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Matthew Marjan for Artspace small

Matthew Specter and Marjan Mashhadi’s quiet New Haven home is filled with art, thoughtfully hung and in harmonious conversation with each other and the furniture around them. The art contributes to the environment, which is ultimately one of the couple’s goals in collecting.

For Specter, a professor of European history at Central Connecticut State University and an amateur photographer, acquiring art is about enjoyment and pleasure; art positively shapes his environment.

“We enjoy buying art to live with it and take pleasure in it,” he said. He hesitates to refer to himself as a collector for this reason. While his mother is a private art dealer who collects contemporary women artists, he and Mashhadi do not buy based on specific genre or theme.

Though he differs from his mother in his style of collecting, Specter notes her background in art as the inspiration for his own interest in collecting. “I grew up with a lot of art in my home and got used to the idea that there could be new things coming to the home and that there was pleasure in that…renewal of the home,” Specter said.

Gonzalez Palma image

Mashhadi, an attorney and current student in the Executive MBA program at the Yale School of Management, is drawn to the craftsmanship in the works that they acquire. “I’m drawn to things where the artistry is apparent. I like being able to see the talent that was necessary—the craft,” she noted. She points out works on paper by Jasper Johns and Saul Steinberg as examples.

On a wall opposite a trio of windows hangs a large resin print on silver leaf that subtly catches the morning light. Luis González-Palma’s El reves de la entrega / The opposite of giving exemplifies the characteristics that Specter and Mashhadi seek when they look for art. The artist’s hand and process are legible, and the piece is in a magical realist style that seems to unveil new meanings with each viewing. It is in perfect conversation with and helps shape its environment; Specter and Mashhadi have cleverly hung the piece adjacent to their full bookcases, creating a playful parallel between the overflowing shelves in the print itself and the shelves that exist in reality. For Specter and Mashhadi,“it was love at first sight…it was a leap of faith”—something they could see themselves “not only wanting…but wanting to look at for years.”

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