Colour, humour adds to the whimsy in these works of art

Colour, humour adds to the whimsy in these works of art

This copy is for your personal non-commercial use only. To order presentation-ready copies of Toronto Star content for distribution to colleagues, clients or customers, or inquire about permissions/licensing, please go to: www.TorontoStarReprints.com ST. CHARLES, Mo.—When people walk into her home, Marianne McGee wants them to take it all in and smile. Or laugh. “But not too much,” she says with a laugh of her own. From the outside, Marianne and Ken McGee’s house looks just like all the others in their newer St. Charles subdivision. Except the door: It’s painted a bright teal with a gold dachshund sculpture mounted on it. That’s a hint at what’s to come. Bright aqua walls in the great room ahead signal the treasure trove inside. In the dining room to the left, there’s a seven-foot-tall Mona Lisa wearing sunglasses, painted in vibrant colours; the painting hides a secret china cabinet. Sculptures abound, including, in the entryway, a four-foot bronze goddess. To the right in the entry, a painting of J. Edgar Hoover in women’s lingerie, with a 3-D ruffle concealing his private parts. The couple, both retired from the Army Aviation Troop Command, started with a piece in their living room: a flapper-looking blonde with one breast exposed. Sometimes when company comes over, “We put a Post-it note over it,” Marianne says. That painting (along with the Mona Lisa in the dining room) is by St. Louis artist Theresa Disney. The McGees bought it in 1986 after finding Disney’s art on birdhouses for sale. Marianne, 66, fell in love with Disney’s style. “I thought, this person paints like I think … I mean, I like Monet, but I think if he put frogs on those lily pads it would be so much better.” The McGees, married for 35 years, have always had dachshunds and currently share their home with Elke, Maude and CoCo Chanel. They began a relationship with Disney and have bought a number of her works over the years. When their jobs forced them to transfer to Huntsville, Ala., in 1997, they took most of their collection with them. But two of the biggest pieces — the Mona Lisa cabinet and Disney’s take on “From Here to Eternity,” an eight-foot-long painting — were delivered personally by the artist. The couple returned to the St. Louis area when they retired in 2007, building a home in St. Charles because it provided easy access to their aging parents. Collecting pop and whimsical art is Marianne’s hobby in retirement, says Ken, 67. “Suddenly our house is a work of art.” It’s on every wall and in every nook and cranny. From the flying pig sculpture tucked away in their bedroom to the Keith Haring cut-outs on the wall leading to the lower level, there’s art everywhere. Some of the McGees’ favourite artists include Picasso, Warhol and Haring. But they also believe in supporting local artists, including Disney. Several pieces by Charles Houska, who has a studio in the Central West End, fit right in with the couple’s colourful home. The whimsical sculptures of Laura Lloyd, whose work is at the Foundry in St. Charles, fill shelves. And a sculpture of a dachshund by Wentzville artist Steve Jones climbs the walls of the living room. “I love art so much that I thought I’d try it, so I took a few classes,” she says. “Then I decided I’d stick to buying art.”
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