to be seen and known.
We believe that, in the art making process, the soul of the artist is married with the materials. There is a spiritual melding of the soul and materials to create a one-time, never to happen again imprint of that person and their soul.
We believe, when artwork is seen by another (the viewer), the soul of the viewer, through the portal of the eyes, is filled with the best of the soul of the maker. In that moment, there is a potent connection that transcends the harshness of the world and inspires the viewer to go onward.
All our lives together we have lived with original art, often paid for in monthly installments. We collect so our souls will experience beams of hope and inspiration. We purchase art for the Collection so the souls of makers will have the chance to be seen and heard.
Original art is like a lighthouse, a portal of safety, and a focal point when times are heavy. There is an emotional transfer we have experienced living with art whereby we regularly gaze upon the art as a contemplative practice. This is not “decoration” and certainly not status. It is a way of life, a meditation.
Additionally, we are deeply rooted in our region and the love of history. My family moved to this valley in the 1860s. They were Irish immigrants, and my grandfather was very proud of his heritage. I am the oldest grandchild; so he instilled in me the value of our family’s contribution to the Valley. Some of his relatives were part of starting the local historical society, and so we wanted to collect to document history through art. Our intention was to donate the Collection when we passed to our regional museum.
TWS –What was the role of Charles A. Smith in your life as collectors?
LK –One cannot ever underestimate good fortune!
We struck the “art lovers jackpot” as newlyweds when we moved in across the street from Charles A. Smith, one of our area’s most influential artists. It was an impressionable time in our life being newly married, and he fortified a road map for the work we do today.
He was very instructive —“remember the great masters and always advocate for art education in the schools”. He told us to donate to arts institutions when we are able, stressing the importance of our little collection —“always live with original art— whatever you can afford”. He told us all about the residencies he had taken part in, and challenged us to attend openings even though we are introverts and were poor. He taught us the heartbeat of the arts beyond where we lived —Mexico, Europe, Asia and Canada.
When we met he was on a dry spell artistically, he had not painted for many years and it would be another 20 years until he was motivated to pick up a paint brush again. But he was deeply immersed in art daily as an art teacher. He studied with Richard Diebenkorn (we have his report card — he got a B+) and had met Peggy Guggenheim in Venice —Oh (!) the dog cemetery!
When he died in 2016, he willed us his entire collection. This was very sad but formative milestone for us as collectors of art made in Central Washington,
By 2017 we had collected some 350+ works from our area. We had also inherited all of Charles A. Smith’s collection and works. We donated some 55 pieces of the Charles A. Smith Collection to the Yakima Valley Museum when he passed.
It was the largest single donation of art in the history of the Museum, increasing their art holdings twenty-fold. Since then we gifted another 50 some pieces, with another 25 to be given soon.
The rest of the works are in our home, our children’s homes, and at Doug’s office. Everyone is living with art. Some people go on vacations (which we did not really do until our 25th wedding anniversary); in contrast, we saved and then purchased art, often in monthly installments.
TWS – You had been also involved in local Patron Activities…
LK –In 2005 I was working with women experiencing poverty and other deep hardships. I was showing my own art at the time and it was clear that my clients could not go to see my art due to lack of access; public transportation did not run to the lone community gallery. Our community remains deeply segregated to this day. I watched and observed for two years and in 2007, I wrote a proposal to artists and cultural organizations to report we needed to increase access to the visual arts and to further highlight the downtown core, which was failing. This proposal went initially to John Baule, the Director of Yakima Valley Museum.
It took seven years for us to be able to site a non-profit gallery, the first in the city. I facilitated the planning and conversation with all of the arts and culture organizations represented; Yakima Valley Museum, Yakima Symphony Orchestra, Allied Arts of Yakima, Yakima Valley Community College’s Larson Gallery & Guild, Mighty Tieton, Capitol Theatre, City of Yakima, and Seasons Performance HalI. I worked closely with Museum Director John Baule in this effort.
In March of 2015 the Yakima Light Project Gallery was opened, and Doug and I underwrote the remodeling of the space, which was in a musical performance hall. We also covered all fixed expenses. I functioned as the volunteer Director and hired a curator, Andy Behrle, to help with exhibitions.
After the first year I replaced myself and hired artist and scholar Yesenia Navarrete Hunter as our director. As a result, Yessenia became the first Latinx Director of a non-profit gallery in the history of the region. She therefore became a leader in a non-profit gallery in a community where the majority of the people, some 58%, are of Latin American Origin.
