Collector Scoop is a blog series of interviews and features on emerging and established art collectors. Today, we are happy to share a conversation with Jessi Bowman of Houston Center for Photography about how her collection got started.

Can you share your background with us and how you got into collecting art? Do you remember the first piece of art that you bought?

My grandma is a mixed media artist and my aunt is a poet, so my family has always been very involved in the arts. My love for photography started out very early. When I was a kid I was constantly taking pictures. I had this Barbie toy camera, then I upgraded to disposables, then to a 35mm and finally to a DSLR. I eventually got my degree in Art History from the University of Houston and minored in photography.

I don’t ever remember consciously starting to collect, nor do I remember the first work that I bought, but I’ve always been a bit of a pack rat. I guess I started with McDonald’s Happy Meal toys and refined my taste from there!

The only thing I really remember was the excitement of supporting my friends or my family. To this day my grandma’s work still covers my walls. I do however remember the first “big girl” piece I collected, Untamed by Lori Vrba from Catherine Couturier gallery here in Houston… I am still paying it off.    

Lori Vrba, Untamed, from The Moth Wing Diaries

Lori Vrba, Untamed, from The Moth Wing Diaries

How do you think that collecting contributes to the artistic community?

Being a patron of someone’s work is almost more important than being an artist yourself. It’s kind of a tricky thing for artists to acknowledge sometimes. Obviously if you have the drive to create art you should do it no matter what and I think it’s crucial not to think about whether or not your art will sell while you’re making it, but I think people really underestimate how important it is for someone to buy your work. You can go on and on about art being for art’s sake, and that’s true, but art is a conversation between the person making it and the person experiencing it. If an artist doesn’t get anything in return, how are they supposed to keep making more? I don’t set a goal for myself, but I like to buy as often as I can. I have a list of artists that I would like to collect from and I’m kind of trying to go down that right now.

Has your affiliation with the Houston Center for Photography lead you to discover new artists that you have (or have considered) collecting from?

Oh all the time! There are tons of people whose work I’ve wanted nothing more than to put on my walls. I have been lucky enough to collect from a couple of people this last year, one of whom (Kristin Diemer) I purchased after sitting in on a review of her work.  

Tita Bowman (Jessi Bowman's grandmother), Untitled.

Tita Bowman (Jessi Bowman's grandmother), Untitled.

What are your favorite resources for discovering new artists?

Funny enough, Instagram is one of my favorites. We get a lot of submissions to HCP which has brought many artists to my attention, but nothing beats falling down the rabbit hole of Instagram. I have collected at least four works from people I have found on Instagram.

From personal collection of Jessi Bowman

From personal collection of Jessi Bowman

Do you have any advice for emerging or aspiring art collectors?

I know it’s a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason: collect what you like. Why spend the money on it if you aren’t going to hang it on your walls? Even if you’re buying for the monetary value, it’s hard to sell work to someone if you don’t like it yourself.

Also, don’t get discouraged and think you have to be rich to collect. There are so many talented artists in all different styles at all points in their careers whose work is affordable. I have never made much money. As an artist myself, I’ve worked out many trades and payment plans for my own work as well as for the purchase of other people’s. You don’t need as much money as you would think to collect.

Are you an emerging or established art collector and interested in being featured? Email Rachael at rachael@crusadeforart.org

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