I am delighted to share this lovely article that appeared in Architectural Digest this past week about my passion for working with artists and connecting them with clients. Using original art and educating clients is a cornerstone of my design aesthetic. I am so grateful I found a profession that allows me to combine all of my desired careers (artist, art history professor, curator, and designer) into one! Thank you to Katy Olson for sharing our story and to all the artists and galleries I have had the privilege to work with over the years!
Austin works with artist Charlie Havanich, pictured here, who is represented by Hidell Brooks Gallery. “I adore Charlie and I just acquired one of his works,” Austin tells AD PRO. “The image in the picture is a commission for one of my clients that bears an uncanny resemblance to a young Jackie.” / Photography: Charle Hanavich
Cathy Austin began her career not in design, but in art, working at Sotheby’s across departments including European Porcelain, American Paintings, and American Furniture. “I assisted the experts cataloguing the works for the auctions, handling archives, client contracts, condition reports, and arranging presale exhibitions. I began as an intern and archivist and also worked as an administrator,” recalls Austin. When she transitioned into interiors, Austin kept connected to the art scene, attending shows like Maison et Objet and TEFAF—but also in a more tangible way, sourcing local Southern talent for her interior-design projects.
Austin complemented her space at a recent Traditional Home show house with a portrait, left, by artist Kate Long Stevenson and a large abstract, right, by David Paul / Photography: Dustin Peck
The designer, who tells AD PRO that she has “always been an art history student at heart,” makes it a priority to educate clients. “Since art is very subjective, I encourage my clients to collect works that they respond to emotionally. Original art elevates every interior and reflects the personalities that inhabit the space. By attending art fairs at home and abroad, I seek out emerging artists to introduce to my clients. Getting to know the artists personally and learning about their process and what inspires them is very important to me to pass along that knowledge.”
An interior by Cathy Austin with artwork by Amanda Talley, above the fireplace/ Photography: Gordon Beall
As principal of Catherine M. Austin Interior Design, of Charlotte, North Carolina, one of those talents Austin has gotten to know on a deeper level is a New Orleans–based SCAD graduate named Amanda Talley, whose work she discovered in a local showroom. “I fell in love with her abstract, gestural works and designed my first living room around one of her paintings that I did not even own…knowing that one day I would add her work to my own personal collection.” The designer-artist duo’s first commission together was for a couple who were newbies to art collecting and just beginning their collection; their second commission was for Austin’s home. For each project, Austin sends Talley “inspiration images” as well as examples of her art that Austin’s clients like. Then, Talley “takes over and works her magic! I have loved watching her style evolve, yet still being able to recognize her brushstrokes knowing it is her work.”
What should designers know about sourcing art, particularly from emerging talents? In addition to the perhaps obvious exposure (“See as much as you can. Go to as many museums, galleries, auctions, and art fairs as you can to train your eye and be exposed to what is available in the marketplace”), Austin also advises having an open mind. “Do not be intimidated by price point. Even established artists can be within reach if you look at their complete body of work, including studies and works on paper. You can research artists through wonderful websites like Artsy which can also lead to discovering new artists and art galleries. It has been thrilling to watch the careers of artists I befriended years ago soar through their values increasing and being acquired by museum collections.”
Painting by Brad Thomas through SoCoGallery / Photography by Emily Followill
Another tip? Keep your eyes peeled; sometimes discoveries unfold on one’s downtime. Austin met a valuable collaborator during a volunteer commitment with the Mint Museum in Charlotte. “I was serving as the head of the Mint Museum Auxiliary and working closely with Brad Thomas, our curator of modern and contemporary art, selecting possible acquisitions for the museum’s permanent collection that our organization would underwrite. He was already an established artist, as well as art consultant and artist mentor—but his work was taking a new direction,” she explains, which “combined mixed media, collage, and his distinctive handwriting that became abstract lines when intertwined on the canvas. The words in his works examine the influence writers have had on shaping his worldview.”
The artist’s works are now found in Austin’s collections—and in her clients’. “We recently collaborated on a work for the Atlanta Southeastern Showhouse this spring. I asked him to create a work inspired by a Southern author. He used the Flannery O’Connor quote, ‘To know oneself is, above all, to know what one lacks. It is to measure oneself against truth, and not the other way around. The first product of self-knowledge is humility.’ The abstract work was the perfect finishing touch to my bedroom, that made the space more personal and provided a contemporary juxtaposition to the more traditional elements in the room.”
