Just as a painter builds layers of color and texture on a canvas, Anna Wunderlich has added yet another dimension to her life as an artist. Her world has always revolved around fine art, and she recently bottled all her experience in one place to start an art consulting business. As part of a steering committee assembled to collect art for LeBonheur Children’s Hospital, Anna discovered her interest in guiding others through the art collecting maze. She is enjoying this new layer of her career as a matchmaker between artists, designers, galleries and collectors.
Welcome Anna, today’s Face of Memphis!
Have you always called Memphis “home”?
Yes! Lived just over the bridge in Arkansas for the first years of my life and then moved to Memphis. Although many weekends and a lot of summertime were spent visiting family in Arkansas, Memphis has always been home, other than my college years in Charleston.
When did you begin on the path towards a career in art?
Young, as early as I can remember. My grandmother, Joyce Gingold, was an art teacher, and I spent almost every day after school in her classroom messing around with art materials. A career in art is really the only career I ever considered. I grew up surrounded by art and going to gallery openings and museums, primarily because of my grandparents. Art was my best subject in high school, and I knew I would be happy to study it in college. I majored in Studio Art and Art History at the College of Charleston and then attended graduate school for Art Education at The University of Tennessee.
Describe your family and how your job as a mom has coordinated with your professional career.
I am a proud mom to Ben, 7, Alex, 5, and Bays, 2. Visiting art shows and galleries is a large part of what I do; we often make those visits into family outings, even when we travel. My children have been to many openings in a baby Bjorn. My job as an art consultant is flexible, and I can set my own schedule, finishing up everything before 3:00 p.m. pick up is ideal! It takes some coordination, but I like to stay busy!
You are a successful working artist as well as an art consultant. How does wearing these two hats work together?
This can be tricky. I do not show my clients my work unless they ask to see it. I have participated in David Lusk’s Price is Right show as well as various other shows around Memphis. I don’t want my clients to feel awkward, or pressured in any way. I have helped put together group shows with fellow artists and friends and that makes it fun because we work together. Time in the studio is much more demanding for me at this point of my life. It is challenging to find uninterrupted time that a studio practice requires.
As an artist, what is your medium and overall style?
I love oil painting, but the time and materials are so hard to make happen with my multi-directional life. I really applaud those oil painters that make it work! When I was pregnant with my second child, I attended Anderson Ranch in Colorado and took an amazing painting workshop with Michael Crespo. The medium was large-scale watercolor on treated paper. For some reason the process really clicked with me, and most of my paintings since 2005 have been created with that medium. I draw imagery from childhood memories as well as from seeing things through the eyes of my own children.
As an art consultant, do you have a step-by-step process for identifying a client’s interest and taste in art?
I usually meet with the client at their home to get a sense of what they love and their personal aesthetic. I can get an idea of things I would show them pretty quickly. I pull together a number of choices based on the budget, style and size that the client is looking for and then work closely with galleries in Memphis, galleries outside of Memphis and individual artists—curating for each client from multiple sources. With out-of-town clients, I can usually work from an informative phone call and photographs of the space. Many times I work with designers who already have a great knowledge of their client’s likes and dislikes and a good understanding of the space and scale, all of which are helpful for the selection process. I feel like an “art matchmaker,” and it makes me so happy to see it all come together!
Do you think that every piece of art purchased should be a conversation piece that the buyer loves, or is it possible that some artwork is simply an interior design choice, selected as a background piece for color and texture?
I purchase art for my home because I love it, not even knowing where I will hang it most of the time and often moving things around to make it fit. It is a good thing salon-style hanging is in style—I joke that I’ll have to start hanging art on the outside of my house soon! The art I buy usually tells a story or is a conversation piece, but sometimes it’s simply about color and texture, or a feeling that happens when such things come together in a space.
Color, texture, value, scale—all these things I taught my art students about 13 years ago—yes, they matter when selecting art, but only because it is nice to have a mix of things in a home. I love an eclectic mix when it comes to collecting: differences of media, scale, subject, style and color come together to build intrigue. I do not match artwork to fabric or paint or anything like that, but when my client selects a piece, it is because it works for them for one reason or another. There is something out there for everyone and I love that art is so specific and subjective at the same time, keeps my job interesting
Describe, in general, the first piece of art someone should buy if they have decided to start a collection, but do not have a Christie’s Auction House budget.
Everyone has a completely different idea of what they are willing to spend on art and the value they place on art. There is great art for all budgets. Student work or galleries with emerging artists would be a great place to start for a small budget as well as fun sites like etsy! I’m also a fan of leaving a space empty until the right thing or budget comes along.
What inspires you to keep going when the challenges of balancing work, family and more set in? Do you have a favorite activity or set of activities away from work?
It’s a good thing that looking at art is a fun activity to me. My work, hobbies, passion all blend together. I cannot imagine not working and not having a strong art focus. It is just innate, and I can’t help it! I like taking art workshops at Flicker Street Studio (always more to learn!) Yoga and long walks are definitely something I do to keep balance. I am very lucky that my husband, Ben, cooks dinner!
Favorite escape or guilty pleasure?
Starbucks, Otherlands or Muddy’s. It’s bad, but I love sugar.
Best vacation or travel destination?
Charleston, New Orleans and New York. Every time I go to each of these places, I can’t get enough! I literally feel guilty sleeping because there is so much I want to see, do and accomplish. (Those of you who have traveled with me would agree!) Horseshoe, Arkansas, is a peaceful place with nothing to do but relax!
Are there any charitable organizations where you volunteer your time or support? What’s meaningful about this outreach to you?
ArtsMemphis—love the range of arts organizations that it supports. I have been involved with them for many years and think that the art scene in Memphis is so vibrant! Most recently I enjoyed the Culinary Dinner Series put on by ArtsMemphis at the Stax Museum, where my brother and Chef Brown Burch inspired me with the culinary arts, which will all come together in a book next year.
What books are you reading, or have you most enjoyed reading lately?
This summer I read The Paris Wife and Z, the Novel. Loved reading about that whole time period.
What three lighthearted things could you not live without?
Coffee, yoga and bubble baths.
Is there a fashion item on your wish list or in your closet for fall and winter 2013-2014?
A fun find while I was in Charleston recently—a new line called “Library by Lauren Lail.” I met the designer and bought a great jacket, shorts and beautiful skirt. The skirt is made with a fabric that was inspired by a painting by Charleston-based artist Way Way Allen.
Thank you Anna!
Also, thank you to our photographer Ashley Warnock, an artist with the camera! Find out more about Ashley by clicking here: ashleywarnock.com