HOUS December 2011 : Page 88

88 | the loop | home Living Color Wonderfully wild art is right at home in a cool collector’s lively lair. | By Chris Kelly | Photography by Julie Soefer | The first time you pull into the circular driveway of Judy Nyquist’s River Oaks home, you’re bound to think you’ve come to the wrong address. Her gracious, two-story, redbrick Georgian—circa 1937—appears far too conventional for the renowned contemporary art collector and champion of the local avant-garde who resides here. As you walk toward the house, you even see a marker which designates the house as a historical landmark by the City of Houston. But, you also get a hint at the contemporary whimsy to be found inside. Painted across the black front door in silver lettering is simply: welcome@nyquist.com. “I’m making tortilla soup for my daughter’s field hockey team,” laughs the welcoming Nyquist as she opens the door and explains the tasty aroma enveloping her foyer. Nyquist, whose petite figure and elegant bone structure resemble that of Anna Wintour, says that her home is not only a showplace for art but also a hub of entertaining. Everything from cocktail soirées and seated dinners for 60 to team suppers and adult swim parties “with the margarita machine going.” Her art collection—which begins to reveal itself in the foyer in the form of a massive painting of a series of eyeglasses—has been culled from both local sources and years of living and traveling abroad, especially in “crowded urban spaces,” she says. Whim dandy “I’d much rather be in an outdoor art includes the den’s market in Hong Kong with throngs abstract by the late of people shouting than a peaceful Robin Utterback and, below from left, chalet in Switzerland.” (She can only “Candy Counter” by manage about four days at a stretch at Sharon Core, neon ice her tranquil lakeside getaway house in cream, and Conrad Bakker’s “Untitled Wisconsin, she adds, noting that “it’s Project Back issues.” beautiful there, but… I get restless.”) Nyquist picked up the eyeglasses piece—oil on canvas by Lisa Milroy—in London. “She had a show at the Tate and is very big in England,” says Nyquist, 52. “I always loved her work.” A mom of three teens, Nyquist relocated from London to Houston about 12 years ago when her husband—“high school sweetheart” Scott Nyquist, whom she’s known since she was 15—accepted the position with the H-Town headquarters of a global energy-management consulting firm. “I wanted a big souvenir from England,” she says of Milroy’s painting. In counterpoint to the modern piece, an assemblage of pastoral drawings from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries hangs nearby. Below are oak floors which stretch throughout the 5,800-square-foot house, stained a distinctive “gray, sort of pickled color” which Nyquist developed in an effort to stay away from the standard warmer colors of hardwood floors and tend to the cool colors that she prefers. Perhaps the instinct for cool—literally and figuratively—comes from having grown up in the wintry college town of Ann Arbor, Mich., where she graduated with honors in art history from the University of Michigan. She went on to earn her master’s at Northwestern, become curator of exhibitions for the American Institute of Architects in Washington, D.C., and eventually continued… | December 2011

The Loop Home

Chris Kelly

Living Color

Wonderfully wild art is right at home in a cool collector’s lively lair.

The first time you pull into the circular driveway of Judy Nyquist’s River Oaks home, you’re bound to think you’ve come to the wrong address. Her gracious, two-story, redbrick Georgian—circa 1937—appears far too conventional for the renowned contemporary art collector and champion of the local avant-garde who resides here. As you walk toward the house, you even see a marker which designates the house as a historical landmark by the City of Houston.

But, you also get a hint at the contemporary whimsy to be found inside. Painted across the black front door in silver lettering is simply: welcome@nyquist.com.

“I’m making tortilla soup for my daughter’s field hockey team,” laughs the welcoming Nyquist as she opens the door and explains the tasty aroma enveloping her foyer. Nyquist, whose petite figure and elegant bone structure resemble that of Anna Wintour, says that her home is not only a showplace for art but also a hub of entertaining. Everything from cocktail soirées and seated dinners for 60 to team suppers and adult swim parties “with the margarita machine going.”

Her art collection—which begins to reveal itself in the foyer in the form of a massive painting of a series of eyeglasses—has been culled from both local sources and years of living and traveling abroad, especially in “crowded urban spaces,” she says. “I’d much rather be in an outdoor market in Hong Kong with throngs of people shouting than a peaceful chalet in Switzerland.” (She can only manage about four days at a stretch at her tranquil lakeside getaway house in Wisconsin, she adds, noting that “it’s beautiful there, but… I get restless.”)

Nyquist picked up the eyeglasses piece—oil on canvas by Lisa Milroy—in London. “She had a show at the Tate and is very big in England,” says Nyquist, 52. “I always loved her work.”

A mom of three teens, Nyquist relocated from London to Houston about 12 years ago when her husband—“high school sweetheart” Scott Nyquist, whom she’s known since she was 15—accepted the position with the H-Town headquarters of a global energy-management consulting firm. “I wanted a big souvenir from England,” she says of Milroy’s painting.

In counterpoint to the modern piece, an assemblage of pastoral drawings from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries hangs nearby. Below are oak floors which stretch throughout the 5,800-square-foot house, stained a distinctive “gray, sort of pickled color” which Nyquist developed in an effort to stay away from the standard warmer colors of hardwood floors and tend to the cool colors that she prefers.

