A Renaissance couple: There’s no better way to describe the husband and wife who hired designer Lisa Tharp to renovate their recently purchased, turn-of-the century urban apartment in the Northeast. In fact it was their passion for literature, science and art that guided Tharp’s concept. “This was an opportunity to showcase who they are–to reflect their intellect and quiet sophistication,” Tharp says. “In every room, there’s something to stimulate conversation and inspire curiosity.”
HEAD OF THE HARBOR, N.Y. — Harlan and Olivia Fischer discovered fine art in the early 1990s, an unexpected consequence of Mr. Fischer’s Jeep having been struck by a drunken driver and totaled.
Although his injuries were minor, Mr. Fischer, a financial planner, said the crash required him to undergo extensive rehab and got him thinking. “I realized that, had I been killed, I wouldn’t have left much of an imprint” outside of business, he said.
After the accident, the Fischers, of Head of the Harbor, N.Y., threw themselves into volunteer work for organizations including the Smithtown Township Arts Council. Mrs. Fischer retired early from her job in human resources at Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and devoted more time to these pursuits. By the mid-90s they were regularly purchasing works by painters they met through the arts council, including Agnes de Bethune and John Dorish.
They still buy oils and acrylics in styles ranging from Abstract Expressionism to photorealism. But one day in 1995, on a visit to a friend in nearby Nissequogue who’d remodeled his garage around his growing glass collection, they found a new focus. “The minute the two of us saw his glass art, we thought it was great,” Mrs. Fischer said.
Several weeks later they visited the Heller Gallery in Manhattan and bought their first glass object, “Solar Gray” by Michael Taylor, which consists of clear and black shardlike shapes radiating outward; it’s currently displayed in their bedroom.
The Fischers bought four or five more pieces over the next several weeks and didn’t stop there. In 2005, having run out of space, they commissioned a 2,000-square-foot addition to their contemporary home.
The Fischers, who have no children, say they plan to give their collection to a museum someday, possibly a local one — “So we can see it when we want to,” Mr. Fischer said. In the meantime, Mrs. Fischer said, they continue to acquire pieces with a goal of upgrading their glass objects.
Mr. Fischer is a board member of various glass collectors’ groups, and the couple are founding members of the Ennion Society of benefactors at the Corning Museum of Glass.
They discussed their collection in a visit to their home on Long Island’s North Shore. Here are edited excerpts from the conversation.
This is quite a collection! How have you built it?
HARLAN FISCHER I find I either like a piece or I don’t. Generally I like pieces that are scaled large and display intense color. When Olivia and I started collecting glass, the feeling was similar to how I felt in high school when I discovered jazz. I heard a record of John Coltrane playing “My Favorite Things.” Epiphany!
OLIVIA FISCHER One of my favorites is “Aver 4,” by Nicole Chesney. To me it is bold and vibrant, at the same time ethereal with mysterious depth.
MR. FISCHER We try not to walk into galleries as strangers. We usually acquire works by established artists. We listen to suggestions, too.
It must be challenging to move some of these pieces, yet you do it.
MR. FISCHER When we built the addition, we needed to move “Spiral of Life” [by Ivana Houserova] to a place between our dining room and our new gallery. We contacted Jitka Pokorna, who owned the gallery in Prague where we bought the piece. Coincidentally, she and her staff were about to fly to the SOFA exhibition in Chicago and were stopping over in Newark. We had a car pick them up at Newark and bring them here. That afternoon the four of them disassembled the piece, moved it, and reassembled it. It weighs at least 450 pounds.
How much does such a housecall cost?
MR. FISCHER They didn’t charge me anything. We had gotten several pieces from Jitka. Actually we got more pieces from her than anybody. When they were here, I asked what they wanted to eat and they all said “pizza” in unison. I guess the only word they all knew in English was pizza.
Did you get them pizza?
MR. FISCHER Yeah, I had pies delivered from a local place. They all chowed down. They stayed overnight and flew out to Chicago the next day.
August 16, 2014 – July 30, 2017 Eunice and Julien Cohen Galleria (Gallery 265)
A contemporary take on landscape in the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art.
This new installation in the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art’s Eunice and Julian Cohen Galleria offers a contemporary spin on landscape art. Ten works, including sculptures, paintings, installation, and video art, present contemporary art as the latest chapter in the story of landscape art through the ages, as told by the MFA’s encyclopedic collection. Works include a number of new acquisitions that have never before been on view, as well as new commissions by Jason Middlebrook and Anne Lindberg. Their soaring creations evoke nature’s sublime potential through color and pattern, using the dramatic architecture of the Linde Family Wing to guide their work.
Jason Middlebrook has been invited to paint the largest wall in the Cohen Galleria, which measures 24 by 80 feet. Middlebrook’s signature patterning weds the geometry of modern abstraction with the lines of wood grain to “create a tension between something organic and something man-made.” Another site-specific work by artist Anne Lindberg evokes nature by using only thread and staples. Suspended from the vaulted ceiling of the Linde Family Wing’s second floor, Lindberg’s work soars gracefully above visiting guests. This is the first time Lindberg has created a work installed at this height (16½ feet), allowing visitors to look up through a field of color.
Works from the MFA’s collection that expand the definition of “landscape” beyond the horizon line include chenille beanbag Topia Chairs (2008) by Barbara Gallucci, a professor at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Another take on the theme is seen in the playful video, Eating Landscape (2005), which depicts artist Song Dong (Chinese, born in 1966) building an edible tableau that satirizes traditional Chinese ink landscapes.
Working in the legacy of Claude Monet, Spencer Finch’s Shield of Achilles (Dawn, Troy, 10/27/02) (2013), re-creates the light of dawn. He carefully observes and notates the colors at a precise time and location, reproducing them with filtered fluorescent light bulbs. Ghost (Vines) (2013) by Teresita Fernández references nature’s fleeting presence. Layers of precision-cut metal are backed with bright green silkscreen ink that casts a soft green glow around sharp, machined edges—mimicking the pattern of moss. Other works on view in the installation include Two Whites Over Antique Red Over Cadmium Red (2013) by Pat Steir, Garrowby Hill (1998) by David Hockney, Verity (magenta blue), Repose, and Verity (blue green gray) by Nicole Chesney, and Untitled (2003) by Tara Donovan.
On view in the Eunice and Julien Cohen Galleria, Level 2; Hope and Mel Barkin Art Wall; and Michael D. Wolk Art Wall.