Oral History Interview with Orange County Art Legend Texann Ivy Buck, Part I of II
My name is Texann Ivy Buck, but it really on my birth certificate says, Mary Ellen. And everybody says, “Ha! Oh, I knew it.” But ever since I was a small child it’s always been Texann. In fact, it’s the only name I’ve ever used. And, it’s legal. Texann is very legal. I was born in Manhattan at Doctor’s Hospital, November 3, 1947, and I grew up in the city of New York ’til I was probably 13. So it was my formative years and that could have given me that extra kick in my education that you just don’t recognize. Being exposed to every afternoon at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Going to the Museum of Modern Art for collage classes. They had a lot of educational classes.
Packer Collegiate Institute
I went to Packer [The Packer Collegiate Institute], where they were big on books. They had book fairs and famous singers of songs and poets. And you’re just exposed. Everything is at the tip of your fingers. You go to a field trip, you go to the New York Historical Society, or the New York Historical Museum, and there might be the original stars and stripes, “The Star Spangled Banner” all shot up and everything. It was unique. Traveling on the subways, seeing all these different types of people. The way they talked. The way they gestured. And, I guess, I picked up a lot of these patterns… I worked very hard to get rid of that New York twang.
529 1st Street, Brooklyn, NY
So that was my earliest days. We lived in Brooklyn, New York at 529 1st Street on east side of Prospect Park. We lived in Gramercy Park. We had a fire there. I guess I was four months old when that happened. So those were my two addresses. And then, my father’s father died, and we moved to Texas for a short while to settle that estate. And that was a good experience, too. Lots of cowboys. Everyone wore a Stetson hat. Everyone danced in circles and they wore Mexican dresses. They did the Mexican hat dance. It was another world. It was the first place I had a milk shake like you and I know it. A milk shake in New York was just like milk. A shake in Texas was thick and ice creamy, whew! Anyway, that’s what I remember. Of course I was a child when I did that.
I did attend school for a small while in Waco, Texas and had the same principal my father had when he was a child. And she knew me. And, you know, funny that I bring this up, the woman was a sight to behold. This woman dressed in these organdy pleated – she looked like she was going to dance in one of Fred Astaire’s studios. And she was very into art. But not art like anything we have seen. This was art of the olden times. The first invention of the camera, those duo photographs. Egypt, all of these pictures were everywhere. Very religious. Rocco. And it was just another kind of world. And she had engravings and prints and they were big. And she had an upstairs and here were just boxes and boxes. And then those duo viewers so we could just rummage through any time we want. All collector’s items. But that was an eyeful.
Memorial Junior High
So then after Waco, TX, my mother, of course was from a pioneer family of Florida, and we came down to Florida and I wound up going to the same teachers she had at Memorial Junior High around Lake Eola. And that was a grand experience. And, then, of course, they tore Memorial down. That was a memorial for the World War I vets in Orlando. And I wound up going to Robert E. Lee Junior High and then Edgewater. And the most momentous things happening there during my lifetime was, President Kennedy died; the first space shot went off. And everybody’s running outside to look at these things.
Martin Orlando Engineering Facility on Elwell Street, August 6, 1957.
Photo courtesy of Mr. David Emmons.
Martin Marietta Came in ’57
So Martin Marietta had come to town in ’57 and Orlando was a very quiet place. We got our first shopping center in probably 1958. It was a cow farm down on East 50, and it was Colonial Plaza. And then not to be outdone, Mr. Tiedtke built Parkwood Plaza down off 50, John Young Parkway and Colonial. And it had a really nice rocking chair theater and it had an ice skating rink and a party time and a grocery store. And then across the street was our first fancy schmancy motel. And Finley Hamilton had that. And it was a Hilton. No one had ever seen that. I’d never seen a Hilton motel. Now Hilton hotel. And that’s where Disney came when he was scouting around. We didn’t have much to offer. We didn’t have many places to go. Downtown Orlando did have the Cherry Plaza around Lake Eola. And any time a dignitary or a president came to town that’s where he’d be. And then we had the downtown motor lodge. It was a motor lodge, but it was rather dated. At that time, the Hilton was much nicer. It was a quiet little town. Quiet indeed.
What did your parents do for a living?
Oh, yes, well, my father in New York City was with Atlas Cement Company, which was a subsidiary of United States Steel Corporation. And he was in the advertising department right across from the top of the six’s in Manhattan. I went there many times and there’s many art galleries over there, too, of course, later on.
Volunteering in the Junior League in New York and Orlando
My mother was just a housewife. She had five children in New York. And I’m the eldest… and I had to be the babysitter for all of them. She got into the Junior League in New York. You know, it started out as volunteering to help people give the children milk. And then it was volunteering to do projects and so on. And, it’s like this library, Orlando Museum of Art library, that was done by the Orlando Junior League.
But she transferred into Orlando. But she started with the original Junior League in New York. So that’s what she did until we sort of grew up.
School Teacher for 30 Years
And she went back to college and she got her degrees. She wanted to be a psychologist or something. I don’t know what. But she taught school for 30 years. That’s what she wanted me to do. She thought that would be a safe thing to do when the Great Depression rolled around again I could always have some work. So that was her idea of a safety net for a girl. She didn’t want me to be a secretary. She didn’t want me to be a nurse. She made faces about all those things. You know, when you’re young, everybody always says to you, “Well what are you going to do when you grow up?” Well, you don’t know. And you hear what other people say and you just say what they say. Nurse. Secretary. And I just said that one day and my mother was just like – gasp – “You’re not going to do that.” She was a gas….
