Curator of the Current Exhibition Interviews Balet Lithograph Collector
In preparation for the premiere of What Was He Thinking? Jan Balet: Watercolors and Lithographs, curator of the exhibition Dr. Sheldon Hurst conducted an interview with collector Michael Paolercio about his love of Balet’s work.
The exhibition, currently being hosted at the Burke Gallery of the Plattsburgh State Art Museum in Plattsburgh, NY, was based on the collection of lithographs amassed by Michael and his wife Alison over many years.
The following is Part One of two excerpts from the interview.
SH: How did you begin collecting work by Jan Balet?
MP: While we were visiting Alison's family in Queens in the mid-eighties, her parents, both art lovers, took us to SoHo to walk the art galleries. We wandered into a Circle Gallery and I was immediately smitten by Jan Balet's painting Who Says You Can't Change Your Mind? It felt as though I had found a kindred spirit in his perceptions of the world and our species. I appreciated his keenly observant, wry, whimsical and insightful sense of humor. All this was seemingly with no pretense whatsoever. It just felt like he loved his work!
SH: That particular interpretation of life is something evident in other works you collected. Tell me about your response to The Butterfly Collector, the one with lovers floating in the sky. What are the circumstances of your purchase of this piece?
MP: We found The Butterfly Collector on the internet, the source of almost all of our Balet lithographs. Arguably his most well-known work, it caught my attention (and affection) immediately. The colors and lines are particularly vivid, sharp, and striking. The fancily-dressed couple floats surrealistically above the signature trees below. The title is intriguing. To add to their collection, butterfly collectors catch, then pin, a species to a paper or board. It’s obvious to imagine the gentleman as the collector who has “pinned” the lovely lady. But look closely! His eyes are closed - in bliss or in death? - while the wide-eyed red head (another typical presence in Balet’s art) holds him aloft as they fly. So perhaps it is the butterfly herself who is the collector!
SH: In a work like By the Sea, By the Sea, Balet seems to be making a comment about our sense of curiosity. What thoughts come to your mind with that image?
MP: Perhaps it is a reminder about how vast our curiosity can be. The obvious question is: What can they possibly be so interested in down there? A calm and peaceful sea? A roiling high tide? A game of horseshoes? Volleyball? Swimmers? A romantically engaged couple? Construction workers? The Loch Ness Monster? Permission is granted to imagine whatever you want! I might add that my wife has a very different take on this litho.
Alison recalls the old song: “By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea, you and me, you and me, oh how happy we’ll be.” No one looks very happy and everyone ap pears very isolated! So this is possibly a rather cynical comment on marriage and family life.
Hurst, Sheldon and Michael Paolercio. What Was He Thinking? Jan Balet: Watercolors & Lithographs. [Brochure]. Portland,OR: ArtReach Gallery. 2017.
Coming Soon: Part Two of the interview - providing more insights from the collector.