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The collection has been well-received. Docents from Phoenix Art Museum and Scottsdale Center for the Arts have toured it. Even out-of-state tourists get an occasional run-through. And other companies, such as Pinnacle West and Streich Lang, have since hired Prior and Armstrong to create collections for them.
O'Connor Cavanagh's collection is an eclectic mix of abstract, figurative and realistic works by artists from all over, but primarily from the Southwest. Contrary to Orme Lewis' standard, each framable work is encased in mahogany to match the office trim and doorways.
The whole collection went up in a single weekend.
Few of Jack Brown's employees are going to badmouth art chosen by the boss and his wife. But at O'Connor Cavanagh, things were different. Scott Rose, a partner at the firm, recalls the day he and his colleagues were introduced to the collection. Most had no idea what was coming. "It certainly created a stir when it happened, and it went on for a long time," Rose says. "There were some people that were, you know, pretty upset."
Rose emphasizes that he enjoys the collection, though he doesn't love every piece. "Of course," he adds, "you had other people who are more traditionalists in their taste, whether they like ducks and decoys or whether they like cowboys and Indians."
While the subject matter is not, for the most part, jarring, many of the pieces in the O'Connor Cavanagh collection are not button-down material.
Much of the work is abstract, the methods unorthodox. There's a conference room full of Linda Mundwiler's brightly colored "scratchings"--abstracts with the suggestion of landscapes. And then there's a beautiful, orange-and-yellow-hued textile piece, finely stitched over in a random pattern with red thread. Prior explains that the creator, Charles Hill, actually buried the piece underground for a while to add texture and an aged quality.
Rose says the biggest complaint among his colleagues was that the work wasn't "lighter" in tone and subject matter. "You don't want a picture on a piece of art that looks like a woman who just received a legal bill," he says, describing a work depicting an unhappy woman. "I wish I could tell you that that was my quote, but it actually comes from one of my partners." Rose declined to share the name of the partner or the work in question.
Each of O'Connor Cavanagh's conference rooms contains the work of one artist, so viewers can educate themselves by seeing a small body of work. A small, gold plaque outside the door of each room bears the name of each artist.
"It made the artist really feel like they were something, not a flower on the wall," John Armstrong says proudly. Timmerman admits that the attorneys have difficulty remembering the artists' names, and refer to the rooms instead by number or location.
But that doesn't mean they don't respect the artists, he adds quickly. To the contrary. In the decade since the collection was first hung, Timmerman says, "I've watched some of my partners' appreciation for the arts change markedly." @rule:
@body:Jack Brown of Brown & Bain makes no pretense. "My interest in art is entirely inspired by my wife," he says.
While Jack, over 33 years, built a law practice heavy in copyright issues and other matters of intellectual property, his wife, Suzanne, set the pace for art collecting in the Valley.
She and the late Elaine Horwitch, who would later own Horwitch Galleries, began by carting around art in the back of their station wagons, hence the company name, Art Wagon Galleries. The two held "art parties" at private homes, Tupperware-style. Today, Suzanne Brown owns two galleries on Main Street in Scottsdale. She shows mainly "Western contemporary Americana." Suzanne agrees with Jack's assessment of his interest in art--but only to a point. "I really think Jack has a great aesthetic sense. I really do," she says. Over the years, he's developed favorite artists, such as MirĘ and Kandinski; he has his own strong taste, which sometimes differs from hers.
And, his wife adds, Jack is an avid doodler. Anything framable? "I'm a very harsh critic," Suzanne says. "Other people might think so."
Suzanne has always had a hand in the decoration of her husband's office space. Years ago, she recalls with a laugh, she would--at Jack's request--hang paintings for him when he would relocate. Then he would always switch the paintings around.
When it came to relocating to Phoenix Plaza, which soars above the former site of a Bob's Big Boy restaurant at Central and Thomas, Jack turned most of the task of art selection and placement over to Suzanne and Marley Hedges, his executive assistant. Suzanne and Marley spent a year staging the relocation of the art. It took seven weeks just to hang the work.
Most of the pieces in the collection had been acquired over a 30-year period, but larger works, such as a brilliant cloud scene by Ed Mell, were commissioned.
Unlike that at Snell & Wilmer's office, where the interior design itself competes for attention, the artwork on Brown & Bain's walls is the single dominant decoration. Except, Hedges observes, for the views of downtown Phoenix from the attorneys' offices.