Parker’s on Park Avenue in Winter Park
But I still had no idea what I was going to do. I got out of school and I got a job as a permanent substitute teacher at Lakemont Elementary School. And my idea was I was going to get experience and I was joining the Peace Corps. That’s what I was going to do. And then one day, I just had this light bulb moment as they say. And I went into this gallery, and it wasn’t used very much as a gallery, although they had artwork hanging. They had a huge upstairs that was just empty. And it used to be a fashion house of Eve Parker. She had a place called Parker’s on Park Avenue. And this was her oldest store. And it had a winding open staircase and it went down. And then she had framing samples and a boardroom table. And we would frame people’s pictures. And I got a job with her on a part-time basis…
Y for Women
I went to the Y for Women. I don’t know if this town now has something like that, but the Junior League of Orlando I think helped to arrange that very thing. You had a clean place to live and you had to buy a meal ticket. And you sign in and out. It was like being in college. They wanted to know where you are at all times. And I stayed there, and I wanted to get out as soon as I was in. But it was my first step. And I made arrangements with my paycheck, with my job. And it was really very logical. And I thought, you know, I can do this. And I felt really strong…
400 North Park Avenue in Winter Park
I started teaching handicraft classes for extra money, and I saved enough money for my deposit. I went to the Winter Park Land Company, and I wanted an apartment. And they looked at me and said, “You’re single. We don’t like single girls. You’re going to play your stereo too loud.” I went, “No, no, no.” And they gave me a little apartment on 400 North Park Avenue which was – it ran like a shoe box sideways along Park Avenue – and my apartment faced the Catholic Church School, Saint Margaret Mary. And it was kind of like a bachelorette; a very tiny apartment like an efficiency. And I could walk to work. And I got this job at Galleries International and she did not know what to do with me.
It was owned by a woman by the name of Louise Peterson and her husband, Pete Peterson. He was a pilot. He was in that project with the great astronauts. He was the one who flew the plane at supersonic, breaking the sound barrier… They gave me a part-time job which grew quickly into a full-time job. In fact, they gave me a part-time job and they said, “Anything that you sell we’ll give you a commission.” So, I sold things so well, they said, “We’re going to change the rules, we’re going to make it so you have to sell at least $2,500. worth of things before we’ll give you a commission.” And I did really well after that, too. And they just couldn’t believe it… She had signed some franchise with Gallery International which she immediately didn’t want to get involved with and it was not her cup of tea. Anyways, Galleries International – she was very satisfied doing framing and she helped a lot of the local artists; little pen and ink shows….
Center Street Art Gallery
And who else was on Park Avenue, there was the Center Street Art Gallery owned by Hugh and Jeannette McKean. And they were artists in their own right. They opened the gallery. They had clubs that they went to in Boca Raton, in Clearwater, and in different places. And that’s what artists did. And then if they had a special show, it was usually at the bank, the Chamber of Commerce. We didn’t have many galleries. Winter Park in the seventies had Galleries International which was basically a frame shop downstairs. Then you had Center Street Art Gallery and Harriett Clayborn was at the front desk. She ran the art gallery at Center Street that Hugh and Jeannette McKean owned.
Carey Lamb Print Shop
And, of course, then we had Carey Lamb, and that was a little print shop near the Yum Yum shop. They specialized in prints from professors at universities and it was a really nice look. Everything was matted, wrapped in acetate, and it was really nice. But just about the time I started at Galleries International… we took on their [Center Street Art Gallery] inventory at Galleries International which made us look entirely different.
And then, we met a woman named Mave Drucker who had a brother in New York City who owned a huge gallery called YAMIT ARTS and he specialized in the works of art of Miro, Chagall, mostly Jewish artists, and the School of Paris. The School of Paris was a big number in New York City after World War II; and it remained that way in New York City until ’77 or so. Denise Renee handled Victor Vasarely, now these are French names of course, and Le Parc. She was over in Paris. A lot of people escaped that war, and they took roots here, and they stuck around for quite a while… The American print market hadn’t exploded yet. It was just starting with, you know, the help of Tatyana Grosman. And then many other people followed suit after that.
You became the Galleries International Director for the Southeast, right?
Well, I don’t know if it’s the southeast, but she only had one location in Winter Park, and I was there for at least seven or eight years. And she told me, “You can be the Director, and I’m going upstairs and I’m going to be the bookkeeper. And call me if you need me.” And that was very nice. That made me feel very special. That was a fun thing. After I got over the heebie-jeebies of talking to people and helping them frame their pictures… I got good at that.
I had friends that I grew up with in Orlando… when I was in high school I would babysit. I was the babysitter. And Fenimore Cooper, who was an attorney across the street from Dr. Kirkland, I had favorites that kept me going… one day he called me. And Fenimore said, “Hey, how’d you like to go to Atlanta?” You know, I’m working at Galleries International, and I said, “Sure.” He said, “I want you to pick up my mother’s car, because she’s come down to Florida for the season, and you fly up there and get it.” And I did. I flew up, got the car and gave it to him. He said, “Well, what did you do in Atlanta?” I said, “What do you mean? You just told me to pick up the car.” He said, “You went all the way up there and you didn’t go to Atlanta?” I said, “No…” He said, “The next time you go up, I want you to go into Atlanta.”
The Heath Gallery in Atlanta
And so I did. And that’s where I said, “I’ll go to the museum, that’s safe.” Well, it was Monday, and it was closed. But it turned out there was an art gallery right next door, practically right there, The Heath Gallery. And so, I went in and they were very busy. And I said, “Would you mind if I looked at your library?” And she said, “Knock yourself out.” I was there until five o’clock. She said, “Are you still here?” And I made notes through the whole thing, and it gave me a lot of direction.
