Ray is one of the founders of the stARTup Art Fair, one of my favorite art events of the year. For the last three years, the fair has transformed Hotel Del Sol, a kitschy mid century motel in the Marina District, into a collective of exhibitions where visitors can interact directly with artists. I described my most recent experience there in my last post.
After the blog’s launch, Ray reached out with an invitation to peek inside the 1906 Bernal Heights home he and Shannon share with his teenage son. I was so flattered to receive the invite and their support for my blog.
So on the hottest day of the century, I showed up on their doorstep with sweaty thighs and my laptop and plopped down at their dining room table, which is the center of a vast constellation of art.
Ray, who describes himself as a “gregarious introvert”, is a sculptor and new media artist. His work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally and can be found in many public and private collections including the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and the Federal Reserve Board, Washington D.C., the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Oakland Museum of California, the San Jose Museum of Art, the diRosa Preserve in Napa, California, among others (Go Ray!). In addition to making art and running stARTup, he manages a vast private collection.
Shannon is an artist and has her own business, Plein Heir by Shannon Kaye, “which provides Interior color and Styling consultant services along with art and home goods offerings.” Shannon sees herself as a coach helping people bring out their own creativity. She is also a TV personality, having hosted several seasons of Fresh Coat, a makeover show on the DIY Network, and Southern Living on Portico TV. She has also made appearances on HGTV, TBS and Lifetime. If you are an interior design blog junkie like me, be sure to check out her blog for some major color inspiration.
According to Shannon, “For both of us, empowering others to pursue their creative endeavors is a natural part of our individual personalities and a driving passion behind our businesses. Through stARTup Art Fair, Ray helps artists grow both creatively and professionally. With Plein Heir, I help people get over their fear of making color and style mistakes to make their homes more livable and lovable.”
The house represents the beginning of their artistic collaboration. Every weekend the kids were gone, they worked together to make the house more homey. It was really important for Ray that his kids felt like the house was a happy place. Shannon knew exactly what to do and set about bringing color, salon style art displays, and furniture arrangements that created a comfortable space for everyone.
They started by painting the stairway, and it is brilliant. The two tone black and light blue paint makes the central artery of the home cohesive and sophisticated and creates a wainscoting effect. The black dictated that the space would be dedicated to black and white artwork.
Leading up to the top of the stairs is a revolving assemblage Shannon has brought with her from her past homes designs. Currently, it features photographs of family members combined with fortunes she had made at a fortune cookie factory.
In the great room, Shannon wanted the color story to be much bolder. According to Shannon, “For me, art almost always looks better on walls with color.” She waited until Ray was out of town to take the bold step from white to blue.
If you look carefully at these images you can see small lines sprinkled across the blue plain. Sol LeWitt is one of Shannon’s favorite artists. The living room is an homage to his intricate large-scale line installations. She had a plan to do broken triangles, but once the yellow lines were on the wall she fell in love, and then shifted her attention to what art would go on the wall.
The tray at the top of this grouping is by Piero Fornasetti. It belongs to Shannon and it is a rare piece because, typically, these trays are in black and white and this one is in color. Shannon loves the artist’s sense of humor. Underneath the tray on the left and behind the plant are works by Margaret Timbrell from as series where she embroiders humorous accidental auto-corrects from texts onto kitschy vintage needlework patterns. This artwork reads, “I took him to the nasty” and it was actually supplied by Ray. I also have one that says “All ducking day” on an image of a duck. This series is hilarious – I love it. Check out her shop.
Shannon has a special talent for identifying groupings of objects that share a through line and has a kind of psychic intuition about what a specific space needs. When she gathered the artworks for this room together she noticed that all of the blue works had hints of orange and that many of the works had an ethereal or heavenly theme.
The photograph of stars is by Desiree Holman. Most of the artwork surrounding this photograph belongs to Ray who said that he has amassed his collection through buying, selling and trading. Most of the works in his collection are by friends. He got the Holman at a fundraiser during a brief stint when he worked for the Real Real.
During the first dot com boom, Ray was the artist relations person at Next Monet, which is similar to Art.com. While he worked there, he was entitled to one artwork a year. During his tenure he collected the work above the Hollman by Leslie Dill and the silk screen orange and purple circle print by Tony Beauvy.
The artwork with text in the center of the grouping is a painting by Shannon. Ray purchased it when they first met, before they were dating – it was meant to be.
On opposite wall, instead of a yellow vertical line, Shannon painted a light blue horizontal line. Accordingly, the artworks in this group feature horizontal compositions.
While Ray’s approach to collecting is more organic, Shannon likes to start from a project perspective. When she approaches an installation her goal is to tell a visual story. And that story is multi-layered, because as I found out through our conversation, each work in a grouping has a multi-chapter story of its own.
The anchor for this grouping was the image of the Fountain of Apollo at Versailles, which was given to Shannon by her friend David Mendez. The frame, which belonged to her grandfather, had been in her collection for sometime and when she got the photograph, she knew that it was perfect. She took it to her friend and master framer, Peter Werkhoven at Aedicule Framing who happened to have a spare remnant of fine linen, and voila!
Surrounding this artwork are paintings that Shannon has collected at various flea markets and garage sales. She is particularly enamored with the unfinished painting of the orange, which she picked up at a bazar for $0.50. She was attracted to the landscape on its right because it was “naive and funny” and because the clouds form a small heart, which is a form that catches her eye regularly in all kinds of contexts. She bought the whole thing for $20, which goes to show you, that you can create a “high-style” art installation with inexpensive artwork as long as you pay attention to the overall form and materials.
In her own words, “It’s important to let a home design evolve and reveal your personal stamp on these most intimate spaces. I always encourage people to take the time to create artful displays of your favorite things- your photos and mementos- in every room. Even a shelf of cups can be beautiful if they’re organized and intentionally placed. It makes such a difference! I’m always thinking about the rooms we live in and how we tell the stories of our lives as they relate to those spaces.”
Surprisingly Shannon admitted that she is not sentimental, which seems odd for a collector. Apparently, when her brother visits he is always curious about what is still there. In truth, once a space is finished, she gets restless and has to move on to the next project, and sometimes that means she gets rid of everything and starts from scratch.
Last stop on the tour is the master bedroom, which features an incredible built-in shelf filled with wonderful objects and mementos.
In the early 2000s, Ray created a series of artworks where he recreated iconic artworks by famous artists out of sewn US currency. His Counterfeit series inspired friends to gift him objects made of cash.
Before leaving, Shannon invited me to add a wish to the art piece she made for Ray. I wished for something bad to happen to our current president. I felt guilty about it at first because I felt like I was adding bad juju to a work of art that was meant for one’s best intentions, but I was kind of pissed about the heat and global warming. Then Charlottesville happened, and as I told Shannon, I felt less guilty about it. Honesty is the best policy (right?) and the intention came from the heart.
I think this artwork represents what Ray and Shannon (and their collection) are all about. In a lovely email Shannon sent to me after my visit, she summed it up best when she said, “I was thinking about what our ‘story’ could be and think it’s really about bringing our complementary experiences and attitudes about art together in a space and lifestyle that reflects our personalities, and celebrates the friends and families we treasure.”
Thank you, Ray and Shannon, for opening up your home to me and for letting me share it with our community!