In 2016 we had only 3 exhibition spaces in Yakima— a city of the population of 94,000 people. We went to the Museum and proposed a Residency Program to increase exhibition space for artists, to provide an opportunity for increased art sales and to help the Museum see art as historical material. This effort was accomplished with the help of John A. Baule.
The goal was to have the artists examine the Museum’s collection to inform the work for the exhibition and to offer them a chance to have a major exhibition at a nationally accredited Museum. The residency grants paid for all the materials to make the art and contributed to the expenses of the exhibition. It also underwrote the exhibition catalog, and the museum received for their collection one of the works from the exhibition. Artists Doug Johnson, Carolyn Nelson, Bill Brennan and Tom Hausken were the recipients.
Beginning in 2010, and continuing for 10 years, we had the opportunity to underwrite Mighty Tieton’s 10 x 10 x 10 Exhibition. Our support assisted in underwriting the exhibition by funding a hand-made catalog and the salary for an internship for a newly graduated art student
TWS –How did the shift to collage happen?
LK –I had always used collage as part of my parent education and counseling practice, especially in my work with women on temporary aid to needy families. Often there were things that could not be spoken out loud, but could be said with a collage.
One day we had a concern in our family related to the birth of a baby. I had worked with pregnant and parenting women since 1983, but my family member was many miles away and I could not help. I was frantic.
I turned to collage to manage my emotional energy, as I had written a book talking about ways to modulate stress and grief hormones in the body. I took my own medicine so to speak. Collage clicked and some 300 collages later I looked up and was addicted.
TWS –What was your perception of collage inside the contemporary art world when you started?
LK –I shared my enthusiasm with other artists in my community but to be totally honest was mocked a bit, if not outright shamed. I was shocked and enraged. I felt I had to do something.
So I went looking for other collagists to talk to and began to study the form more acutely. Doug and I have always been for the underdog, so we decided to adopt collage as our passion and to help to elevate the medium.
I took to Facebook and found abundant artists. Somehow I found Kevin Sampsell and attended an exhibit he held in Portland and bought 4 collages (the artists were Jay Berrones, Ruth E. Fox, Kevin Sampsell, and Rachel Eaton). At that show I found my first copy of Kolaj Magazine.
Coming from the field of psychology, it was not uncommon that a summit would be held when concerns on an important issue arose. Such summits were usually held in a conference setting. I had attended many summits, sitting in on discussions designed to create a group think tank to tackle an issue. We always went away from the summit with specific work to accomplish with a pledge to meet back in a year to plan for more work.
I wanted to see if we could identify key leaders in the world of collage to talk about elevating the medium at summit. Having been scoffed at for working in collage I felt sad for those who had been making collages for years. Something needed to be done to address this problem. Doug and I agreed to shift our donor gifts from our region to support world-wide collage.
It seemed collage was the underdog of the art world and I thought that was a huge mistake. For most of 2016 I talked to artists like John Hundt, Kevin Sampsell, Cecil Touchon and Zach Collins and then learned Ric Kasini Kadour was coming to the area I live, in and I asked for a meeting.
In all cases I was offering to underwrite an event — a summit. In our four hour meeting at Seattle Art Museum, Ric shared that he and his business partner Chris Byrne had wanted to do an event for some time, and he would be back in touch.
A year later he called to share they were planning an event for 2018 and asked if we would sponsor it. We agreed, and in July 2018 the First Kolaj Fest was held in New Orleans, Louisiana. We increased our investment for the 2019 event and then made another donation for 2020 addition, which has now been postponed due to the pandemic, but we have been told will be held as soon as possible.
Additionally, I discovered in 2016 that artists cannot get an MFA in collage. This circumstance persists today, and we are saddened by it. We still deeply desire to help underwrite a scholarship for someone to study or to make a grant to a college to start a collage-focused MFA.
TWS – How had your perceptions changed after these years collecting collage?
LK –We have fallen deeply in love with the medium and those who make it.
While at the beginning we thought collage was a rare art form and under-appreciated, we have since found through our work and study a rich bevy of artists and a long and prominent history of collage. We openly admit living in a small rural community limited our knowledge and insight. That does not mean there is not work to be done to see collage more widely collected or higher education specific degrees, but because there was no one making collage where we lived we had limited exposure.
We are very new to the world of collage and it is an emotional experience for us. This is a labor of love and one of deep honor. We are in a position of awe and wonder when it comes to collage.
We perceive we are in an explosive time for collage and are very intrigued with how the history of collage shapes it today. Being a collector in the middle of a pandemic, the Me Too Movement, Black Lives Matter, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, and other instances of political unrest, we have the ability to collect works being made at a uniquely potent and powerful time.
