Merele Williams, a lawyer by training, was sick of dating doctors and lawyers. She set her sights on meeting an artist, and at a party in 1991, she did. Chatting with the sculptor and musician Terry Adkins, Ms. Williams gave him a thorough grilling on his bona fides. Mr. Adkins, in turn, scoffed at her preferences in art. That night he proposed, and nine months later they were married.
They lived, with their two children, in a Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, brownstone surrounded by Mr. Adkins’s work and filled with collections of African art, musical instruments and pieces by his peers. Long admired within New York circles of African-American artists and curators like Thelma Golden and Kellie Jones, Mr. Adkins had been gaining broader recognition — including being chosen for the 2014 Whitney Biennial and the 2015 Venice Biennale — when he died from cardiomyopathy in 2014 at the age of 60.
Today, Ms. Williams-Adkins is committed to preserving her husband’s legacy and last year brought his estate to the Lévy Gorvy gallery. A survey of his sculpture — often refined hybrids of found objects that were used as props in his musical performances — is on view through Feb. 17 in “Terry Adkins: The Smooth, The Cut, and The Assembled.”
The show was curated by Charles Gaines, one of several artists close to Mr. Adkins. They traded works and Mr. Gaines is represented in the Adkins’s home, along with many others. A print by Glenn Ligon based on Afro-centric coloring books leans on a credenza near a vivid blue abstract print by Mr. Adkins, who liked the way both Yves Klein and George Washington Carver used the color. Woodcuts by David Driskell, a scholar of African-American art who taught Mr. Adkins at Fisk University, hang in the dining room near prints of women’s heads by Lorna Simpson (whose daughter modeled for a painting in the living room by Turiya Adkins, following in her father’s footsteps by studying art at Dartmouth).
The following are edited excerpts from a conversation with Ms. Williams-Adkins.
How did you and your husband put this collection together?