Tatyana Grosman, Universal Limited Art Editions
It gave me this woman’s name seeing it over and over and over again. I will be the first to admit I was too young to know who Tatyana Grosman was; who was Universal Limited. And she said, “You know, I want to represent their work.” I went up there, and she wouldn’t even let me in the house. Tatyana was very selective on who she was going to sell to. She wanted two to go here, and two to go there. She wanted her work to wind up in museums so it would be like a monument of her work. She didn’t really care about selling it to the Joneses so to speak.
LeRoy Neiman Fundraisers
So LeAnn Heath gave me the full tour; told me about a lot of things. She consigned some art work to me to bring home. She’d had a big fundraiser. A whole lot of these drawings that were on really heavy board. Pastels, by the way. LeRoy Neiman, of all people. Avi Abramowitz would have these big soirees. He’d bring LeRoy in and they’d do these fund raisers. And Louise had some LeRoy Neimans. They cost a hundred dollars. I mean, they weren’t expensive. And Leon said, “I could sell these for…” I can’t remember, $600.00 or something. I thought that’s an opportunity, it’s an original. So there was an elegant woman by a big wing back chair and oh, I can’t remember them all. So, I brought those home. And that was my first endeavor. I mean, I learned a lot. I learned new contacts. I got to talk to her. We went out to dinner, drinks, and then the next day I left for Orlando.
Art Show for the Walt Disney Imagineers
And so, I had this report. Well, that really changed my life when you get down to it, because this opened a whole new world for me. And Louise allowed me to do just about anything I wanted. And we had many shows. Her husband died in those eight years. We were having a show for the – it was a Disney group. It was a group of people, they were Imagineers, and they had all gotten together, cartoonists and everyone. And the print shop just around the corner, named Rollins Press, printed up all these fabulous posters. And it was just a wonderful evening. But it was a sad evening, because it literally fell totally on my shoulders because of this tragedy.
Atlanta Regional Art
So anyway, I got it in my mind, I want to go back to Atlanta. And I had other friends who said, “Would you pick up an antique for me? Here, I’ll get you the trailer.” And, I thought well, that’s a pretty big trailer, I could put a lot of things in that. So, I started making friends in Atlanta and bringing home local regional art, professors at Georgia. And this is what we needed, you know. I thought this, the southern mirage, you know, let’s get on with this.
Loch Haven Art Center Volunteer
There’s nothing wrong with the School of France, but I was sort of more keenly interested in America. And this museum, Loch Haven Art Center, which was just a simple little arts center for artists; they threw pots. Every time they had the classes they would get more people to join the museum. And this was on the fringes of Valencia opening up. Valencia didn’t want them to teach the classes. And, I think they had about 780 members, and the science museum had about 2000 members. And this is in the 70’s… Louise made me work here. I had to volunteer and work in the gift shop every week. I really did. And I met all kinds of people.
I was such a lucky person. Gretchen Hobby ran the gift shop and she went to the American Museum Association, and she went to every convention… And she had books for sale on everything we had, or everything we should have had. And that was another time for me to sit there and read all those books. Spending my time at the cash register I think I bought the first Jasper Johns raisonne – it’s a collector’s item- right here at the Orlando Museum, at the Loch Haven Art Center. This encouraged me. I thought this is important. And then one day, I saw Jasper Johns on the front cover of Newsweek magazine. Well, you know, if you don’t know a name, it could be right in front of your face and it might as well be a ghost because you don’t know it…
25 Jasper Johns sold at Orlando Museum of Art Show
Later on, when I had a big show here at the Orlando Museum of Art, I think I had over 25 Jasper Johns I had sold. And they were in the show with my little name on it. And I had the posters in the gift shop, you know, that said, “Jasper Johns”. And the museum directors from those museums showed up, and they were like thrilled that their posters from their museum was down in the gift shop – that was all me. And it was just, that was the thrill!
Winter Park Art Festival Board
I’m still at Galleries International, and I had a really good time there. Lots of parties. I lived on the Avenue. I knew everyone on Park Avenue. For someone who’s 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, I mean, what a time I had! And the Winter Park Art Festival was very, very big at that time; and I was going to be an associate. I was starting on the bottom. Oh, yes, I was on the Winter Park Art Festival thing. They had the little board. and then it goes to the big board. The minute I got married, and I moved to Orlando, they said, “Oh, you can’t belong. You live in Orlando.” That broke my heart.
Art Festival Parties in Winter Park
But there was a photography shop on the corner, and he photographed everyone of the stars at the art festival. And many of our artists that we handled at Galleries International were in the show. That was interesting. Some of them were not allowed in, I don’t know. But it was a heavily vetted show. And it was a very exciting time. We had parties after the art festival at different peoples homes in Winter Park. That was fun. I think Louise Peterson did her best business during the Arts Festival. And she was kind of off the main street. She was on Canton Avenue and the front, Park Avenue. Her address was 401 B Park Avenue North.
What was up front when I was there was an interior decorator shop. It was called Flambeau Interiors, Dorothy Flambeau. Marena Grant lived right around the corner from the Beef and Bottle restaurant, Park Avenue and Canton Avenue. I would see her every morning in her car, you know, when I went to work. But I loved working at Galleries International. I learned about framing. I learned about paper. I learned about conversation. I learned so many things. How you create art. How you sell the art. Who were the movers and the shakers. And then, of course, you’ve got the Old Masters.
