By Ralph Hall
Galleries of art are very special places! Art is arranged to educate, to please, to entertain, to sell, and to expand our thinking, our appreciation, and our worlds. With each visit to a gallery, we find a new catalyst. Imagine what it must be like to have a gallery in the building where you live. Each time you choose to look at the art as you walk through the lobby, you may be altered in wonderful new ways. The residents of 5 Riverside Drive, Binghamton, have that possibility.
Works from the collection of Gil and Deborah Williams, featuring artists Renate Bernal, Anne Boyer Cotten, Robert C. Johnston, Joseph H. Lindsley, Luigi Lucioni, Alice Booth Robinson, Nancy Harasta Ryan, Marc Schimsky, Eileen Stevens, Larry Stratton, Lynd Ward and others will be on display at The Gallery at 5 Riverside Drive, Binghamton. The show runs through the end of February. Eighty percent of the artists are or were residents of The Southern Tier.
Private collectors, such as the Williamses, are very important to artists — today and for the future. With a collection of more than 7,000 pieces, the couple has not only significantly contributed to the economics of art in this community but have helped insure that those artists featured will be remembered.
Gil has a background that prepared him for his vision. His family, starting before he was 12, enabled him to have personal exposure to successful artists in his Rockland County area. These “local” artists often had national reputations and were featured in major exhibitions in New York City and all over the country.
He majored in art history in college and then pursued an ongoing involvement in the world of art, developing his “eye” for collecting, which goes far beyond the “I like that, I will buy that!” mentality. At 3 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 2), Gil will share his insights in a public talk entitled “The Art of Collecting.” Artists, collectors and art lovers of any age are encouraged to attend.
Deborah shares Gil’s passion. Very early on, the couple had a clear understanding that they would build an art collection. Their 1969 wedding invitation included a signed wood engraving by John DePol, who became a dear friend.
In a recent interview, Gil outlined several factors involved in collecting, some less obvious than others. For example, the Williams’ collection often contains more than one piece by an artist, because the multiple pieces allow for a greater understanding of the essence of the artist’s work. In contrast, the collection contains many sub-groups, including self-portraits, winter landscapes and still-lifes. The core of the collection focuses on artists from the 1930s and 1940s.
Does this approach discourage new artists from being added to the collection? Not at all! Gil’s weekly travels all over the Southern Tier and beyond allows him to discover and acquire pieces by talented artists, both contemporary and established. Recently, he purchased several pictures by a young woman from Delhi. Because of his developed eye and open mind, Gil saw something special in her work when seeing it for the very first time.
Gil supports the possibility that everyone can collect original art. It is not merely a rich person’s game. Good art is plentiful and affordable in our own community.
Gallery director Marcy Swartz refers to herself as a retired art teacher, which is true, but there are many more contributions she has made to our community over many decades. Three years ago, she created The Gallery at 5 Riverside Towers, Binghamton. This gallery is open to the public; access is gained by ringing the lobby’s security guard.
POSTSCRIPT: Gil Williams and Sharon Ball, Executive Director of the Broome County Arts Council, are co-curators of a show opening from 6 to 9 p.m. this coming First Friday (Feb. 3) at the BCAC office, 81 State St. (the old Stephens Square building), Binghamton. “An Ongoing Journey: Paintings by the Artist Joseph H. Lindsley” runs through March. Lindsley lives in Greene.