- February 15, 2015
The below article appeared in Laguna Beach Art Magazine, Spring 2015.
The Art Collection of Gary and Betsy Jenkins
Written by Debra Leitner
Photographed by Tom Lamb
In their beautiful contemporary home designed by acclaimed “view master” Mark Singer, Dr. Gary Jenkins and his wife Betsy allow me to enjoy their sweeping panorama of the Pacific Ocean view while discussing their art collection. “My interest in art began when we bought our first Laguna home in 1980 on La Mirada Street,” recalls Betsy. “At first, I wanted to add color and simply fill up the house.” But what started as decorating soon turned into a passion for both Betsy and Gary. Betsy credits their 35-year involvement with the Laguna Art Museum with helping them develop their artistic eyes.
David Sabaroff’s 5-ft by 4-ft minimalist granite and glass sculpture is the first piece of artwork that greets visitors as they turn into the couple’s driveway. Although they commissioned the piece in 1993, the Jenkinses waited three years for the installation due to the 1993 Laguna Fire, which burned 14,000 acres and consumed almost 400 homes—including Sabaroff’s studio and all of his tools. Gary and Betsy donated additional funding to help rebuild the studio and were ecstatic when the piece was finally completed and installed. As Gary explains, the sculpture was one of the last pieces that the award-winning Sabaroff produced before he moved on to other endeavors.
Walking past the sculpture and down the stone steps to the front door, you are stopped in your tracks by the stunning view. You see BLUE—blue water, blue sky and artwork in various shades of blue. Betsy and Gary even have ocean blue eyes. “Acquiring blue artwork was definitely not a conscious decision,” Betsy comments, adding that they “just happened to gravitate to a number of works in palettes of blues and greens.”
Above the dining table, a blue and silver Laddie John Dill wall sculpture constructed in his iconic combination of polymer and glass, glistens in the sunlight like a bluefish. Leaning against a wall, a new acquisition by Sheryl Seltzer is waiting for its moment in the sun—literally. Before the artwork can have “its spot in the sun” on the wall, it will go back to the framers for non-glare glass. Next to the piano, a large, commissioned Sandra Jones Campbell adorns the wall. The painting is comprised of musicians, merrymakers and the Jenkinses themselves dancing the night away. Beneath the Campbell is a ceramic sculpture by Grace Songolo, whose works are included in countless private collections including those of Elizabeth Dole, Jehan Sadat and Empress Farah of Iran. Next to the Songolo sits one of Ralph Tarzian’s ladies holding an umbrella. Andy Wing is well represented in the collection with five lyrical, organic and multicolored abstracts.
Gary and Betsy’s collection doesn’t favor a particular medium. Rather, it is equally divided among paintings, sculptures, ceramics and glass art objects. Again, this is not a conscious decision—the Jenkinses explain that they buy what they love, and they are usually in sync when it comes to acquisitions. Gary relates a story about driving north and stopping in Cambria to visit a glass studio touted as the largest west of the Mississippi. Their sons were small at the time, so Gary told Betsy to have a look while he watched the children. She emerged to tell him that there was something she really loved and that he should take a peek to see whether there was anything he wanted. There were thousands of pieces of art inside, but when Gary found something he liked, it turned out to be the same piece. “We have an easy time collecting,” Betsy points out, “because we have similar taste.”
Overall, the common denominator within the collection is that to a large extent it contains Laguna artists. “Another theme,” Betsy says, “is music. Everyone in the family is musically inclined.” A favorite sculpture of Betsy’s is Intermezzo, a teal abstract violin sculpture by Howard Hitchcock. Other artists represented in the collection are George Geyer, Randy Bader, Brian Allen, James Galindo, Jamie Brunson, Joan Corman, Tom Swimm, Jerome Gastaldi, Martin Varo, Kazuko, Marlo Bartels, Koji Takei, Wyland, Craig French, Joyce Campbell, and Vincent Farrell.
Still a part-time practicing pediatrician, Gary is past president of both the SchoolPower Endowment Foundation and the LBHS Football Boosters , and is a board member of the Friendship Shelter. He has also donated considerable time to the Boy Scouts of America, the Laguna Art Museum, Village Laguna and the Laguna Playhouse.
A former teacher with an MA in literature, Betsy recently stepped down from serving 12 years on the Laguna Beach Unified School District Board. She is also past president of the Capistrano/Laguna Beach ROP Board and currently sits on the Laguna Beach Live! Board, the Mission Hospital Advisory Board and the Laguna Beach Sister Cities Association Board. In 2012 the Jenkinses were named Citizens of the Year for their significant contributions.
Being involved in the Laguna Beach community goes hand in hand with being involved in the arts. Many works in the Jenkins’ collection were acquired through auctions and benefits for the Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach Live, Laguna College of Art + Design, and the Festival of the Arts.
When asked if she had any art buying regrets, Betsy answers, “It is with certainty that I can say that the only regrets we have are the paintings we didn’t buy because we felt they were too expensive. One obvious example would be Marco Sassone’s works. There were also large and wonderful works by Maria Bertran, Sandra Jones Campbell and Susan Dysinger that we would have purchased if money were no object. We never ventured into attempting to collect contemporary masterpieces or early California. Instead, we choose to keep to local, living artists with whom we feel a connection and a common vision. We have never tried to collect for any increase in value either, although it has happened with a few of our artists who are now deceased.”
The Jenkinses are an exemplary couple, vivacious and sophisticated yet warm and welcoming. The overall feeling in their home is a sense of serenity. The interior is beautiful and the artwork is in sync with the space it occupies. According to online sites dealing with color psychology, “Blue is the color of the sky and the sea. It is often associated with depth and stability. It symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth and heaven.” Perhaps that is why the Jenkinses are unconsciously attracted to blue and why their home feels so peaceful and calm.