Therefore our perception is collage is about to have a BIG moment.
Consider the challenges painters have right now, with all due respect, having to watch the paint dry while new historical events are happening, and how it limits ones’ ability to make art to address the issues. With all the world issues and events in the spotlight, Collagists can move swiftly to make important statements of our day.
We have met some remarkable people who are simply brilliant, fully engaged in and with collage as their preferred medium as fine artists.
We are taken with how many hundreds of thousands of people are making collage, all over the world.
TWS –Can You Describe for Us Your Collection?
LK –At the encouragement of Ric Kasini Kadour we decided to collect fine art collage exclusively in the spring of 2019. In doing so we made the decision as a celebration of all our forthcoming wedding anniversaries, for the remainder of our lives, to collect collage ONLY. It is vital to know there would be no Doug + Laurie Kanyer Art Collection without Ric.
So while we purchased four collages in 2016 and a few others in 2019 to show our support for the medium, we pledged that for the remainder of our existence we would collect collage exclusively.
We were aware of the work of private collector Geert Verbeke and the Verbeke Foundation with their massive collection of over 6000 purchased collages. We hope to meet him one day.
There are also many collagists with extensive private collections who acquired their collections via mail art or exchanges. Cecil Touchon, who is in our collection, has some 30,000 collages acquired this way. There are many private collectors who collect collage and other art forms as well. Also there are a number non-profit organizations with collage-exclusive collections all over the world and most of the important art institutions have collage in their holdings.
However, we seem to be among the few collectors who buy collages only and who collect collage exclusively.
Our first activity with the Fine Art Collage Collection was to offer a Purchase Award for attendees of Kolaj Fest. This call was generously administered by Chris Byrne and Ric Kasini Kadour and they taught us a great deal and put in countless hours of work on the call and for the Collection.
The focus for the first year was to gather works made all over the world in order to make a survey of collage internationally. Starting in May 2019 and continuing until June 2020, we made our initial tentative foray into the medium, and have 135 artists representing 33 countries in our Collection and a total of 459 collages. Since we are in our 60s, starting later in life to collect collage, we made a push to acquire more than we would have had we started earlier.
One specific aspect of the collection size. Because we are collecting with the intention of ultimate donation and because we want ease in lending the works, we collect collages around 11” x 14”. Most of the collages go directly into museum quality, acid free containers.
We are also working with a limited budget which means we can afford mostly smaller pieces. Much like the Vogels. We are not buying for investment, we are buying for the love of the art-form with an eye to donating.
TWS – Which is the criteria for acquiring artworks for your collection?
LK –We developed a 40 point criteria when making choices for the Kolaj Fest Purchase Award. We don’t disclose the criteria. I had a long conversation with collagist Clive Knight about this decision. We want to respond to what is being made, not shape it.
Our criteria is used to help us think critically about the work from a fine art perspective. We analyze each fine art collage acquisition from these criteria. This is in effort to prove the validity of the fine art collage collection and build trust in the importance of the collection.
It also helps to sift out a human tendency to choose what you “like” and instead choose what is more appropriate based on the career and skill of the artist in the Collection. This is not to say there are not an abundance of emerging voices; there are many.
From spring 2019 to spring 2020, using the 40 point criteria, we brought works into the collection in three ways. This will shift for the next two years, but initially we used the following approach:
1. We had a volunteer advisory group who submitted artists for consideration 2. We held open calls on social media. 3. We purchased from our own researched list of collagists.
Having inherited all of Charles A. Smith’s papers we had a bent towards archiving. When he died in February 2016, I spent a month organizing his papers before donating them, along with his art, to the Yakima Valley Museum. We made a grant to have the papers digitized so they could eventually be accessible for study.
So archiving for historical preservation is a major focus for our fine art collage collection and we gather an abundance of “hard copy” materials from each artist: gallery cards, catalogs, business cards, books and more. We imagine that in 150 years a curator will be able to show the art and material too, a very interesting prospect.
We have other collections —baskets made by Yakama Indigenous People, Roseville Pottery, Pendleton Blankets, Puehr Tea (yes this is a thing) and other items. We started to catalog the collages using a system devised by Ric Kasini Kadour for his Merz Army, and have used it and will continue this process.
Having a mission helps to shape decisions and we have been in the process of developing written policies. Those who get this collection will understand our decisions. John Baule, who was a Museum Director for decades, and served as an accreditation reviewer for the American Alliance of Museums, has helped us to consider how we manage a number of key issues. An example: can we take in a donation? What criteria do we use?