And for up-and-coming artists? For their part, recommends Austin, “artists can share their portfolios with designers whose work they admire and offer to lend their work for various show houses and charity events,” says Austin. “Attending events at the major design centers and other industry events is a great way to connect with designers. Every city from Atlanta to Los Angeles now seems to have its own design week full of opportunities for networking.”
It is hard to believe this is the closing weekend of the Southeastern Showhouse & Gardens presented by Atlanta Home and Lifestyles Magazine. Many thanks to all who have come to see the showhouse filled with so much amazing talent. I will be at the house tomorrow from 1-4 for the final day for anyone who wants to pop in to say hello!
I have had many inquiries about items available in our space. Showhouses provide an amazing source to get incredible high end pieces, custom furniture, art and antiques…many of which are priced well below what they would sell for on the showroom floor. So, if you see something that catches your eye, make sure to look at the price list in each room to see what is still available. You might find the perfect Mother’s Day gift!
I think original art is one of the MOST important design elements in an interior. It reveals the personality of the inhabitant, elevates the other surrounding items, and adds a magical dimension to any room. Working on the art for the Southeastern Showhouse was a dream come true. Two of my favorite artists, Brad Thomas and Alexis Walter created works specifically for my spaces and my favorite Charlotte galleries, The New Gallery of Modern Art, Hidell Brooks Gallery, and SOCO Gallery allowed me to curate my own dream installation from the artists they represent, many of whom have become friends. The majority of works are by Southern contemporary artists with a nod to my NYC days represented by Stephanie Hirsch and Scott Duce seen below. By playing with scale, unifying colors, and juxtaposing different mediums, I tried to create harmonious compositions throughout the spaces.
FEAR, LUCK, FATE, WORK, FORTUNE , 2017
To enter the world of artist Anne Lemanski is literally like falling down the rabbit hole of creativity. She is wickedly funny, wickedly smart, and wickedly talented. Her works are not only impeccably constructed with layers of various materials, but they are also layered with meaning. This brilliant combination has garnered her accolades in a plethora of solo exhibitions and private and public collections around the country. Charlotte art lovers were lucky enough to get a first look at her new work at her exhibition “Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit” at SOCO Gallery open through March 16th.
Brad Thomas is a creative force of many talents…Artist, Curator, Teacher, Mentor, and Art Advisor just to name a few. His highly anticipated exhibition at SOCO Gallery this month welcomes the North Carolina native back to Charlotte revealing a new direction in his work.
I met Brad when he was the curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Mint Museum working together on acquisitions. Through the years, Brad has become a trusted friend and colleague that I look to for art advice for clients and collectors. His layered and complex abstract works are a combination of painting, drawing, words, collage, and sculpture that slowly reveal details the more the viewer engages with the works.
Every time I see an image of one of Elliott Puckette’s ethereal paintings, it stops me in my tracks. Whether I stumble across it on a gallery wall on the pages of a design magazine, or on an Instagram feed of a favorite designer, I am always enchanted by the duality of simplicity and complexity of the lyrical lines of her art. Her distinct hand can be seen in the motions of of her work that resemble musical notes or calligraphy. To complete these works, she either uses a razor blade etching into a prepared ground or drawing in ink on an expanse of paper. The works look effortless and as if there is absolutely no room allowed for error which I find fascinating. I am over the moon to see her work in person at the upcoming opening at SOCO Gallery next month.
Rounding out the Charlotte galleries showing at Untitled, Art in Miami next week is SOCO Gallery which has become a leader in our arts community for their programming, lectures and events representing artists working locally, nationally and internationally at the highest levels. SOCO Gallery excels at connecting artists with their viewers. Getting to know the artists makes experiencing their work that much more personal. I have had the pleasure to meet some of the artists they are bringing to Miami and could not be more excited to see their dynamic works hang alongside one another.
Untitled, Art is an international, curated art fair founded in 2012 that focuses on curatorial balance and integrity across all disciplines of contemporary art. Untitled, Art innovates the standard fair model by selecting a curatorial team to identify, and curate a selection of galleries, artist-run exhibition spaces, and non-profit institutions and organizations, in dialogue with an architecturally designed venue. Since 2014 the curatorial team has consisted of Artistic Director Omar López-Chahoud with curators Christophe Boutin and Melanie Scarciglia. The next edition of Untitled, Miami Beach will take place on the beach at Ocean Drive and 12th Street, November 30 – December 4, 2016.
