Rescued Art

Cabin on the LakeChar Adcock spent a lifetime in the schools. Her mother, Ruth, was a wonderful painter, and Char used Ruth’s original art as teaching tools in her classroom.

Ruth’s original paintings are unschooled, odd in that her daughter used them as teaching tools. By unschooled, I mean naïve, uncomplicated and very direct. Her works have a real strong presence. On the wall, they feel like the landscape in the frame is actually alive in the room. This experience of presence is what often comes through in unschooled painting. The technique is sometimes less than mature, but the learning of technique often dims the artist’s ability to let presence shine.

Char’s house was a common one on the west side of Bay City, Michigan. Two story clapboard very well maintained and painted every 10 years.The layout was regular with quite small rooms, common in working class homes where not much money had to house several people. Char must have been weak and sick for a while near the end, because the original living room had been made into a sleeping space so Char wouldn’t have to manage the stairs every night.

I went to the estate sale on the first day, entered slowly into Char’s sleeping room, and was dazzled by one ofher mother’s works immediately. But, the unschooled quality hid it from most pickers’ eyes. Also, even though the watercolor “Cabin on the Lake” was directly in our line of sight, it hung just above a table of jewelry, a favorite of professional pickers who sell at antique stores. Nobody was looking at the absorbing yellows of the watercolor because it was hanging in the shadow of what we call bling these days. The watercolor was wonderfully subtle, no bling. Char must have worn the bling or it wouldn’t be here at the sale after her passing, but her mother’s landscape watercolor was not trying to scream or shine.

With the pickers not looking up at “Cabin on the Lake”, I knew I could return on the discount day and find it still on Char’s converted living room wall. And it was.

On the second day of the estate sale, when I arrived early and got in at the opening bell, I went immediately to the jewelry-table staff lady and asked her if I could look at the picture that had been hanging directly over her head for the past two days. She said: “Sure . . . I didn’t even notice it there.” She had been blinded by the bling. Sometimes, an art rescuer has to look into the shadows, see beauty and bring it back into the light for others to enjoy.