Ferdinand Roten Galleries
And this was another thing, the paint boom is happening by then. There were certain companies like, well one from Baltimore, Maryland. Ferdinand Roten would come, and they’d have suitcases and suitcases full of Old Masters. And we’d have them at the gallery. They’d have them at Rollins College. And you got at least a chance for the day, to go to thousands of things. And if you wanted Gregorian chants illustrated pages, Winslow Homer prints – which nobody wanted. But they’re wood engravings. They were done on rag paper for the great populous. But it is, we’re one step closer to Winslow Homer than a million dollar painting, which nobody could understand.
Now, those little prints, “The Sharp Shooter” is a $1,000.00. Who would have guessed? They had restrikes. A restrike is like Cezanne or Picasso and you’ve done these masterful etchings, well the plates got left behind, and many times they would take a stylus and they would strike a mark in it. But, it still was printable. And they printed up extras, and they would sell them for $35.00 to $75.00 on rag paper… And a lot of people used to do Gallery John; and their bathroom is decorated with all these Old Masters etchings. We had a lot of fun with all this.
Peter Max Art Show
Peter Max showed up on the scene, Mr. Guru himself, you know, with his long swami hair, and his long swami robes. And it was a lot like The Beatles, “The Yellow Submarine”. He wrote poetry, and he was a vegan. And Louise got it into her head, why don’t we have a Peter Max show during the Art Festival? And so, we had these paintings up, and we had a big poster. And we had his prints, and they cost a hundred dollars. And we had white carpet up in the gallery, Galleries International. And when that show was over it wasn’t white any more. So many people went upstairs. So much dirt fell off their feet… Tupperware came and bought a painting. That was really good. You always have to try and sell something when you borrow that much to pay for freight to send the rest back. But Tupperware was a big buyer, and who else bought? Another big company, Jack Bowen owned Florida Gas… they were big buyers of art.
When did you actually start your business, Texann Ivy Fine Arts?
Well, after I got adjusted to getting my first pay checks, and getting my first checking account, it’s like I wanted to have changes everywhere…. I started my own in ’77 when I got married. That’s a whole another story for sure. Well, I met a man named Robert Buck, he owned an exhibit house. He did trade shows and he did science and history museums which means he did installations and their collections. He didn’t screw it into the wall, but he helped interpret the collection. How it would be displayed. They would do catalogs. But mostly, it was signage, boxes, plexi and sometimes movable things that talked. You pushed the button and it would reference. And, I think, his first job when I met him he was doing the base of the Statute of Liberty, the museum.
So in 1977, I was going to get married, and, of course, as I told you, at Galleries International, Pete Peterson had died, and Louise felt a little strange and a little strangled. And, oh, that I was going to get married, that suited her pretty fine because she said, “I need your paycheck.” She decided that she needed the money now. And so, I went okay. And Robert wanted to encourage me to open my own gallery. And I went, oh, can I? So I went to New York, I went to the top of the sixes. I went to all his favorite [galleries] that he had, his associates bought from. And, of course, they called Louise Peterson right away. She’s out here buying art. Like I was doing something naughty. But I was still at the gallery, and, of course, I bought a big fancy book from Tatyana Grosman from Universal Art Limited Editions. It was a book by Terry Southern, and it was illustrated by Larry Rivers, and I bought it as a wedding gift for Robert…
Raymond Parker Painting
One day she [Louise Peterson] was out of town and she came back and all of a sudden there was this major painting as big as these double doors. A man had come in while she had gone and wanted me to get it fixed. There was a little tear in it. And it was a Raymond Parker painting, and it was part of the Rothko bunch, I mean, you know, that age, that group. This is a listed artist. And when he came to pick it up… he didn’t want to pay for the repair. And he said, ” Do you want this painting?” And I said, “I would love it!” And he gave it to me… Well now, Louise came back and we owe the restorer the $175.00 to fix the painting… And she said, “Well, who’s going to pay for the hole?” I said, “I don’t know, but this looked to me like a really good thing.” And she kept the painting, that was her pride and joy! It hung in her living room, and she gave it to her grandchildren….
Experience Building Clientele
I also bought a portfolio once while she was out of town and she said, “Who is going to sell all these things?” I said, “I will. I will sell them before you have to pay the bill.” I sold enough to pay the bill, everything else was extra later on. I did that several times. It scared her a little bit, but she encouraged me. And I don’t think I would have gone out on my own if I hadn’t had all these little experiences in helping her build up her clientele. You know, she’d say, “Nobody’s going to come here.” But I kept writing to them over and over. I would write little notes on the invitations. And then people would see people that they knew, and it just became like a place to meet….
Universal Limited Art Editions
I went to Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE), to see all their merchandise and at the last minute, Louise Peterson said she wanted to go. And I got us a place to stay. Jack Bowen had an apartment in New York. He said, “You have to pay for the gas, $75.00.” So I got a place for Louise and I to stay, and we went to see Tatyana Grosman. And they treated us like – they had a buffet out there. They showed us art. We didn’t have a dime to spend. When she got home, she said, “You know, I’ve got to get something.” So she got a little Frankenthaler, $300.00. And I ordered, “The Donkey and the Darling” by Terry Southern. It was $3,000.00, but it was a time payment… It was my first foot in the door….
$5,000. a plate dinner party….
