Dave Sutherland plays on an upright bass he rescued in dozens of pieces from a granary.
Guitar collections are tricky things to look at. Every instrument contains a long history and stories that follow winding paths: by whom and for whom they were built, who played them, where and for whom they were played, their states of disrepair when discovered and the passage from ruin to restoration. Finally, into whose hands they have fallen to be displayed and only periodically held in adequate reverence.
Dave Sutherland’s collection has two things that help the viewer navigate this tricky path. The first is Sutherland himself. Years of research into his collection remain top of mind for him. The second is a 1906 Orville Gibson mandolin that is, you might say, the heart of his collection.
There are many signs that you have entered the realm of a collector when you visit the Sutherland home: a vintage motorcycle, an orderly selection of kitsch, and even a pampered modern hot rod stand in the garage. If the stringed instruments are the core of the story, they are nicely prefaced by such things as autographed drumsticks from 1970s rock superstar bands like Nazareth and Sweeney Todd.
This is not to suggest that there is no order here, no binding principle. The instruments and, more precisely, the stories behind them, revolve around relationships. There are relationships between instrument builders and those who played them, between previous collectors and the instruments and, perhaps most importantly, between Sutherland himself and other people whose lives intersected with the pieces.
As for the (mostly) guitars themselves, Sutherland easily sums up his attraction: “I think they’re works of art.” It must also have to do with his passion for playing the guitar with bands made up of local friends.
It takes no time at all to note that Sutherland is no solitary gatherer of obscure objects. He is not a collector who is content to glean knowledge from books alone and purchase his pieces with anonymity and discretion. He is a gregarious person (a significant part of his varied career was in car sales) and it is at least partly this characteristic that makes his collection of otherwise wordless objects firstly possible and secondly fascinating.
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