Jane Voorhees, artist and collector

Updated: 2013-03-03T04:06:56Z


The Kansas City Star

Artist Jane Voorhees holds many gatherings at her home on Ward Parkway, including events for Planned Parenthood, Womenade and the Print Society of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. In January, her place was a stop for the nonprofit Arts Alive group, which meets monthly to socialize before attending a local arts event.

Part of the draw of Voorhees’ home is her art collection, which encompasses paintings, prints and ceramics and reflects her relationships with many of the artists she has met over the years as a designer at Hallmark, an art student at the University of Kansas and University of Missouri-Kansas City and an adjunct professor at the Kansas City Art Institute.

Displayed throughout the house are works by local and national artists as well as examples of Voorhees’ own accomplished landscapes, which are represented in numerous museum and corporate collections.

Q How long have you been here?

A I built the house in 2004 after my husband, Vern, passed away. I built it for me, but I also had to build it for resale. All of the houses in this 701 Ward Parkway area were developed by B.B. Andersen and designed by Howard Nearing of Nearing, Staats, Prelogar & Jones. I changed Nearing’s plan slightly to fit my lifestyle.

Q Describe your decor.

A I have Oriental rugs and modern pieces, contemporary ceramics and a few antiques. Most of the walls are taupe — the most neutral color I could find — and some are darker taupe and red.

Q And the art collection?

A Really it relates to people I know and love. Here in the kitchen, Susan Tinker gave me this little painting of an apple for one of my birthdays. There’s a photograph by Gloria Baker Feinstein. I went to Uganda with her to the orphanage she established there. I have several prints by Craig Subler, who was my mentor at UMKC, and a painting by Jim Sajovic. I took two of his classes at the Kansas City Art Institute and learned a ton. I acquired roughly 70 percent of the works in the house since I moved in.

Q You gave an art-buying tip to the people who came here for the Arts Alive gathering.

A I was associated with a gallery in New York for 10 years, so when I’d go to New York, I’d hit the museums. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I wandered upstairs from the bookstore, and there were all these wonderful prints and rugs for sale. You can get prints for a decent price. I bought works by Donald Sultan, Mary Frank, Robert Rauschenberg, Richard Serra and Joan Mitchell for prices ranging from $700 to $3,000.

Q Where else have you found work?

A Many of my things are trades from other artists. The piece with the image of a potato covered with shipping tape is a Suzanne McClelland. She’s appeared on the cover of Art News and showed a piece at the Nerman Museum. I got mine for the $50 minimum bid at the Nerman’s “Beyond Bounds” auction.

Q This red dining room works well with the art.

A We had a hard time getting the right red, so I mixed the color. The large print is by Miguel Rivera. I met him when I was teaching at the Kansas City Art Institute in continuing ed, and I bought it because I like Miguel and I love the piece.

The black-and-white pastel of the dinghy is from a series of 51 dinghy images by Lynn Manos.

That Christmas tree in the corner is made from French roofing tiles. It came from a Kappa Kappa Gamma Holiday Homes Tour that came here shortly after I built the house.

Q I’m struck by your adherence to a largely black-and-white aesthetic in your art collection. It carries through in everything from the Rivera print to the Birger Sandzen woodcut in the master bath and your ceramics selections.

A It comes from my printmaking background. I also like black in my wardrobe. I got that ceramic sculpture by Laura-Harris Gascogne, who teaches at JCCC, at the Nerman auction. It’s like a house with lots of sgraffito markings on it that look like script. I have quite a few pieces of Ken Ferguson and a Russell Ferguson piece I really love. The big vessel in the entry is a Darcy Badiali I got from Dolphin Gallery.

Q I like the way you’ve put it with the Oriental rug and the Bombay chest. And you obviously like bromeliads.

A Bromeliads last forever, and they’re real. They tolerate low light.

Q Tell me about some of the furniture.

A The walnut armoire in the living room was made by John Noel. I also have a desk he made from a whole sheet of walnut. It didn’t have drawers, so he put drawers in the room’s existing shelves, which are based on shelving I saw in Architectural Digest

Q This is the library?

A Yes. I’ve got all my wonderful art books in here. There’s a Claes Oldenburg pretzel that I got at the Met and a painting by Robert Sudlow, who was my mentor at KU. Vern and I bought the Sudlow for each other in the year we both had our 50th birthday. It came from Jack Olsen at American Legacy Gallery.

Q You have beautiful rugs.

A My husband really loved Oriental rugs. I commissioned the rug in the living room through Don Furr from Furr’s Oriental Rugs. It was made in India and took awhile to get here because it got caught in customs. Most of my rugs are new, but they’re making the new rugs to look antique.

Q Tell me about some of your works.

A The small painting in the library is of my husband. He loved fly-fishing, and that’s from the last fishing trip. He’s kind of walking to the water. I scattered his ashes in the Madison River in Montana.

Q What about the luminous little landscape you’ve grouped with the ceramic house sculpture?

A When I scattered Vern’s ashes, there was a deserted town nearby, and I took quite a few pictures of it. It was just beautiful. The work is a monotype on paper glued on thicker paper. A monotype is just painting on a plate and running it through a press. I don’t usually work large because I’m not a large person.

Q Your lower level studio is pretty large, though.

A It’s approximately 1,400 square feet. I had a really big studio in my old house — almost the entire basement — but you felt you going down into the dungeon. Here, it was a nice to think I’d have the north side of my house be open. I have my press there, which takes up quite a bit of room, and a sink and flat files. I have my computer and places to paint. The sofa is a sofa bed. It’s really nice to have guests. My grandchildren stay here when they visit.

Your ideas, please

Each month, House + Home shines a spotlight on a local person and his or her abode. Do you have an idea for a houseguest? Send your suggestions to Previous houseguests have included Kansas City Mayor Sly James and style icon and Kansas City native Kate Spade.

To reach Alice Thorson, call 816-234-4783 or send email to

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