The Collector #19

 Lisa Levy / Brenda Zlamany

“Oona”, 2019


My husband, Phil Buehler and I collect a lot of work—our loft is filled with art. One of my all time favorite acquisitions is this magical portrait of Oona painted by her mother, Brenda Zlamany. Zlamany is an artist known for portraiture that combines Old Master technique with a postmodern conceptual approach. Her daughter, Oona is an exceptionally beautiful girl, a natural beauty, which is illuminated by her kind and thoughtful personality as is apparent in Zlamany’s work.

We bought this painting at the Among Friends Benefit, organized by Alexandra Rutsch Brock, Beth Dary and Patricia Fabricant in NYC, a benefit where participating artists get first choice in purchasing work. There was no question that I wanted the painting the minute I laid eyes on it, I just couldn’t believe it hadn’t been snatched up already! Apparently, a bunch of other people who’d been contemplating it as well were disappointed when they found out I had made such a quick deal at the desk. So I pride myself on taking quick action to actually have it in our home.

What I love about this painting is the way it captures Oona’s multi-dimensional beauty. Brenda, a supremely talented portrait painter, is very close with her only child, so it feels as if the magic in Oona is manifest here in a most powerful way. There’s a complex emotional component embedded in it as well, rendered from a relationship that is mother and child.  Looking at it, you can feel Oona thinking. I love Zlamany’s choice of silver for the background. It gives the face a neutral setting, with a mystical, shining, quality all at the same time.

This work also inspires me to think about youthful beauty—the fleeting nature of it, how I feel about old photographs of myself, the way female beauty is processed in society—all of those issues. I don’t know Oona that well, but she strikes me as someone who has so many rich, valuable aspects, accomplishments and ambitions, that in spite of her physical beauty, it is not something she focuses on. I see love not vanity in this work, which reminds me of how my own mother could be generous with me in the same way.

Lisa Levy
July 8, 2020

“Oona,” in situ, with various artworks Left to right by Amy Arbus, Sharilyn Neidhardt, Spencer Tunick, Brenda Zlamany, Lisa Levy. Top row, right wall: David Kramer, Pat Daugherty, Don Porchella. Below Oona: Federico Solmi

“The Collector” is an ongoing series in which I ask people to talk about a painting or a drawing they own. See other installments here.

To send a letter to the editor

To subscribe, see below or the right hand side of the homepage