SOCO Gallery is a contemporary art space based in Charlotte, North Carolina. The gallery specializes in assisting private collectors, institutions, and corporations to build their collections with museum-quality artworks, from emerging to established artists. Community engagement and education are central to the mission of the gallery. Each exhibition includes artist talks, book signings, and related programming. SOCO Gallery is located in a renovated 1920’s bungalow in historic Myers Park in Charlotte.
The Charlotte art scene is abuzz with several incredible exhibitions at the museums and galleries this fall. One of the most highly anticipated shows brings together three of my favorite themes…fashion, interiors, and photography. SOCO Gallery will be hosting “Around That Time: Horst at Home in Vogue.” Produced by Ivan Shaw and edited by Hamish Bowles, the publication is the world premiere of available photographs from Vogue’s archives of images by legendary photographer Horst P. Horst. A selection of limited edition prints from the monograph will be made for SOCO Gallery. The rare color photographs show a glimpse into the aristocratic world caught on film by Horst in which he turned lifestyle journalism into a modern art form.
Horst P. Horst (German/American, 1906-1999) originally wanted to be an architect. He arrived in Paris in 1930 to study architecture with Le Corbusier. A serendipitous meeting with Vogue photographer George Hoyningen-Huene changed his focus from architecture to photography. His passion for design is evident in his work from his use of composition, play of light and dark, and incorporating interiors into his work.
“The 100-plus Vogue features the photographer shot between 1963 and 1988 were style documentaries, each starring an international personality in his or her natural habitat and with precious little interference. “Horst didn’t move a single chair or bring in extra flowers,” says Gloria Vanderbilt, whose New York City bedroom, all patchwork quilts paneling the walls and fabric scraps glued to the parquet, was immortalized in 1970. “He showed how we really lived.” –Architectural Digest, September, 2016
SOCO describes the new monograph, “as a tribute to the landmark, Vogue’s Book of Houses, Gardens, People (1968), which chronicled important moments in Vogue’s history and in the international high society at large. From his renown as a leading fashion photographer of his time and the support of iconic Vogue Editor Diana Vreeland, Horst P. Horst developed and intense interest in seeing the world’s great homes, whose owners included Yves St. Laurent, Doris Duke, Emilio Pucci, Cy Twombly, and Marella Agnelli, among other royalty, celebrities and diplomats. The photographs captured by Horst P. Horst suspend the essence of society, politics, and art in the mid-20th century and represent a true “who’s who” of the day.”
Each work comes in both 16″ x 16″ size, as well as 36″ x 36″. For more information about the exhibition, or to pre-order a book, click here. The opening reception and book signing is Wednesday, October 12th from 6:00-8:00PM at SOCO Gallery located at 421 Providence Road.
Finally, to learn the story behind SOCO Gallery, watch below…
I was delighted to be included in Charlotte Urban Home this month for their Design Board feature. I am always preaching to my clients to start the design process with the art. It is a dream come true when it actually happens! For my favorite art collecting clients, I was thrilled to create the following scheme for a project we are currently working on.
In addition to the items above, we have also created a bar nook clad in antiqued mirror, and bejeweled with custom brass hardware for the finishing touches. The walls have been lacquered, the furniture and fabrics are on order and we install in a few short weeks. Of course, I am most excited to hang their works of art on the glamorous ebony backdrop to make the pieces pop even more!
Be sure to check out the entire issue featuring fabulous modern interiors by clicking here.
My first art history class at Washington and Lee was the History of Photography. I signed up for the class on a whim hoping to ease my workload of math and science classes which were not my cup of tea. We studied all of the legendary icons…Alfred Steiglitz, Elliott Erwitt, Diane Arbus, and even had Sally Mann living in our own small town of Lexington, Virginia. Little did I know that this first brush with art history studying the art of observation would figure so prominently in my future career as an interior designer.
Tonight is the opening of the highly anticipated show “Kindred: Photographers Focus on Family” at SoCo Gallery. The gallery welcomes home one of Charlotte’s most talented art personalities to curate the show. As a professional artist, curator, and mentor, nobody understands the imagination and creative mind more so than Brad Thomas. The exhibition is an opportunity for him to honor those artists who have directly influenced his creative journey.
