“We live with art”, says artist Bob Kantor, looking around his beautiful lakeside home in the Wood River Valley. “My wife and I designed this house… around our art collecting.” A successful businessman, Kantor always had a passion for collecting and creating art and is now devoting most of his time to his sculpting career. His giant, beautifully crafted mobiles grace his yard and twist meditatively in the breeze.
“I have been collecting art since the ’60s,” he says. “There have been so many phases to our collection that there is no one style in this house. Antiques and modern pieces are… displayed together.” Kantor’s exquisite Van Gogh, Cezanne and Pica etchings, a collection of antique Persian art (including stunning, stamped silverwork), and Saul Steinberg’s “Chewed Rulers” – school supply collages – are seamlessly displayed with the wonderful works of the Kantor family. A stunning collection of floral photographs taken by Kantor’s father and his son’s extraordinary photographs and photo-collages are scattered throughout the two-story structure.
Among the other notable pieces in the Kantor residence is a signed R.C. Gormon painting of a mother and child, which the artist dedicated to the couple for the birth of their son. No less spectacular is the Kantor home itself-the craftsmanship and creativity are breathtaking. Every detail, including an unpolished steel surface used as a kitchen countertop and a small, indoor garden with enormous tomato plants, is intelligent and fun. “The workers got really inspired,” Kantor says. “They would suggest ideas.”
Most of all, the house has a warm, livable atmosphere, and has achieved a rare, relaxed elegance. “One of the things about this house I find most satisfying is that it is comfortable,” says Kantor. “There is no sense of enormity … its success is in its livability.” The Kantors have designed their home in such a way that the artistic and the artisan complement each other, giving the space an almost magical feel.And in every room, the large picture windows yield beautiful lake views. “It was very difficult to leave wall space,” says Sondra Kantor. “Because the views are so spectacular, that is art by itself.”
Despite the cozy interior, designing the house did not come easy-the Kantors put an enormous amount of thought and effort into every aspect of their home. “There was a depth of involvement in this house,” says Kantor, pointing to a gargantuan slab of rock that serves as a fireplace mantelpiece as well as the display area for Kantor’s collection of Native American baskets. “We found that in a field in Montana… and said, ‘this is my mantle.’” An organic, glass chandelier in the Kantors’ dining room is another testament to this extraordinary effort. The couple saw the piece, which was handcrafted in Murano, in the Campton Place Hotel in San Francisco and asked if it was for sale. Though it was not at the time, the hotel eventually called Kantor before a remodel, saying it had become available. Today the chandelier is set beautifully into the ceiling of the dining room.
Kantor’s library (Packed with art books) is another remarkable space. “This is my design room,” says Kantor. “I live in this room. I adore being here.” A beautifully carved wooden giraffe, a carousel animal from the late 1800s by an artist named Denzel, offsets the modern lines of the room. From the window, one of Kantor’s own sculptures, a 12-foot high, 25,000-pound, red ‘X’ with seven steel tubular pieces that are “designed to sit on” speaks of the story of creation, and is a sensual and sleek departure from Kantor’s mobiles.
Seeing Kantor’s house is not only seeing the environment of an art lover, but that of an artist as well. Kantor’s work serves a common thread throughout the rooms and between the inside and outside of the house. Kantor relishes living with his art, and points out how different his outdoor mobiles and sculptures look when viewed through windows in different parts of the house. He encourages people to touch his work, watch it move, watch the shapes change and the shadows stretch and contract. “There is something soothing about balance,” he says. “It is emotionally comforting to be around… I have an infatuation with motion.”
Balance is something that the Kantor home has achieved on many levels, and his pieces are beautiful crafted (in part, a testament to Kantor’s welder Mary Garrett). Kantor was first inspired to create art at an Alexander Calder exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. “It was a total bombardment of the pleasant side of emotion,” he recalls. “It was funny, free-spirited; there was movement… If you are an enthusiast of life, these objects… create such joy, such freedom, such inspiration.” After seeing the show, Kantor created his first mobile, inspired by the story of Don Quixote’s failed attack on the windmills. Kantor’s attention to detail and instinct for shape and balance are evident even in the earliest work – crafted from wire, brass rods, beads and solder, the work’s elegant movement and simplicity fit Cervantes’ story perfectly. Today Kantor realizes most of his ideas in his garage studio-a place where the artist says he “experiences the relationship between movement and shapes.”
One such experiment, a mobile whose colorful, abstract shapes were inspired by Matisse, sits on a Steinway piano from the late 1800’s. Though a century separates the piano from the mobile, the two exist in harmony, and the clean, classical lines of the sculpture melt beautifully into those of the piano, giving the room an ageless quality and, of course, a sense of balance.
Stacey Vanek Smith is assistant editor at Resort Publishing, Inc.