Robert said he would have a sit down dinner for me. He would do all the cooking and invite certain people, Dr. Kirkland and Jim Coates, Jim Freeland, my father. And they all contributed $5,000. Oh, yes, there was a law firm, Young. He was the attorney at Martin Marietta. Because remember my husband was, he previously worked at Martin Marietta. And so they came, and they ate, and contributed. And so my idea was this, when I opened the gallery, I would not sell stock. They owned art. So if good old Texann could not make it, these works of art could all go to auction and be sold and they would get their money back…
The Scene by Calvin Tomkins
But I had a big purse. I went to New York and I bought a lot of art, and it gave me credibility. Because she had credibility. That other people would lend to me and consign to me. She told me that. And she gave me a book, Calvin Tomkins. He was a writer for The New Yorker Magazine. And he had compiled a lot of stories and made it into a book. It was all about the art scene. The Scene that’s what it was called. And Tatyana gave me- you know, he autographed a copy and gave it to me. He said, “Brilliant Future,” and all that. And I said, “I would like to represent your art and, but what about my boss because I brought her here, you know.” And she went, she just shook her head. She chose me.
Tatayana Grosman’s Contribution to the Print World
She was hard to understand because she had a very thick, heavy Russian accent and you really had to pay attention to her lips. Because she talked in an almost whisper. Here’s her picture. Tatyana Grosman, immigrant from Russia. And her husband’s name was Maurice. Her first prints were silk screens. They were copies of famous people’s works that weren’t signed which was a little bit of a ho ho. But she had her rough start, too, you know. But then, she got into original works. But, you know, I have one of those, Max Weber’s, just for fun. I don’t know who would want it. This museum should want it. But I don’t know if they understand the importance of her contribution to the print world.
I started out with ULAE…
Anyway, I started out with ULAE, you couldn’t get any farther up the heap. So I called Leo Castelli on the phone and he gave me art. Yes, he did. He just sent it to me. Swoosh! No questions. I called Abbeville Press, the book publisher, no problem. They had prints and books. No, it was Abrams. Abbeville was his son, that came later. And it opened all the doors for me. And Bill Goldston was the master printer at ULAE. And they had a man who would describe; he was a poet. His name was Tony Towle, and he would describe on the telephone what these works of art looked like when they did them. And then you would buy them blind over the phone.
They wouldn’t do photographs, because the photographs never did it justice. But by the time Bill Goldston got to doing it, they were doing what they called transparencies. And they were large, 8 X 10’s. You got to put it on a light table, and you got the full gesture of the work; and you knew what you were in to. And after you dealt with her long enough, you knew. One of her things was handmade paper. There’s an art to handmade paper. She would travel all over Europe looking for handmade paper. It could be a hundred years old. It could be 50 years old. And, you know about handmade paper, it’s very awkward. I mean, it has little imperfections in it. It’s been exposed to light and dust. And I’d go, “Oh, this is a fox mark.” And she’d go, “No, no, no, no. It’s a beauty mark.”
The Deckle Edge…
A beauty mark. Because I knew about foxing, especially in Florida. But when you make this oatmealie kind of handmade paper which has got deckle edges. It doesn’t have a razor edge. It hasn’t been rolled pressed. It absorbs more light than the average rolled out piece of paper. And in ten years there can be yellowing around the corner, around the edges. And, you know, you would be horrified… I’d go to Chicago to the print fair, and there I would see prints, and there it would be. Because you’d want to show off the edges because it’s handmade paper for Pete’s sake…
400 Year Old Pieces of Art Paper
Wood pulp paper really gets brown and then it snaps and falls apart. Rag paper lasts forever. Forever. So, I learned that. That was really fun. I found some 400 year old pieces of art paper that were in a book, and they were all handmade paper. And the print would be here, and the paper would be here, and it looked like it was all – you know, a framer gets a hold of that and they’ll razor cut it just so it will square up… These pieces of paper, 400 years old, and there are these engravings, Le Moyne and de Bry. Bry did the engravings and Le Moyne did the art. And they were the first cartoons; the first depictions of Florida. And they were done in the 1540s…. They were bound in books. The Florida group was shelved for 30 years before it came out. And then, of course, it went to kings and queens. The deluxe edition was hand colored in gouache… they look like jewels. And for the great unwashed, they got the regular edition. And they had a fractured German; they had a Latin.
I got it into my head to start, you know, Florida art. You know, the first art of Florida wouldn’t be maps. And everyone collects maps, I mean, they’re very expensive. But no one cared for Le Moyne and de Bry. In fact, I would find them in book stalls. And, I’m traveling around, I’m in New York, and I just went to look for Florida Indians, palm trees. That’s the way I described it. I didn’t even have a name. 42 plates in those books. They were all ripped apart. And they were reprinted in the 1600’s back to back, the print was back to back. Then, of course, in the Victorian Era, things were in boxes and the ladies would hand color them to give them something to do… I wanted the Morse Museum, I wanted the Cornell, to do a map of old print, and let’s get it on Florida. I think we would be surprised if we even looked in maps. What is the oldest map of Florida? You know what Florida is because it has a special kind of map.
Oral History Interview with Orange County Art Legend Texann Ivy Buck, Part II of II
What was it like to open your own gallery?
It was downtown Orlando. It was really the Dolive’s property downtown. It was 120 N. Orange. And they had reconfigured the address to 122 upstairs, which you should never ever do, because no one will ever find that. It should have been 120, and then everything upstairs should have been A, B, C. But they didn’t consult me. So I was 122 North Orange which no one could ever find. But it was an old arcade, very historical, in Orlando. It had a travel agency down there, and I think they used to sell homes. Howey in the Hills or something. There was a dental office upstairs. But it was all gutted and fixed up and very nice.
Texann Fine Arts in The French Market
And I got a little space up there, 245 square feet. I mean, it was a shoe box. And it was just, I thought it would suit my purpose of sales of prints because I was going to be a print dealer. Galleries International wanted me to take them on, but I didn’t have enough viewing space. I mean, 245 square feet. But I had a large map drawer. I had a base built on it, and it was a very large map drawer. And all my prints were in there. I had a very small closet for a little bit of storage. I put up a modular kind of wall. And then behind that was a messy office for me. And then, of course, I had a little reception like pretty table right by the front door. And it was all very simple. And then as time went on, I ended up getting the shoe box next to me, so then I had 450 square feet. And then I went into the next L.
