By Amy Bertrand
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Collecting pop and whimsical started off as a hobby for Marianne McGee but soon her entire house became a work of art.
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 7-foot-tall Mona Lisa wearing sunglasses, painted in vibrant colors; the painting hides a secret china cabinet.
Sculptures abound, including, in the entryway, a 4-foot bronze goddess from Decor on Olive Boulevard. 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.
Everywhere you look, bright, fun art.
The McGees’ art collection started with a piece in the 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 at Union Station.
Marianne 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 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 8-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, Ken says. “Suddenly our house is a work of art.”
Indeed it is. 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 cutouts on the wall leading to the lower level, there’s art everywhere.
Some of the McGees’ favorite 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 colorful 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.
Marianne even has a few of her own paintings around the house.
“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.”
ABOUT THE HOMEOWNERS
Ken and Marianne McGee
Home-St. Charles, Mo.
Ages-He’s 66; she’s 67.
Occupations-Both are retired from the Army Aviation Troop Command
Family-Married 35 years, they have had a number of dachshunds over that time. Currently, they share their home with Elke, Maude and CoCo Chanel.