by Diane Craig
Art was everywhere: a larger than life metal pileated woodpecker astride a tree on a deck with a westward view of East Sound; an Anthony Howe kinetic sculpture spinning in the wind just outside the windowed living room; a three-dimensional sculpture by Colleen James gracing an archway; and familiar island landscapes brilliantly rendered on every door, front and back. This was no ordinary art collection. This was no ordinary art sale.
On the last weekend in August, longtime island resident and art collector Leo Lambiel opened his extensive art collection to the public, likely for the last time. He sold the estate, and the eclectic collection by San Juan artists was for sale, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Orcas Center.
Both Lambiel and the home’s new owner, Brad Davis from San Francisco, were on hand to answer questions about the collection. Davis assumes ownership in February.
The sale offered many in the islands an opportunity to explore a collection that Lambiel had turned into a museum of local talent.
“People were lined up before the doors opened at 10 a.m. on Saturday,” said Corrine Davis, a member of the center’s Board of Trustees and a key organizer of the event.
Over 75 percent of those who took advantage of the opportunity to see the collection were Orcas Island residents, according to Corrine. Many, like Barry Madan, were born and raised on the island, and this was his first visit to the Lambiel Museum.
“It was amazing. Just amazing. We’re glad we came,” he said.
Madan and his wife Bev purchased a photograph taken through a window in the Orcas Hotel that perfectly frames ferry landing by visual artist Susan Slapin.
For two days, visitors sipped wine and munched on finger sandwiches as they wandered through the split-level home filled with collections of sculpture, glass, oils, watercolors, weavings and photographs. Several enthused about the timeless collection of grandfather clocks, including one made from what looked like recycled barn wood. Handcrafted felt, foot-high historical dolls filled a planter, and an unattached James Hardman addition that opens onto a large deck where an enormous piece of burnished metal rises up 10-12 feet and frames a Greco-Roman arch and a garden below.
The art on display ranged from whimsical and serene to thought-provoking. It provided constant visual stimulation and confirmed the amazing talent that exists in the San Juans. And the opportunity to take home a small piece of that proved irresistible for the hundreds of locals who visited that weekend.
The two-day sale included over 800 pieces from Lambiel’s collection and, according to Corrine, more than 400 pieces sold. The final financial tally was unknown at the time of publication. She is unsure of what will become of the remaining art pieces.
“We would have liked to have sold more,” she said. “Still, we’re glad we were able to make some money for the center.”