TWS –Do you have consultants to help you with the collection?
LK –In the beginning of the fine art collage collection we started with volunteer advisors to help us decide who to collect and to help us develop our practice, however, it was important to honor them by financially compensating them for their expertise.
So in June 2020 we invited them to become hired consultants to help with the fine art collection. We appreciated them volunteering but felt we needed to pay them for their assistance.
TWS –Which is your dream acquisition from any time and artist?
TWS –You’ve been doing lots of extra activities apart from collecting. Can you talk to us about that?
In 1990 I was hired by one of our local hospitals to do an assessment of our community parents to determine the various parenting groups and ways to offer them parent education. I found 33 different parenting groups and 17 ways to offer activities to assist. I was eventually hired to coordinate these efforts and we offered 18 different classes on a variety of topics and other activities to support families. This program was acknowledged by the United Nations for Inspiring Warmheartedness. This work was funded by a charitable foundation and having had this experience now shapes how we work in collage.
Similarly this experience informs how we now think about our work in collage and how to best support and celebrate collage. The mindset is, how many ways can we offer to encourage those working in collage.
In some ways we are like a collage itself, with all the elements of a collage joined under the flag of the “Doug + Laurie Kanyer Art Collection”. Combined they form a work of art, connected to celebrate collage.
We are like a small charitable foundation who has a category A. ‘Fine Art Collage Collection’ and category B. ‘promote and celebrate collage, some educational activities like the calls, some grants, books, and donations’. But we are not a non-profit organization, we just think like a foundation in our activities and programming.
We buy collage as we can afford and then do other beneficial activities we can afford as well.
We give outright gifts of money to grantees and in some cases make donations to non-profits to benefit collage.
Open Calls – Purchase Awards: We were encouraged by Ric Kasini Kadour to have the collection be active, to help people experience it to make it alive. Through our regular posts on social media people can learn about our work and join in the mission.
We have offered four open calls via Instagram. Three of these were purchase award calls. This is because we have a long tradition in our collecting practice of buying art to support artists.
Enveloped under the “Collection” flag, open calls show our desire to connect with a broad range of collagists all over the world, both fine-art-focused collagists and the hobbyist too. This is an entirely different interview to discuss why this is vital in collage.
To re-affirm, when making a purchase award selection from these calls all submissions go through the 40 point criteria. I am always on the jurying committee and as jurors we make selections, but before a decision is made I study each artist and use the 40 point criteria.
This is why the announcements take so long. If we say this artist is now in the Collection I have to be able to defend that artist to myself first and then to the world.
These calls are always free as it can be expensive to be an artist. We always provide cash awards, open to all to join in. We pay for shipping too.
There has to date been a theme for the artists to consider shaped by my career in counseling. The calls focus on the human condition and ask artists to consider issues or historical events.
Explore Collage Techniques or Formats: They are frequently formatted so artists are challenged to use varied collage techniques or formats. Again, even if a trained fine artist with an MFA is choosing to work in collage they likely never had an entire quarter or semester in college on collage. While some might say the technical aspects of these collage are elementary, I say where does one get even elementary training in collage? So these calls say, “Try this technique coupled with a theme and see what happens”.
TWS –You have also been involved in book and writing projects…
We have underwritten three publications on collage and plan for more.
I have authored a number of books on parenting issues, I had a column in a local newspaper for 12 years and have written articles on family life issues in industry publications until 2005.
When I came to collage Ric Kasini Kadour of Kolaj Magazine (Issues #18 and #24) offered me a chance to write two articles on how collage helps with well-being; essentially brain health. I was grateful for the opportunity to offer this information to the collage community as I used collage in my counseling practice for 32 years.
In summer 2019, at the urging of Todd Bartel (@collagehead) and Andrea Burgay (@amburgay @cutmeupmagazine), I made a list of all the ways I knew collage helped with brain health. I listed 55 ways.
That list is now informing the new book I commenced May 2020 on collage and brain health featuring all the ways I listed in 2019 and 40 activities for people to try.
I am the author and publisher of the book, and artist CP Harrison is the Co-creator. I am writing all the content and CP is testing all the collage activities and shaping the flow of each exercise.
CP Harrison living Austin, Texas, USA, has nearly 25 years of working in the arts. Living in his current practice focuses on collage, décollage and found art. Harrison’s work explores the poetry of the abstract, the aged, and the misremembered.
The book is for all people to show them how using the collage based activities will support their wellness, with an emphasis on brain health. The book is written to help all people by using collage, AND it will feature fine art collages by artists in the Collection.
