Kami Mendlik says she feels like she’s not just collecting paintings — she’s collecting artists. And then there are those six little dots of cadmium red….
“With all three of these artists — with all my collection of 40 pieces or so — a great sense of energy comes off the paintings,” says Mendlik. “It’s more like I am collecting the artist instead of the piece. I really feel like I would be just as satisfied with any of their work, and I happened to get the piece that I have. There is a cohesiveness in their paintings, and one can feel that sense of authenticity. It’s really obvious to me when an artist is authentic.”

“En Route for Day’s Errands,” by Susan Lyon, oil, 12 x 9 in. Collection of Kami Mendlik

The first piece Mendlik chose to discuss was by Emmett Johns. “Johns is an older guy, honest, humble, and generous. I like him, and that always helps me a lot when I’m collecting a piece,” says Mendlik. “He has been through a lot in his life and has painted miles of canvas. It’s inspiring to see someone who is double my age and did all the groundwork — educated, and it still feels like he is painting. He is painting. And what about those six little dots of cadmium red? How did he do that? What didn’t he put in? We are submerged in a lush, green, wooden area, and he captured the lush feel of it. And the way he put the paint on the trees feels like bark. It’s confident and authentic. It doesn’t look like any other artist’s work. It looks like his work. The hardest thing and the easiest thing is to be authentic. That is what it means to find your style. We are all born with it.”

“Smokey,” by William Ersland, acrylic, 16 x 20 in. Collection of Kami Mendlik

“Day Is Done,” by Kami Mendlik, oil, 6 x 8 in.

Secondly, Mendlik turned to a piece by Susan Lyon. “What is there not to say about her work? I love it. When I first saw this piece in Charleston, it brought me to tears. I love that painting. It feels like it was made for me.”
“Her work is so sensitive,” continues Mendlik. “She paints the most beautiful edges, like nobody else. She captured that moment in movement, and you can relate and go into the painting. There’s peace and calm, and it just feels right.”

The pieces in Mendlik’s collection on her walls.

Finally, Mendlik talked about a painting by William Ersland. “This piece is so conceptual,” says the artist. “He strikes me as one of the boys at school who would always be drawing crazy Westerns or war scenes, making drawings out of their heads of cowboys and Indians or spaceships. And you’d think, ‘How in the world did he think of that?’ He’s like that. His house is filled with Civil War memorabilia. He’s not doing it to create a style, or to be like other painters. He is doing what he loves.”


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