Perhaps the instinct for cool—literally and figuratively—comes from having grown up in the wintry college town of Ann Arbor, Mich., where she graduated with honors in art history from the University of Michigan. She went on to earn her master’s at Northwestern, become curator of exhibitions for the American Institute of Architects in Washington, D.C., and eventually a consultant with the A.I.A. while she was based in London.

Upon arrival here, she immediately became a devoted volunteer, philanthropist and leader for Houston’s emerging-arts scene, working with countless institutions including the CAM, the MFA’s Glassell School of Art, UH’s Blaffer Gallery and the Rice University public art program. And the art in Nyquist’s house—varied, bold and set amidst colorful vignettes and sometimes fanciful furnishings in a free-flowing design scheme—reflects her H-Town commitment, as well as an interest in the works of many other acclaimed artists from around the world.

“There’s no thematic goal in my home,” she explains. “Art is different from decoration. It’s emotional and sparks the imagination. It’s from the heart.”

Near the entryway, the walls of a light-filled dining room—which, with its previous owners, had been a dark, wood-paneled study—are saturated in cotton-candy pink paint. An iconic Warhol silkscreen of Marilyn Monroe and a numbered and signed etching by Picasso share wall space. The latter depicts a woman reclining with two children at her feet.

“I bought the Picasso etching because it reminded me of the time when I was pregnant with my third child,” says Nyquist. “We were living in a flat in London, and often I’d get tired and lay down while my two little ones played.”

The kids not only inspired additions to the collection; they also contributed to it personally. Ceramic sculptures of fanciful houses by Sarah, Jake and Jessica are nestled together on the dining room floor, not far from where a series of ceramic desserts by 6th-grade art students at St. John’s—a brownie, an ice cream cone and a cherrytopped sundae created—are arranged on the mantle.

Nyquist’s dining room table is an oval sheet of glass she had custom-cut and mounted on two sturdy steel X’s. “The steel bases were basically shop fixtures created by a local artist,” she explains. The table is surrounded by Knoll studio chairs designed by Jens Rislm and upholstered in black cotton fabric.

If the children help the tone in the dining room, Scott’s imprint is found in the living room, where his grandfather’s old roll-top desk rests in front of a large bay window. “It’s this big, clunky piece of furniture, but it has tremendous sentimental value for Scott,” Nyquist says. “His grandfather owned a hardware store, and as a boy, Scott used to sit behind this desk and count nails to help out around the store.”

Just above the bay window is a contemplative piece by international text artist Adam Pendleton titled “I Can’t Tell Anyone,” which is the third of five he created in 2003. Blue letters recite a particularly intense passage from Toni Morrison’s book Jazz in a disjointed fashion that visually mimics jazz music.It appears at first to be gibberish, with words colliding and running together together with odd breaks. But, as you look at it for a while, poetic words about a 1920s Harlem couple surviving emotional hardships come into focus. “Everyone is drawn to this piece,” says Nyquist. “I love that it requires some time and concentration for the power of the passage to become clear.”

The living room is also home to an enormous—“it weighs about 60 pounds!”—and mesmerizing work by Todd Brandt, whom Nyquist met when he was a “Core” fellow at Glassell. The piece was created from old film canisters painted in brilliant colors and arranged in hypnotic patterns.

Besides all the vignettes of modern art, the living room is rather sparsely furnished, with an open, airy feeling, flowing into an adjoining den, where a large window floods the house with light and overlooks a lush backyard. (There’s a swimming pool back there, and a two-story, art-filled guest house that is regularly occupied by visiting artists.)

“Scott wanted a recliner chair in the den,” says Nyquist, bemused. “But there was no way I was going to have a La-Z-Boy in our home!” Instead, she purchased one of the famous “Womb” chairs designed for Knoll in 1948 by Eerro Saarinen. Covered in electric-orange fabric, the chair is sleek, modern and comfortable.

The avocado-colored sofa is equally cozy, and, in lieu of a typical coffee table, there are three small Plexiglas sectional tables that are part of a limited edition by Niels Bendsten; a scarlet red sectional is flanked by two in ebony. “I love color,” she says. “Some people are afraid of using a mixture of colors, but to me it’s energizing.”

The den’s built-in bookshelves and display cases demonstrate Nyquist’s curatorial eye, housing such unique finds as a group of chic cardboard purses created by “Couturier de Cardboard” Matthew Sporzynski and purchased at auction at Sotheby’s in New York City. On the wall, there’s a large ’60s-era neon ice cream cone—again with the sweet-tooth tilt.“It glows in the dark!” Nyquist gushes.

The den opens to a spacious gourmet kitchen, where the soup is still simmering. Here, a long table serves as a fanciful message board and canvas. Nyquist purchased its clear, hollow legs at Kuhl-Linscomb and, at the moment, has filled them with black paper printed with a constellation of white letters in various fonts. (“You can fill the legs with seashells or rocks or anything your imagination leads you to do,” she says.) On top, she placed a large blackboard where family members write notes to one another in chalk, and where visiting artists occasionally leave drawings.

Things are about to get busy at the Nyquist residence, as the field hockey team arrives to dine.“That’s what this house is all about,” says Nyquist.“There’s always something going on here. I thrive on the energy of people—and of art.”

Read the full article at http://digital.modernluxury.com/article/The+Loop+Home/906834/91075/article.html.

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