An alumni of 49 years talks about his extensive art collection, his struggles coming out as gay, and Malvern’s progress on gay awareness.
With the breathtaking Mount San Jacinto in the background of his California home, Ray Warman ’66 chatted away about his and his husband’s vast art collection, one that took 40 years and tens of thousands of dollars to amass.
Sitting outside of his front door, for example, is a two ton igneous rock from the volcanoes of Hawaii. And that does not come even close to the spectacles that lay inside his art museum of a home.
Warman, 67, recently moved from New York City to Palm Springs, California in July 2015. A huge chunk of the art he and Dan Kiser, his husband, had had to be sold away through auction.
“We had almost all of this in New York, plus a lot more,” Warman said. “There just isn’t enough space for everything here even though it’s a fairly big house.”
Much of their home is covered in artistic pieces ranging from fine crystals to Afghani rugs to beautiful spanish paintings.
Welcoming visitors into their home is an around 7 foot tall Spanish painting called “el plasen del momento intimo protejido,” meaning “the comfort of the intimately personal and protected moment.”
Coming into the study office, you will find a large picture of Vladimir Lenin on the wall, painted during his reign of power in Soviet Russia.
“It was done for a public building, I believe a post office,” Warman said. “It came off the wall of the post office during the reign of Stalin and went into the hands of a Ukrainian immigrant who came to the United States.”
Much of the couple’s furniture is artistic. They have a handful of chairs dating back to the French Napoleonic Era, and their kitchen table is in a 20th century French style with tempered glass on top, designed by Kiser himself.
Warman and Kiser get much of their art from dealers and directly from the artists. However, Warman was not the primary collector of the art they currently own.
“Dan started collecting art a long time ago, and most of the art we have was collected by Dan,” Warman said. “I married into all this art.”
After graduating from Malvern in 1966, Warman attended Yale University. He worked as a finance lawyer in New York for over 40 years for firms like General Electric and Morgan and Lewis.
“I used to love negotiating deals,” Warman said. “It’s about listening to the other people, figuring out what they need, listening and talking to your own client, figuring out what works for them, and finding a path that marries the two, effectively.”
Kiser used to be an interior designer in New York City, and is now taking on landscaping projects. Warman is retired now, and along with collecting art he loves to read and is writing a memoir of his life.
Kiser and Warman married in October 2013, and it was a culmination of a long journey for Warman.
At Malvern back when it was a boarding school in the 1960s, Warman was far off from any inclination that he was gay.
“My life at Malvern wasn’t that of a ‘closeted gay student,’ but rather that of a thoroughly sheltered and repressed boy,” Warman said. “I was not only clueless as to any gay world at Malvern or elsewhere, but pretty well anesthetized as to my own feelings in that or any other area.”
Warman would not begin to discover that he might be gay until a decade until after he left Malvern, and it was 2 decades after this that he came out.
However, Warman had already had a family with his wife and two kids before he came out, which was a week before his 49th birthday.
“My wife, and likewise, after a natural bit of disorientation, our kids, couldn’t have been more understanding and supportive,” Warman said. “After a few awkward years during which my psychic life and my day-to-day and celibate experiences occupied different worlds, we reshaped our lives in different ways.”
He explained that he had a great support system around him during this process, which made his time easier.
“It ultimately wasn’t really very hard to do,” Warman said. “It occurred only at a time when I was well-prepared socially, spiritually and financially to deal with everything that can make coming-out so hard for so many, especially for those of my generation.”
Since then, Warman led the formation of an LGTBQ group at one of the companies he worked at, General Electric Capital. He later went on to assist various other LGTBQ community groups, including service as a treasurer of the “Leslie-Lohman,” the first art museum focusing on art that speaks to LGBTQ life.
During those years he met Kiser, and he also was involved with raising gay awareness at Malvern.
He got involved with this topic after getting a fundraising letter from Malvern, to which he responded offering his feedback on the progress of gay awareness at Malvern.
In his response, Warman said, “I see that Malvern has grown in lots of wonderful ways physically, but I look at the mission statement and discrimination policies and I don’t really see any growth there. Let’s talk about that and see what we can do.”
Warman said that Head of School Christian Talbot responded to his letter in a half an hour, promptly asking for them to meet up.
Since their discussion, the Malvern Theatre Society performed the Laramie Project in fall 2014 about the torture and murder of 21-year-old Matthew Shepard, who was gay. Warman believed he played a role in getting both Laramie and the follow-up talk from Judy Shepard, Matthew’s mother, to Malvern.
“I was being persistent,” Warman said “I had been persistent years earlier with Father Duffy who was a wonderful man, but he always complained that his hands were tied.”
Now, Warman believes that the tie is becoming looser.
“My very strong impression, and certainly my hope, is that [Malvern] will continue to be a gay-welcoming place,” Warman said. “And by doing so, that it will better serve also its “straight” students to an extent far greater than anyone on campus a half-century ago could have imagined.”
Gallery of some of the artwork in Warman’s home – supplied by Warman