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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Douglas Nielsen exhibits personality through collection

    Art collecting is a very personal experience. Did you have any hesitation about allowing the Tucson Museum of Art to display your pieces?

    Putting a collection on public view most definitely exposes the personality of the collector. But the same is true about my choreography. If you want to know anything about me, just look at the stage. I’ve never been able to separate myself from my work, or my collection. Choices define our lives. The amount of art, and what one calls art, is virtually limitless. Why did I pick this one, over another one? I don’t know the answer to that. The work currently on exhibit at TMA represents choices I have made over the last 40 years. Every piece has a story.  It’s a very intimate thing to live with art. And that intimacy makes it alive. I had no hesitation whatsoever in putting this work on view at the museum. All they had to do was ask.

    What was the first piece you bought for your collection?

    This question always stumps me. I’m not sure I have a clear memory, or definitive answer. I do recognize that my great Aunt Lil, who used to take care of me as a child, was a collector. I would observe her passion for finding things, like an old painting, that instantly became important simply because she liked it. I remember that made sense to me at the time, and I was drawn to her eccentricity — it has no doubt rubbed off. She used to say, “”I don’t find things, they find me””.


    Did you buy it with the end goal of a large collection in mind, or is it something that developed organically over time?  

    If someone had told me that my collection would end up in a museum exhibit some day, I would have laughed. It never entered my mind. It was never my objective to create a collection — it just happened.

    How do you think your love for fine art informs your passion for performance art/dance, and vice versa?  

    Well, it’s all connected. I can’t separate it. Making a dance is like drawing. The only difference is, a dance wastes no time in escaping the present. It’s gone the second after you see it. You have to love it for what you remember about it. And everyone has their own personal memory — probably based on their experience. Like the mandala sand paintings by the Buddhist monks; they destroy it soon after it is made.  I’m in the process of making a dance for the closing ceremonies at TMA on Oct. 10. The dance will be informed by the art on the walls, and the architecture of the space. When the dance is over, it will be gone forever.

    If you blink, you’ll miss it.

    How do you choose pieces for your collection? Is there a cohesive element that runs throughout?  

    The thread that runs through the collection is something I can’t quite decipher. Other people have been commenting on an existing cohesiveness, but I guess I’m too inside of it to see what ties them together. I see relationships, and the presence of the human condition, but, no, I never expected this collection would make sense to anyone but me.  

    Have you met any of the artists personally?

    Yes, I try to make it my duty to meet the artists. Meeting them makes it real, and it shatters any mystique that might surround them. I don’t see artists as celebrities. Unless they are playing a game of flim flam, they are the most down-to-earth people I’ve ever met. I’ve never regretted shaking the hand that made the art I live with.

    Arts education has been fighting to survive in the past few years with budget cuts. What message do you think needs to be conveyed to assert the importance of fine arts in young students’ lives?  

    I’m currently reviewing proposals for a National Education Association panel in Washington D.C. in September. The panel is called “”Learning in the Arts for Children and Youth Dance.”” Reading each summary, from each proposal, has renewed my belief in the importance of art in the lives of young people. I’m so impressed by the organizations that strive to integrate art into education. I know they can’t all be funded, but I wish we could take a little of that money going off to war, and invest it in our children’s ability to imagine. Every child has the ability to make things. I don’t believe it ever gets taught out of us, but, more often than not, it gets buried. Artists remind us of what we already know. We just have to keep being reminded.

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