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COL L E C TOR PROF I L E artAdventures

Meet Tom & Irene Stillings One of our favorite art collecting couples

Where are you from? I [Irene] was born in Mt. Vernon, NY, a suburb of Manhat- tan, and Tom was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Rhode Island. He came to New York and found me. Together we moved to paradise (San Diego) in 1999.

How would you describe art as a part of your life? We believe that beauty is a necessity in life. Beautiful art soothes the soul and quiets the mind. Sometimes when I’ve had a particularly stressful day, I sit next to Tuan’s

“Repose” and the touch of the cool marble and the exqui- site figure of the dancer actually relaxes me.

How/when were you introduced to the idea of art collecting? My first purchase of original art was in Phoenix, Arizona sometime in the mid-1980s. I was on a business trip and after the conference was over a friend and I went shop- ping. We walked into a store where an original watercolor absolutely captured my heart. I’d never bought anything like that—it cost $250—a lot of money those days. But I could not leave the store without it. I paid $25 to ship it by bus to Binghamton, NY where Tom picked it up at the bus station. I still adore it after more than 25 years!

How long have you been collecting art? Tom and I always had framed photos and posters in our home. But it was on a trip to Maui that we purchased our first piece of art together—“Winter Serenade” by Caro- line Young—and the addiction took hold on us both, nev- er to leave. On our next trip to Hawaii we purchased our first Frederick Hart sculpture, “The Ride”. We now have four originals from Caroline Young and six from Freder- ick Hart. We also collect Royo, Quartly, Asencio, Flohr, Tabora, Barton, Tuan, TerBush, Merriam, Wylie, Zerella, Nesvadba and more.


What do you find most rewarding about collecting art? We thoroughly enjoy having art within our reach and be- ing able to see it anytime we want. Although we buy what we love rather than for investment-sake, it has also been fun to watch the value of many of our works grow!

How have your life experiences inspired your art collection? We are avid scuba divers and have traveled widely to en- joy special dive spots. We have several works from Steve Barton that remind us of our favorite places—us lying in a hammock on the beach with a bottle of Amstel in one hand and a book in the other (he has customized some for us)! We also have collected Robert Lynn Nelson, who does incredibly detailed and true-to-nature paintings of underwater life. Somehow he manages to give the fish personalities!

What has been your most interesting experience as an art collector? Our first meeting with Royo, when EC Galleries was in La Jolla, is very memorable. Neither of us spoke a common language, but I feel we communicated through his art. We fell head over heels for his painting of a young, blonde curly-haired child with a wreath of flowers on her head. I spoke to him (through an interpreter) telling him that I have 8 granddaughters and his painting was a beautiful interpretation of them. Tears came to his eyes and he then told us that the picture was of his granddaughter. We conversed for several minutes about the joys of grand- daughters and when we purchased the painting he wrote a special note on the back and would not let me leave without a huge hug and kiss. I felt I really knew him af- ter that encounter and it made the painting forever more special to us.


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