To view a major collection of art you usually have to buy admission to a museum, but Old Towne residents need only visit Chapman University. There on campus is the Phyllis and Ross Escalette Permanent Collection of Art consisting of more than 700 pieces of contemporary works.
“The collection, which features many Southern California artists, is unique in that you come across it as you make your way through campus,” says Chapman’s collection manager David Michael Lee. “It’s an organic approach to displaying art that makes it accessible.”
Chapman’s curator Maggi Owens started the collection in 2000. “At the time, I had a modest budget, so I sought donations,” she says. “Artists were happy to donate and be part of the collection, and we obtained some wonderful pieces as a result.” (Since 2009, a $2 million endowment donated by Phyllis and Ross Escalette of Newport Beach has supported the collection.)
One especially striking painting Owens procured via donation is “Station,” by Mary Addison Hackett, who resided in Los Angeles when she painted the piece and currently has a studio in Nashville. The colorful abstract is an oil on canvas that measures 60 x 48 inches and hangs in Beckman Hall, where a large concentration of the collection is located.
“When I visited Hackett’s studio, that piece hit me immediately,” says Owens. “The colors blend so well, and there are a lot of angles to the piece, which gives it depth. I also like the movement. She’s a very good artist, and her work adds value to the collection.”
Lee agrees that the piece makes a powerful addition. “The painting features an explosion of color, and it’s a great example of abstraction,” he says.
Hackett decided to donate “Station” when she saw that Chapman had collected works by artists whom she respects. “I wanted the painting to be cared for within a collection where it would be seen and hopefully inspire others,” she says. “The diversity and breadth of Chapman’s collection is an amazing resource for encouraging dialogue and gives students the opportunity to see art as a respected staple of daily life.”
Hackett painted “Station” in 2008 while concentrating on large scale pieces. “At the time, I was interested in ideas surrounding landscape, architecture and technology,” she says. “The painting is not inspired by a particular event, but if it were, it might be something slightly futuristic. I remember the blue needed to convey an enveloping thickness. The title could reference a space station, a resting point between two places, or any other connotation of the word station.”
Hackett’s work has shown in numerous California venues, as well as nationally and internationally. She’s exhibited at Torrance Art Museum, Kristi Engle Gallery in Los Angeles and Irvine Fine Arts Center. According to the artist, her work is prompted by her experiences, actual or embellished events and memories from her life.
“My first influence was my family. They gave me books and subscriptions to art magazines like ARTnews and Art in America when I was still in single digits,” she says. “When I started painting, the Neo-expressionists were a major influence, but then I spent the 1990s in Chicago where there was a dearth of painting and an abundance of theory. I moved to LA in 2000, and suddenly I was in an oasis of painting.” A sampling of that oasis can now be seen at Chapman.