In a small, nondescript blue house just off Florin Road, African-American art collector Minnie Lexion has a sculpture gallery that in some eyes might rival the Crocker Art Museum’s. Her collection features dolls and paintings from as far as Africa and China. And the collection has taken over: It now spans every major room in her house. She doesn’t have a particular favorite; all of them are special to her. But she did share a few stories.
Tell me about your collection.These sculptures, these are Thomas Blackshear. You ever heard of him?
I haven’t.He makes Ebony Visions. These are his sculptures. He’s a Christian man, and all of his pieces are built around religion. Each one that he does has some religious affects to it. All of them have names: This is “The Quilt"; this is back in the slavery days when mothers sat around and quilted, and grandmothers telling the young kids about that. And this one, it says “Talk to the Hand.” These are collector’s pieces, and when you buy pieces, you try to buy the earlier rendition because they’re worth a lot of money. This is 208 [in the edition]; this is really a good one because it’s really low.
… It’s hard to find them like that, because collectors get right in there and I don’t have the money to go in right away. Once they retire, they’re worth even more.
What’s the one with a woman on a zebra called?This is the “African Queen.” … This one is called The Big Gal, and she’s a big gal and big and sexy. So he’s showing you not everybody is small and trim. This guy back here, he’s looking at these ladies and they are jealous because she’s trying to be sexy; she’s showing him her legs and they are saying, “Oh, no she didn’t!”
What made you want to start this collection?You know, there were a group of us that were ex-military here in Sacramento. My cousin told me about this gal that had a shop on Third Avenue and Franklin Boulevard. I was trying to find a place that carried black art. So I went into her shop—it was right across the street from Gunther’s Ice Cream … and I bought some of these items from her. She said, “You know, I got some more people who come in here and buy things,” and nobody in Sacramento had these shops, so she said, “Let’s get a club started.” And we started this club. This is Sarah’s Attic. That’s how I got started, and once I got introduced to [Blackshear’s], that’s all I buy.
How long have you been with the Ebony Visions club?Ten years. This is called World Trademark, and it’s just an elephant. (Walks into dining room.) I call this my Oriental Room because I got a touch of Oriental stuff all in here. This (pointing to the kitchen) is my Southern Room because I got the cows. All of these I got in an Oriental store, but these pieces are from Africa.
What part of Africa are they from?Zimbabwe. There was so much stuff I could hardly bring home; I had to buy another piece of luggage. (Laughs.) These are my dolls. These are African dolls here. I call this my International Room because I got all my dolls here. This is from China, this is from Okinawa [Japan], this is from France, this is Zimbabwe, too. And I had to get one from America, so this is my American doll. This doll is from Vietnam.
So these dolls and sculptures and paintings are from all over the world, basically?Exactly, right—all over the world, including the United States. Everywhere.
How long have you been building up your collection?1960. Forty years. I don’t have anywhere to put them anymore, so I’m ready to buy a shed and open it up for show. These are little American dolls, so I got them and made clothes for them so they look like babies.