Cathy Breslaw's Installation

Cathy Breslaw's Installation
Cathy Breslaw's Installation:Dreamscape

Friday, February 7, 2014

San Diego Art Collectors Talk About Collecting

This is the first in a series of articles I plan to do on collectors and collecting art. Stay posted, more to come!

The similarity among art collectors is simply this: They are all different. Over the years I have had opportunities to talk to art collectors – in galleries, at openings, at museums, and some in the course of purchasing my art pieces and in visiting their homes. Aside from the value of the art, there is one common distinction - their passion for the art they have acquired and the story they have to tell about it.  I was recently fortunate to have individual conversations with art collectors Robin Lipman, Paul Thomas and Debra McGinty-Poteet.

Robin Lipman’s collecting began in the 1970’s with a purchase of a $50.00 piece of art by an instructor at a college in Florida and has continued collecting on throughout the following years as a result of her extensive travels around the globe. Lipman relies on her instincts and love of particular art pieces as her guide. She says that though she has purchased from galleries, she has never sought art advice for collecting and does not collect for investment. She collects art pieces that span everything that is ‘red’, to objects that are tomatoes (going back to her roots of her father who farmed tomatoes) to recycled sculptures made from plastic bottles and paint, to sculpture, assemblage, tapestries, paintings both representational and abstract, Vargas girl calendars of the 1930’s, drawings by ‘outsider’ artists, to the work of regional and local artists. She has also had art built into the structure of her home, including mosaic and sculpture in her outdoor patio to a fireplace with a myriad of objects of varying sizes and shapes embedded into the concrete of the mantel. Lipman says that the commissioned works of portraits of herself and her personal items of significance are among her favorites in her collection. Lipman has created customized spaces and lighting in various areas of her home to accommodate specific works of art and extends work into all areas of her home including the bathrooms and laundry room.

Paul Thomas told me that while his parents had an interest in the arts – his mother was a pianist and father did drawings and made his own complicated Halloween masks, his own interest in art didn’t surface until college when he was exposed to art history. His first art purchase was of the poster Uncle Sam “I Want You” – he was drawn to illustrative representational work which, other than for one abstract sculpture, has followed him to this day, some 40 years of collecting later. For a long time he stuck to collecting posters which were affordable and easy to transport until he was more settled into a home. Thomas sites posters as his ‘gateway’ into collecting art. As the years went on, he began to buy paintings focused on the landscape, Plein Air, portraits and sculpture. His one rule was “buy the best you can afford”.  Thomas buys from galleries and dealers but depends on what he calls his ‘critical eye’ for good work and maintains that he has never bought for investment or profit but wanted work that was good quality. He feels he has an obligation and responsibility to protect each of his artworks by placing them in the proper lighting and dryness/humidity areas and framing everything with the highest quality materials. Thomas stresses the importance of cataloguing each piece of art with information about when and where it was purchased including receipts, and any repairs made. He feels there is also the responsibility of handing the art down to family members in the future. He believes that living with art is a privilege and states “Good art grows on you, and if it doesn’t, you should give it away or sell it.”

Debra McGinty-Poteet, along with her husband Larry Poteet, began collecting out of mutual emotional need. Debra describes art collecting as having started out as “art therapy” for she and Larry as a couple. Their first of three daughters was born with severe developmental delays. They decided to keep her at home which Poteet describes as having been a huge emotional drain on themselves and their relationship. Their weekend ‘respites’ where they had outside caregivers, afforded them time to get out of the house, and then living in Los Angeles, they began frequenting art museums and galleries.  As a young couple just beginning to collect art, a few galleries took them ‘under their wing’, carefully educating them about fine art, art history and what to look for in collecting artwork.  Along with developing this circle of friends in the art world, - ‘older’ folks who helped educate their ‘eye’,they did a lot of traveling to New York, Washington D.C., and  Europe for work and vacation.  Their first purchase were three small works on paper by Milton Avery. In collecting emerging artists, Poteet noted, it became an ‘intellectual guessing game’ of who would succeed. Their collected work spans international 20th century and contemporary artists with paintings, sculpture, works on paper, drawings, and assemblage. Their collection includes works on paper by Picasso, Matisse, Joan Mitchell, Sally Michael Avery,  and Antonio Tapias, and southern California notables including Larry Bell, Billy Al Bengston, and Tony DeLap. Debra and Larry Poteet have made friends with several of the artists they collect and believe strongly about showcasing artists they believe in as much as possible. They have been significantly involved in the San Diego Art Fair and collect the work of many local artists. As a couple, they sometimes have differing views of particular artists and their work, but Debra says it has sparked many healthy debates about art and they sometimes buy art independently that they respond to in some individual important way. When asked if she had advice for new collectors, Debra tells them to educate themselves about art – ‘don’t be lazy’ or depend on dealers or galleries to select art or artists to buy. Poteet also noted that while collecting can be a ‘wonderful adventure’, it is also a responsibility.

Robin Lipman, Paul Thomas and Debra and Larry Poteet have each been collecting for over 30 years. They each took differing paths in terms of why they collect, what they collect and their methods of collecting, however they are all remarkably similar in their commitment to the work they have collected - in terms of the responsibility of taking care of the work and in their passion for visual art and how it can enrich and change people’s lives.

From the collection of Debra and Larry Poteet:
*Questions about the Poteet collection can be directed to:

Marcus Ramirez   War   dyptich cam coloring of vinyl on aluminum and automotive paint, enamel on metal
Study of Byron    David Hockney     lithograph

Gathering Twiggs   Eugene Higgins   drypoint etching

From the collection of Robin Lipman:

Red Room      Grant Pecoff      acrylic painting

Tomatoes Don't Figure Into My Dietary Regimen More Than Normal


  1. Robin Lipman is a work of art herself - definitely an original. There will never be any copies of this gal.

  2. Thank you for such an informative blog post! Figure out the collection of painting