Mack Meiner’s Cafe Society in the French Market
I stayed in that French Market until it practically went totally empty… But downstairs was Mack Meiner’s Cafe Society. And it was all mirrored, and it had flowers. He owned 50 percent, and Charlie Meiner, his brother, owned the other 50 percent. He was an attorney in downtown Orlando. That’s one of the oldest families of Orlando. Their father had the famous BBQ, Meiner’s BBQ, and they were characters. And they became my true friends. I enjoyed myself there. You walked in the front door, there was a floral stand. I was upstairs straight in the back. So if you looked up over the veranda you would see my name, Texann Ivy Fine Arts.
Who were your clients?
Well, first of all, I was downtown and it was empty. There was no one there. Remember ’57, ’58? They put in Colonial Plaza. Everybody in downtown Orlando went some place else. So everyone was pretty gloomy about was going to happen to me downtown, but… Sears & Roebuck was right across the street, and J. C. Penney was right next door. And they were on their last legs. Oh, and Gibbs-Louis was across the street…
And I was doing shows and openings. I was spending five or six hundred dollars every time I had an art party. And people attended it. I would call them up and see if they would come… And I tried to make it easy, really put forth a good soiree… I used real glasses … and I had food, and Robert made me the food. He would make all kinds of great hors d’oeuvres… And we had a few attorneys who would come and, just like, eat their dinner… But we put on a good show… But I had a small menu and I didn’t expect too many people to come.
But as time went by, my biggest time was Christmas. I’d have a Christmas Party. And Joe Field, he was an artist at Martin Marietta, and he was what you would call an illustrator; he was a professional artist… he did my little invitations and they were always very cartoon. Now Joe Field married Lou, and Hanson Mulford married the daughter, you know, so there’s a little connection there that’s kind of fun. Hanson Mulford is the curator at Orlando Museum of Art. His parents were artists in the school system. No one has collected these names. “Oh, there’s no culture in Orlando.” It’s like we didn’t exist. The problem is we’ve never had anybody to record what happened, you know.
Orlando Museum of Art 101
I was on the Public Art Advisory Board for the City of Orlando for over eight years. And I helped write that constitution and those bylaws and I had a vision… 101 started out at Orlando Museum. It ceased being a little place to throw pots… 101 which is the fundraising arm of this museum, decided why don’t we get a print collection, and we’ll lease them out to different offices, and then we’ll make rent. And then we can buy more art. That was pretty much the first collection of art. And I was running around trying to buy the best things for them. And, of course, the people, you know they had their favorites, and they would choose someone in Jacksonville or whatever. Anyway, it was something to look forward to once a year, because they would buy art every year, and they were a client. And so, when I opened my own gallery, I wanted to sell the best. Because no one had sold this. Of course, I had other ideas, too….
The Research Studio in Maitland
We had a little place called The Research Studio, you know, the Maitland Arts Center… Well, one of the artists that lived there, it was an art colony, was Ralston Crawford… He was an artist, and he went there to The Research Studio. Well, we don’t have any Ralston Crawford’s anywhere, and they’re pretty pricey. His photography was within reach. But I found this little print that was the overseas highway looking out with the sun and the blue sky with a white line. And this was an iconic picture… it was on LIFE magazine or something…. and I went if we don’t get this.
Now, 101, you know, these are corporate lease pieces, so they count big. This was small. It was the size of a book. You know, it was intimate. It was steal-able. Well, why would they want a steal-able thing? Well, Barbara Sorenson and Francine bent to my jumping up and down… and they got it. And we have one Ralston Crawford in town….
OMA Acquisition Trust
But all these things take time, you know, building collections. None of the museums know what they really want to collect. I mean, the 101 thing, that’s just to raise money and it just develops, right? And as time has gone by, we now have Acquisition Trust. They’re buying paintings. We have the Friends of the Museum buying nineteenth century paintings, and it’s still growing. But, I mean, we didn’t have any body in the print world saying, well, maybe you need to work in this area or that area. We don’t have curators, you know. We have no one in this specialty area to do that. Now I always thought that was going to be me.
You did curate a show, The Works Progress Administration Masters?
All right. When the Jasper Johns from my ULAE group; I mean ULAE published Rauschenberg, Rosenquist, Frankenthaler, Lee Bontecou, Jim Dine. They did art books… anyways it was a specialty group. I got to thinking, now remember I’m buying these things in like ’77 for $3,000., and these are like masterful pieces. They’re large… but when they started to become $25,000. brand new, hot off the press, I felt a little squirrelly about it. And I started getting into prints, and the art of the thirties… And I was inspired by Thomas Craven’s book, Art of the Thirties. And that book has the best of the best. And if I ever saw one, you know, I would certainly know what it looked like. Sometimes you don’t. You see things that look like it, but you don’t recognize the name or whatever. And then you’re happy you have the Library of Congress guide to their art collection….
Curating a Show for the University of Buffalo…
But I noticed there were all these artists from the thirties that had really good resumes. They paid their dues. But they just had no market value. It was like they just didn’t exist… then I got someone to give me money and we stored over 350 prints. And then, I wanted to do a show. Now, I did a few of them. I did one at the University of Buffalo, and they got excited. I said, “Look, you can bring in all the departments. Theater, music..” But that’s what sold them on the idea of the show… And they had essays written by everybody to contribute, and so, that was really good.