So it will be an interesting way to see the fine art collage collections in print and at the same time help people feel better emotionally.
TWS – What about the Gift Grants and other donations you’ve been giving?
LK –This spring we have made a number of gift grants to collagists on specific projects. These are out right cash gifts to the artists. They are an extension of our previous grant and residency experiences given through non-profits in past years. But they are totally different, as there is no non-profit organization involved. We did not want to be encumbered in this work of supporting artists by trying to find fiduciary agents. We decided to not consider any tax benefit for a donation in order to make grants. If we discover an interesting project, we give a small amount to the artist to explore their idea or further their skills.
Our Current Gift Grantee is Kiki Buccini (@cutpasteface) who we met when she sent us a gift collage postcard in the early days of Covid-19 spreading to the United States, is a member of @thecollageclub and has a tradition of sending fine art collages to encourage people. She is investigating a concept and a program she calls “Art En Route”.
She is at present summarizing her findings from her research of artists she studied who took part in “Finding A Heart of Care fro Others” which explored “gift collages”.
Since 2000 we have had a tradition of donating to the arts. Regarding donations to assist collage, we have been honored to make donations to sponsor Kolaj Fest, we have made an unrestricted gift to the Kolaj Institute, and recently made a donation for World Collage Day 2021 to support administrative costs, materials and to pay the poster artist. This last donation was in conjunction with an open call initiative where we asked artists to make and gift away collages.
Essentially, we will try to the best of our ability to help as we can. Certainly with the effect of Covid we are taking into account the effect it will have on our projects.
We have offered “gift aways” on Instagram of publications and books on collage as a way to contribute to artists’ libraries. Our hope is the artist will share these resources with other artists to expand the practice of collage.
TWS –How do you envision the Kanyer collection in 10 years time?
LK –We have specific goals for the next couple of years but we recognize we are new to exclusively collecting collage. It is too early to imagine ten years down the line.
As we’ve been focusing on collages created from 1980 to the present, we are focusing on the “present” rather than looking ahead 10 years.
We feel we need to be responsive and sensitive to the rapidly changing atmosphere of the world right now. So much has shifted and we want to be able to take part in the conversation as collectors by purchasing works by artists who are addressing the current pulse of the world.
We know the collection, as it stands, is a fine example of contemporary collage in the context of worldwide viewpoints of 459 works, representing collages that have been made from 1980 to May 2020, by 135 artists from 33 counties.
Moving into our second full year of collecting collage exclusively, we now turn to deepen the holding of the collection in specific areas of importance and clear need. We will be turning back to the United States for at least the next few years and will be purchasing works representing BIPOC (Black Indigenous People Of Color).
As part of our advocacy for both Indigenous Peoples and collage, we have discovered there are few Native American People using collage as a medium. We have asked our long-time friend and past advisor to the collection, artist HollyAnna “CougarTracks” DeCoteau Littlebull to be curator and to introduce collage to a group of established fine art Indigenous Artists in her purview. She will invite the artists to explore collage and she has begun to do so herself.
The artists will receive grants to do this work and Hollyanna will be selecting which of their works will be added to the Collection. Additionally we hope to offer extended grants to these now-established artists who have become familiar with collage, for the purpose of educating others on the topic.
Hollyanna DeCoteau Littlebull is the curator of Spilyay, a Native American exhibition that has been in existence for five decades. The founders wanted to encourage creativity in its many traditional and modern forms. Hollyanna has been a curator for this exhibition for years and will include the collages made by the grantees into this exhibition.
Black Lives Matter Collage. Artist, curator, gallery director and long time family friend Teri Henderson of Maryland, has become the curator for acquisitions and will be make purchases of works made by Black and Black LGTBQ collagists. Terri holds a degree from Texas Christian University graduating in 2014. She is the Co-Director of WDLY, a nomadic event platform focused on art events that center on Black creatives. She is a staff writer for BmoreArt and the Gallery Coordinator for Connect+Collect Gallery in Baltimore. She will be studying collage, making a list of fine art collagists from whom to select collage, and will make all the decisions about what is purchased for the collection made by Black Artists. https://bmoreart.com/contributor/teri-henderson
We are dedicated to having a responsible representation of works made by BIPOC, and all of our private acquisitions will be focused here until we have appropriate representation.
These collages will be made by BIPOC exclusively. Recall that we are collecting collage exclusively and all of our private acquisition will be made by BIPOC, while all the calls we will offer will be open to all artists all over the world.