As far as vices go, Rep. John Mica’s might seem a little tame.
“I don’t gamble, I don’t chase women, I don’t drink — well, every once in a while — but no vices,” he said. “My vice is probably art. I just enjoy it. Some people go to sports events. I like to go to museums.”
But his self-described vice has taken him far beyond simply visiting museums, and the Florida Republican’s space in the Rayburn House Office Building stands as a testament to his love of art.
An original work by American artist and sculptor Alexander Calder hangs across from 16th-century drawings done by Italian old masters such as Guido Reni, Luca Cambiasi and Annibale Carracci. Famous prints of Plains Indians by George Catlin line a wall next to shelves stuffed with antique globes, swords and delicate blue and white china.
And that’s just at work. At home, Mica keeps pieces by Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Marc Chagall.
Mica credits his love of art to his uncle, Joe Mica, a commercial artist who took him to museums and exhibitions when he was young. It wasn’t until college that Mica — then a “poor but poverty-stricken student” — bought his first piece of art. With just $10 down and several monthly payments, he could call a Georges Rouault woodblock print his own.
For a colorblind art lover like himself, Mica noted that the starkly outlined print was an ideal starter piece for his collection. Since then, his interest has evolved away from the contemporary and avant-garde, although he still enjoys some of the more experimental pieces that he collected early on.
“Your tastes change,” he said. “I first got into more contemporary artists and started a collection, and then I moved away from that and these things ended up in a hallway of my house in Winter Park. Even when I was home, I rarely got to see them, so I brought some of this art up here to have in the office.”
In his office, a few works from his early phase — such as his original Calder — hang beside pieces reflecting his current passions, which include the Italian old master drawings and Lafayette Staffordshire, blue and white china commemorating the general’s visit to the United States in 1824-25.
To build his collection, Mica searches for items online and at auctions or turns to a few art dealers he has in Italy. He also goes to Italy almost every year as a way to indulge in his “love affair” with the country and its art.
That love affair began when Mica, who had to take time off from attending the University of Florida after his father got sick, earned enough money to travel to Europe.
Visitors get their first look at the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which opened to the public on Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. The new memorial is located off Independence Ave. SW between the Rayburn House Office Building and HHS. Buy photo here.