Social Realism and Urban Realism Art Show
But we did a little show way before my WPA prints, which were social realism and urban realism. And that means they were landscapes, and like what people do every day in their kitchen, or something, you know. And I got them from collections in Winter Park. And Bob Lemon was the head of the [Rollins] art department and he was all excited, you know, and he wanted to do this. So we bantered about some names. And, of course, I would add my names, and he’d go, “Who’s that?” And I go, “You got to have this.” So we got Thomas Hart Benton, Arnold Blanche, Aaron Bohrod, John Stewart Curry, Doris Lee.
Doris Lee was one of the people at the Maitland Research Studio. And I got someone to get 14 of those. And I’m only mentioning that – now this is the electric – I had a vision for each one of these museums, you got to understand. I mean, the Research Studio had a history. They had a roster, but nobody was buying it, showing it. They had no examples. So all of a sudden Lemon says let’s do a show here. He told his students they’re going to do the bios… It’s all that interaction. And you meet the students, and then the students helped me catalog my WPA… So we did Doris Lee, Luigi Lucioni, Harry Wickey, Grant Wood. And then for the Urban Realists, we did Peggy Bacon, George Bellows, Isabel Bishop, William Brocker, David Landis … I got these prints from people. I got people to buy them so that I could borrow them to do the show. Now if you don’t think that’s hard work…
It worked out better than I thought. The people that owned the art had their friends come, and there was an electricity in the room that was beyond anything. It’s what you want an art show to be about… There was vested interest in that room. It inspired another man, he got so excited that he wanted to have a show… and he started collecting Winslow Homer. All of them. Then when he finished, he gave the whole collection to the Cornell Museum. And Arthur Blumental’s background is Italian Renaissance. And he’s going, well, Winslow Homer, and they’re newspaper and they’re wooden. Well, they were on rag, and they were as close as you can get to a million dollars. But he had them all. And that man was like a newspaper reporter. He was like CBS, and he went around recording everything. Well, he got them all and he told him, “Why don’t you use it as a traveling show?” And do you know, Arthur did that even though he thought it was beneath him. And it made money…
I was looking over some of your letters, correspondence and it seems like you had the opportunity to go to some fun parties like birthday parties with different artists when you traveled.
In 1977 I went to the Whitney Museum for the retrospective of Jasper Johns. That was just like to me one of the high points in my life because he was the high point in anything I sold…
You were honored as being Orlando’s Woman of the Year in Arts from the Woman’s Executive Council.
Oh, yes, that was one of my great things. Well, see by this time, when that happened to me, the French Market, when we parted ways… I moved in to 33 West Central which is in downtown Orlando… And I was over on the west side in the back corner of the old San Juan Hotel which was up when I moved in there… And I never really had any problem, unless I had a party. And I did have one, once, and I think Bill Frederick was running for mayor. Jacob Stuart, his father had the office supply house downtown. And they escorted some off the street whatever out that night. That’s the only time I ever really had a problem.
33 West Central Gallery and the San Juan Hotel
But when I moved in to 33 West Central, I now had a 2,500 square foot gallery. I had double bathrooms. I had a kitchen. And I had a workroom. I mean, it was the old San Juan Pharmacy, this place was enormous. And I stayed there until they tore the building down. And that was something else. They had convinced the city that the San Juan was just a rotten thing, that it was going to fall down. They had a heck of a time getting it down. The timbers were so big, I mean, they couldn’t get it to go down. There was nothing wrong with it. They just had another idea. So, they put a bank up in it’s place…
Sculpture Show of William Ludwig’s Bronze Art
But Lerner’s was right next door. All these stores were empty downtown, you know. So it was kind of scary. And I was robbed once. They smashed my windows. You would not even know, you know the windows were just gone. And I had a big sculpture of Ludwig’s bronze [William Ludwig]. And in the front, there was a full size carved woman like a mast off a ship. She is on her tiptoes with her fingers out and she’s standing on a chariot. I mean, this was big and it was right in the front window. They smashed that window. They didn’t hurt that, but they tried to take some of the Ludwig sculptures which are heavy, I mean, solid bronze. And they cut themselves. And a little trail of blood went all the way over to the Angebilt Hotel. And, I think, they tossed the heads into something else. But they were found, and they apprehended the culprits. But I was there until they ripped that down… and then, of course, I went back to the French Market… And I stayed there at the French Market, like I said, until they practically closed down… They sold it again and I’m not sure who bought it, maybe Morgan and Morgan.
Standing figure in the William Ludwig sculpture Two Citrus Workers located at Leu Gardens in Orlando. The piece was dedicated April, 1992.
90 East Livingston
And I moved myself over to the Harry P. Leu building which is on Livingston… 90 East Livingston. So that’s a famous place, Harry P. Leu he had over two or five acres. He was something. But he was long gone and then someone else owned the building. And they had rented it out and there was a space. It was upstairs; it was awkward. But, I think, when I had this big show for all the architects in Orlando, and each architect was showing off what he did – it would be making highways or whatever. And there were so many people, so many masses of people, I mean, you would have thought – they got scared… They were afraid for their insurance. They wanted me to take out a 25 million dollar policy; you know, because they had no idea that I would do something like that. But I did it, and I had a grand time.
