Rhea Fontaine

This week we spoke with Rhea Fontaine, Partner and Gallery Director of Paulson Fontaine Press in Berkeley, California. Given that Rhea's considerable career has involved so much critical looking at art, and collaborative work with artists to help them execute their visions, we were eager to see what possession she would choose to share with us.

Rhea Fontaine: My 'Permanent Collection' thing is a green turquoise ring.

P.C.: Tell us the story of your ring.

R.F.: It is from my dad's old collection of turquoise and silver rings and I've worn it on the same finger since high school. When I look at it, I feel close to my family and remember my parents' efforts to break free from old, American conventions––always a nod to the Native Americans whose land we inhabit. My dad was a very stylish fella in the 70s and also collected suede and leather jackets that he'd pair with Afrocentric shirts, jeans and dress shoes without socks. I was born in 1976 and Mom and Dad named me Rhea Simone after Nina Simone whose music and style they loved.

P.C.: I love that! It makes me think you must have a few favorite local vintage shops?

R.F.: I love to browse for vintage and antique jewelry at M. Lowe & Co. in Berkeley.

P.C.What are some of your favorite museums and galleries?

R.F.There are too many to name but I will pick three: The Underground Museum in LA, the Studio Museum in Harlem and BAMPFA in Berkeley. Noah Davis is one of my favorite artists and he founded The UM to bring world class exhibitions to Arlington Heights. The inimitable Studio Museum in Harlem has been directed by Dr. Lowery Stokes Sims (2000-2005) and Thelma Golden (2005-present), two brilliant women whom I deeply admire. My sister lives in Harlem and when I visit we love to go there together. I cannot wait for the museum to re-open in the new David Adjaye designed building! My home town of Berkeley was so lucky to have Larry Rinder at the helm of the museum for so long and a beautiful, new Diller Scofido & Renfro designed space awaits a new Director. I’m excited to see what the future holds for the museum.

P.C.What dish is in your forever repertoire––your 'permanent collection' dish?

R.F.Every fall for the past thirteen years I've harvested yellow figs from my old tree and invited friends and family over for my fig stuffed chicken. I fill the bird with onion, kalamata olives and figs and roast it for hours until it's falling apart. I serve it over creamy polenta and the jus is delicious!

P.C.What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

R.F.A graphite drawing from the artist David Huffman as a wedding gift. It is an image of a basketball court set in Yosemite. It's so special because David wove together my family’s history with the sport and our love of time at our cabin near Yosemite––two landscapes that really structured my life.

P.C.Describe a current project you are currently working on, or a current obsession.

R.F.I am currently obsessed with a trip to the American South that Pam Paulson and I are planning. Our traveling exhibition, Personal to Political: Celebrating the African American Artists of Paulson Fontaine Press will open at the Montgomery Museum of Art in May 2020. We'll go and take the opportunity to celebrate May Day in Gee's Bend, Alabama with many of the women quiltmakers we've published. We'll also visit the new Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery that my hero, and my sister's former NYU law professor, Bryan Stevenson spearheaded. We drive from Montgomery through Selma and down to Gee's Bend. This will be my third time going and it is always a very special pilgrimage.

P.C.: What three pieces from Permanent Collection do you have your eye on?

R.F.I live in my Agnes coat and always feel chic in the Barbara wool coat. The egg spoon hangs in my kitchen.