Rescued Art

Let's Be FriendsThe print was in a crooked, unkempt room out the back of the store. The room had no theme and was not merchandized; it was the cutout section, the bargain garage in a generic thrift in Ohio. Shouldn’t there should be a lighthearted joke here: a cutout section of a store that is already the cutout section of our commercial culture, located in a cutout sort of state!

Thrift stores are usually musty dusty places. The art is usually flocked with mold and the frames are scuffed. The staff members at thrift stores are often much the same: musty and scuffed at the edges. The woman at the cash register at this thrift was too round to be hired at Penney’s. I am sure she was just as good at the digital point of sale device, but without the straightened teeth and the schooling that tells her not to say “you folks” to the customers.

The print was pencil signed and numbered, but with the art paper falling, showing its underwear inside the matting beveled edge. It was of a Diane Graebner painting, titled “Let’s Be Friends.” One of her famous scenes of Amish children from her Ohio countryside, she respects the wishes of Amish traditionalists by never depicting the facial features of her subjects. It is not humble in the eyes of god to have one’s face painted for all to see.

Her Amish are always children. She is known for saying: “I try to see the environment through the eyes of a child.” Her paintings are innocent, even naïve as if they couldn’t stand up to the roughness of the world, like the world of these thrift stores. But, naiveté might be one successful way to cope and stay fresh in the backrooms of dusty thrift shops, especially on the floor, upside down, under a shelf tussled with stuffed toys with missing limbs.

Yes, with both the scuffed Diane Graebner print and the thrift store staff workers, we need to look through . . . just a bit to see their beauty. The print is fallen out of kilter. Yet, with a quick disassembly, a little glass cleaner, a few touches with a cloth darkened with wood stain and hand rubbed finish, this print will be rescued beautiful and appreciated again. Add a little attention and it would take no more for the woman at the cash register to be appreciated as well.