Your career in the arts has covered different areas…
It was contemporary prints, that was my mainstay. And then prior to that was the Southern, and the School of France. And then when they got expensive, I started dipping into Florida art, and who was here in the thirties. And then you would see all this, and then it created a collection that started moving around. It was a little too encompassing for me. It was a little too big. Really I could have made a career just doing that, and forget about everything else…
Texann Ivy Buck Art Appraiser
I also started doing appraising. I started getting interested in that, and I joined the Appraiser’s Association… But my clients were death, divorce, and bankruptcy. And somebody had to put a value on these things. And so, I used to do it. And Congress had passed the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice, which is known as USPAP. So I took that test, and I tried to adhere to that criteria which was just pure common sense. If people would use that sense, we wouldn’t have had that horrible mess up with everybody, and the banks. Because whoever was doing the appraisal on those houses was not following any criteria… But anyway, neither here nor there. I tried to do a good one. I was really proud of that… And, of course, I got to go to New York, you know, every year. It’s a pricey little thing to join. It costs you about a $1,000. a year to kind of participate, and keep up… And, I wanted the Who’s Who In American Art, I started doing it every other year. But these are invaluable books. When I did the art of the thirties, the only person who had the old ones was Rollins College… It’s not all on computer yet…
And then I noticed all this glut of women out there that nobody bought. Hah! What is the deal of the day? So let’s get some women artists. And there are great women artists, but the world was controlled by men. And I don’t know why these things happen. It’s not that there aren’t some women artists through time that you know about: Mary Cassatt… Oh, my gosh, I remember Hugh McKean saying, “I want to get a Mary Cassatt.” I told him what a print costs. It was $150,0oo., and he couldn’t believe it. He was just staggered. A print. You see, so there are some women who have made it to the top, you know. But there’s so many that are just totally forgotten. We have a Woman’s Museum now, it’s in Washington, D.C. So hopefully, that will help. And there are people doing books, so that helps…
Girl with a Pearl Earring
You can get books on these artists. I wasn’t really enamored with Vermeer until I read that book, Girl with a Pearl Earring. And then I just couldn’t get enough of Vermeer. He didn’t do very much in his life, you know. But something has to stimulate that interest. A storybook, you know. Girl with a Pearl Earring, that’s a made up story. But it’s just enough to get me to say, “I want to see more. I want to know more about this man.” Because it makes things come alive…
What would you like to see in the future in Orlando?
I don’t know. I do remember crying a few buckets of tears when I was 21 wishing we could go faster, and do so many things here. But we didn’t have the money, we didn’t have the curators, or the personnel to do it. And it was a whole new world for people… Orlando has grown, it has spread out. I’m a little upset with the Tribune taking over The Sentinel and just making it so weak. To me, it’s just not the paper it should be, so no one really knows what’s going on; everybody is just kind of floundering… This place, we need more collections to pull from to do shows… But you can’t tell people what to do, because they’re going to do what they want to do. And we’ve done shows, China here [OMA], which are packaged shows, you know. Everybody needs money. And they have to do these things that will keep the lights on, but it just makes it longer to wait for us to get where we need to go. But you’ve got to nurture your neighborhood. And you’ve got to see where the collections live in the neighborhood so you can borrow them…
What was it like to be honored as an Art Legend of Orange County?
Well, I should have helped him. He didn’t know who I was. I was thrilled. I was embarrassed. I was very embarrassed. Ralph Bagley, oh my gosh. When I see these things, it really springs forth so much. He started an art school in downtown Orlando. And he taught at Orlando Junior College. And he taught people how to paint….
Selling Art Books
I started selling art books. And then when I sold enough art books, that would get my excitement back, and then I would go back to what I was doing. I did that all the time. Some people would say, “Oh, Texann, why don’t you read the back of the book and then tell me what it says.” I thought, oh, my gosh, really. I said, “You know, you’re known by your library.” You know, who you are…. And I don’t know where this mentality comes from, maybe it’s New York City… I am not the library. I am not the museum director. I’m always telling people what they should do.
I am sure that vision was very helpful when you served as Public Art Advisor on the City of Orlando Public Art Advisory Board…
Well, that was a very interesting job because you had to visualize where a piece of sculpture should be, and how it would look. And even though I tried really hard, now I come into this park, and there’s the Rocket Thrower over there that should have been twice the size. It should have. But we had so many opinions flying in that room. We had people saying they wanted an Alexander Calder, a million dollars. We didn’t have a million dollars. And then we had the local person, oh, boo hoo, why are we going to do this or that? We want a local Joe. It’s a wonder we even got what we got done. And it was a challenge because no one sees anything the same way. Everybody’s coming from a different direction. Would I love a Calder? Of course. But, you know what it would have been, it would have been minuscule… But there’s so many other people out there. I think what she was saying was she wanted a really known piece of sculpture. But there’s a lot of ways around that. I mean, there are plenty of sculptors that would be tickled they have their art on display in this town….
Loch Haven Sculpture Park
We started a little sculpture park in Loch Haven Park. But they have to be maintained, they have to be painted. But there’s a lot of artists that like their works exposed. I don’t know if we have a definitive collection here. But, I mean, it takes analyzing it. Spread it out and say, well do we have a good representation from the 70’s, 80’s, the 90’s? I don’t know. I don’t know if they do that. I used to do it, the graphs. I took them one for their Pre-Columbian. Who was doing what when so and so was doing what… But, I don’t know if their curators here – it’s just a matter of getting the numbers, so that you can get the staff, so you can find someone that runs that department. Someone who really has a fire, and a passion for what you do. Then things cook!
We appreciate the fire and passion that you have brought to our community in the art world through the decades.
You’re very kind.
We know that we’ve only touched the surface, and we didn’t talk about the other areas that you’ve made such contributions to our community.
I talk to much. Thank you so very much, Jane.
Thank you for speaking with us today.
Interview: Texann Ivy Buck
Interviewer: Jane Tracy
Date: June 16, 2020
Place: Orlando Museum of Art, 2416 N Mills Ave, Orlando, FL 32803