CE art collector Gayle Markow with a painting by Hung Kei Shiu

CE collector feature: Gayle Markow

Posted on April 22, 2015

We recently talked with Creativity Explored art collector, CE volunteer, and poet, Gayle Markow, about her collection of over 40 CE artworks. 

The impetus for our talk with Gayle is the launch of #CurateWithCE, an Instragram photo contest in which we are asking fans to post photographs of CE artwork in their homes, offices, gardens, garage, treehouses, etc. on Instagram. Feel like you have curated your artwork in an inspiring way? Make sure to hashtag your photographs on Instagram #CurateWithCE.


1. When did you become involved at CE?

I first came in to Creativity Explored 30 years ago. I was introduced through my sister-in-law, Miranda Bergman, who worked as Administrative Assistant to then CE Director Ray Patlan, and at the time met Pilar Olabarria, Visual Arts Instructor & Services Coordinator. I wandered back into CE about five years ago, my eyes wide with wonder and my heart full.  I kept coming back and kept buying art. Pilar urged me to think about volunteering. At first I volunteered for evening events. I then started to volunteer one day a week.

2. When did you start collecting?

I have always done artwork as a hobby. For my career I was a registered nurse. After retiring I started to focus on watercolor and pen and ink paintings. I loved the way they looked, so I  framed and hung them all over my house. My father was also an artist and I had some of his work up too. Having my artwork on the walls made me happy, but once I started buying CE art, having it on my walls made me even happier and joyful. Piece by piece, I replaced my work with CE artwork. 

3. What do you look for when selecting work?

I look for strong images -- people and sometimes animals. I love color and boldness. I didn’t plan to be a collector or have such a large collection. It just happened, because it’s so hard to resist buying such beautiful artwork. And having an opportunity to engage with the artists over time, to know them, makes owning their work that much more compelling.

4. What are some of the CE works that have special meaning for you and why?

I have my list of favorite artists, at least 20 of them, and the list is always expanding! The first artist I fell in love with was Cristina Saavedra. I love her portraits of people, the epaulettes, the earrings, the strong colors and bold lines. I then expanded into collecting work by Hector Lopez and Hanh Chau. I am also drawn Maribel Guzman's paintings and embroideries and I also love Badia Forbes’ Piscasso-esque paintings. Oh yes, and also Valerie Jenkins. I love her work! That’s the short list; there are SO many more.

5. How do you decide and design the hanging?

My walls are already filled with artwork so I have limited wall space. Currently I keep an eye out for smaller works. Sometime I have to replace an existing work with a new artwork.

With each new artwork, I walk around each room in search of its best home. I probably take into account size, space, and the artwork’s relationship to the surrounding works. But that is all mostly subconscious. I have a strong eye for design and for what I like. The decision happens, and I trust it.

6. What is your most treasured artwork?

Each piece has a story. In some ways my most treasured artwork is Badia ForbesThe Boy From Gaza, which inspired me to write a poem titled NO SMALL THING.

Also, I have an angel by Hector Lopez hanging above the mirror in the front entry. I placed it there as a blessing to everyone coming and going from my home. When I see the angel, I see Hector’s warm, caring energy, his sweetness. Do I love one painting more than the others? Not really. They are like my children. I love them all. Really, I do. Each one exceptional and special in their own way.

7. What advice would you give to young collectors?

My advice to young collectors is come to Creativity Explored when the artists are here and working so you can see the great vitality and good vibe of a thriving art studio. Also come on the weekend when it’s quiet and you can take all the time you want to peruse the vast collection of artwork that is always available. After living in San Francisco for 47 years, I can honestly say that I think CE IS - in terms of creativity, vitality, kindness, friendliness, beauty,  joy -- the most interesting and hottest spot in San Francisco. When looking for work to collect, I would say, evaluate art based on how much pleasure and joy it gives you to behold it. Do you love it? If you walk away, but keep coming back to the same piece after looking at others, then, that’s your piece. Don’t worry about the monetary value; take it home and it will bring you joy!!

Pillows by Hahn Chau
Cristina Saavedra (left), Badia Forbes (top), Valerie Jenkins (bottom)
Gayle Markow's living room
Pill bottles by Camille Holvoet
Maribel Guzman (left) and Hahn Chau (right)
Painting by Badia Forbes

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