Opening Reception: February 3, 6 – 8 PM
SOCO Gallery is pleased to present the forthcoming exhibition KINDRED: Photographers Focus on Family. This project, guest curated by Brad Thomas, will feature works by artists whose creative inquiry examines a variety of life-affirming roles that include parent, grandparent, child, sibling, spouse and/or lover. Through their work, these accomplished artists delve into the complexities of intimate, familial relationships and, in the process, learn something about themselves.
Four of the featured artists are based in Charlotte. Three of these artists have over a century of combined established practice and advocacy for the advancement of fine art photography in this region. With strong ties to The Light Factory, Linda Foard Roberts, Carolyn DeMeritt, and Raymond Grubb have worked tirelessly in administrative and volunteer roles there to educate our community on the importance of photography as a medium for self-expression and aesthetic exploration.
Linda is a native of Charlotte and in her teens, she studied with Light Factory co-founder Byron Baldwin in his legendary program at Myers Park High School. From there she pursued photography at Arizona State University and later returned to Charlotte to serve as Director of The Light Factory in the early 90s. Soon after stepping down as an arts administrator, Linda devoted herself full-time to her growing family and in-turn, returned to her art as a way of capturing the experiences and fleeting youth of her son and daughter.
Carolyn is known for her provocative, narrative portraits. In the mid-1990s her creative focus turned to her granddaughter who was born to her younger son during his prolonged struggle with substance abuse. Carolyn’s pictures capture her granddaughter’s youthful innocence, which stands in sharp contrast with her need to grow up fast. Now in her early 20s, Kira continues to be both a subject in Carolyn’s work and a source of inspiration.
Photographer, Francophile, and master baker Raymond Grubb is a native of Morganton, NC. He is a graduate of Davidson College and one of Charlotte’s most recognizable cultural icons. For over 25 years, he has photographed his partner––the multi-media artist Tom Thoune. Raymond’s century-old platinum process imbues his images with a warmth, tenderness, and candor that is difficult to attain with modern techniques.
This emerging artist is a native of Charlotte and recently earned her BFA from UNC Charlotte’s Department of Art + Art History. During her senior year, a series of circumstances required her to live with her two identical twin brothers. Quickly realizing these two free spirits were captivating subjects in their own right, she took advantage of her unlimited and candid access––think Nan Goldin meets Harmony Korine. The resulting series entitled Asymmetrical, captures the three siblings living together (again) while they navigate the formative stages of independence and adulthood.
His signature, multi-panel panoramic images capture the intimate and complex dynamic of his relationships with those closest to him. In particular, a series of poignant portraits of his father, a Navy veteran and retired factory worker, depict an aging man who struggles to come to terms with the divorce from his wife of many years and his son’s sexual orientation.
Sally lives and works on her family’s farm in Virginia. She is one of the most recognizable figures in American photography working today. Her new memoir, Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs (Little, Brown & Company, 2015), documents in detail the criticism she endured in the early 1990s for explicit photographs of her children at play at their country home. As she has gone on to international acclaim, her works are among the most sought after in contemporary art.
Featured in SOCO Gallery’s bookshop will be a curated selection of artist’s books about family. In addition to the featured artists in KINDRED, titles by preeminent artists such as David Hilliard, Mitch Epstein, Sally Mann, Joanna Piotrowska, and Edward Weston will be available.
Brad Thomas is a native of Mount Airy, North Carolina. In the summer of 2015, he founded Thomas Contemporary at historic Vandalia Tower. Thomas Contemporary serves to promote Brad’s studio, curatorial, and collections advisory practice. In addition, on-site projects and limited-editions by emerging and established artists will be commissioned.
Brad has 25 years of experience as a professional artist, curator, and cultural leader. He has served in administrative capacities at The Light Factory, Davidson College, The Mint Museum, and McColl Center for Art + Innovation. In spring of 2015, Brad was honored with the inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award from UNC Charlotte’s College of Art + Architecture.
KINDRED: Photographers Focus on Family is an opportunity for Brad to honor those artists who have directly influenced his creative journey. Furthermore, it’s an opportunity to continue to serve the cultural development of North Carolina, his home state. It’s the place where his feet will always stick to the ground––the way a Tarheel should.