Rescued Art

After Don QuixoteI came back a second time to one of our most dependable thrift stores. The black and white print of a painting of Don Quixote on his horse with a spear and that odd hat that he made by turning a bowl upside down; it had stuck with me over night. I often look at a piece of art, am tickled by it, then walk away. It will be gone from my mind and body in an hour normally, but will stick inside me if it is calling out to be rescued. This sticking-inside is a unique feature of art, and also of Valerie with her beautiful face. Art clings to us; it is not just about liking or thinking it a good color to go with our décor.

I got down on my hands and knees to look for the black and white among the hurly crookedy pile of pictures where I thought I had left it the day before. (I wish the staff knew how scratched and nicked the art gets when they pile it on top of one another like this. Every scratch and nick I will need to buff out, or perhaps refinish the entire frame, if we rescue the piece.) But then my stomach wrenched. A young woman was picking out the black and white and carrying it toward the cash register. The art had clung to me and now it was being ripped away by another.

The print was by Pablo Picasso. He painted several black and whites with the date 5.7.59. The date serves as his signature. They have been given the title “After Don Quixote”. This one is quite unique in that it is printed onto canvas, a surface normally used only in original painting. The astounding skill of expressing such a solitary and touching quiet loneliness of the Quixote character with only a few rough strokes of black paint!

I felt the picture was mine . . . so I walked at a distance behind the young woman. “Please don’t buy my print” I thought to her. She was with two girlfriends. I sensed they may be decorating their rooms at the university. They stopped together about thirty feet from the cash register. She leaned the black and white against a shelf as they all three began to look at another print on the wall above. It was a brightly colored garden watercolor in the impressionist style. It was in a silver metal frame. The whole feel was light and springtime easy, not at all like my solitary Don Quixote black and white. My stomach leaped: “Take that one. Please leave my print.”

I was lingering too closely to my print, I know, but they did not notice nor were they bothered by me. But being close, I heard her girlfriend say: “The frame is exactly the same size. The silver metal will show off your drawing better.” I was laughing and revolting at the same time. They were buying my black and white for the frame! It had clung to me all night and they couldn’t care less for the art. What would Picasso say about his beautiful work being unseen for its frame, forgotten in a dusty thrift store in America? In the end, she liked the silver frame better and took it to decorate their dorm room. My black and white was left leaning all alone against the shelves. I rescued it immediately.