Buying Art With An Emotional Connection

A Madrona art collection holds its own against a Lake Washington vista
Brangien Davis  |   May 2014   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
how to buy art in seattle magazine

A large painting by Joel Fleminger cleverly hides the television—and makes zoning out in front of the tube a lot less likely

The Madrona home that Alex Landes shares with her partner, Chris Koehler, boasts a stunning view of Lake Washington, with Mount Baker and Mount Rainier visible in the distance. But equally eye-catching is the art collection, which Landes has been amassing for the past 15 years. A local real estate developer and former owner of dearly departed Belltown gallery Speck, Landes has hung upon her walls a surprising mix of paintings, photography, illustrations and mixed media pieces—from a work by nationally acclaimed photographer Bill Jacobson to small pieces found at online art sales sites (such as to photos snapped by Koehler with a standard digital camera. “Of all the art collectors I know, I care the least whose name is on a piece of art. I’m interested in the piece itself,” Landes says. “Learning the background of the artist or their approach is always interesting, but it has never swayed me for or against a piece.”

Landes found this painting by Oregon artist Anne Buffum by surfing online. “I’ve had good luck buying art online,” she says. “It’s an affordable way to collect art when you’re just starting out, and it gives new artists a wider venue to sell their work.”

Her buying approach is all about an emotional connection. “If I see a piece somewhere, leave, and then find myself really missing it, I look into whether I can afford it,” she says. “If I like it at the moment but never think about it afterward, that tells me a lot.” Often the connection grows deeper over time, as with the large oil painting by Joel Fleminger in the living room. “The longer I have it, the more I love it,” Landes says. The piece is propped up and unframed (Landes says art shouldn’t be like jewelry that’s too fancy to wear—you have to live with it) and deliberately placed in front of the television. “It’s heavy enough that we don’t move it too often,” she says, “which means we don’t watch junk TV—we have to come to the television with a plan.” It proves more inspiring than TV, too. “We’re always looking at and talking about it,” she says. “It definitely generates thought and wonder.”

Seattle artist Lisa Liedgren’s painting of color-coded full moons hangs in the master suite

An amateur photographer, Koehler used a standard digital camera for this photo of swirling grass in the San Juan Islands. As they’ve done with several photos, the couple had it blown up by Panda Lab on Lower Queen Anne (, a tactic Landes highly recommends as an affordable approach to filling your walls with art