Rescued Art

Modern Art Prints: A story of double salvation

Submitted by Amy Nettleton, South Pasadena, California

I remember this set of prints hanging in the 1960’s basement of the New Jersey house where I grew up — simple frameless glass-covered rectangles of color and pattern on a dark paneled wall. They dressed up what was essentially a big, open rec-room (in the lingo of the time) and served as background for ping pong games, art projects, and sewing sessions. There was art all over the house, and in retrospect I see these prints as one way that my parents quietly exposed their five children to a life in which art was important.

My parents remember that they purchased the prints in a folio; my father says it was a large, golden envelope, probably ordered through a museum catalogue or another art-oriented mail-order company of the time.

When my parents left that house around 1980, the prints went with them to sit in storage, in their new, smaller, finer house nearby. By then their art collection had long moved beyond museum reproductions. When they moved away from New Jersey altogether in 1990, I was getting set up in my own first home in upstate New York, and I rescued these prints along with some other family items. But it turned out that they weren’t in keeping with the softer, country aesthetic of that house (and perhaps the taste of my husband) to justify valuable wall space. So they joined other art items not well-enough liked for proper display, but with some attachment to past lives and times, and they sat for twenty years in a corner of the dry, cool basement of that house.

Which brings us to summer 2010, when my husband and I finally cleaned out that basement. (We had moved away to California in 2001 and rented the house since then). With a turn-over in tenants and a desire to once-and-for all empty the house of all the things we had left behind and could obviously live without, we spent several days sorting through boxes and poking around in the corners. With some nostalgia we revisited school papers and books, children’s toys and clothing (our son would soon be graduating from college), assorted furniture of varying quality . . . and that pile of art items left behind.

In our eagerness to be free of all these old possessions, we selected a few items to ship to California, offered friends their pick of the lot, sent the useable remnant to the local Salvation Army, and hauled a few pick-up loads the dump. The art prints didn’t make the sentimental cut destined for California, but we thought that perhaps someone would like them enough to put on their walls. They found their Salvation with the thrift store load.

Later that night . . . we suddenly thought: What about Rescued Art? Couldn’t these prints find a new home through Rodney’s clearinghouse? A call to Salvation Army revealed that they were still there in the back room, waiting to be sorted. Yes, we could pick them up. Since we were headed back to California that day, we charged our friend Cathie with retrieving them and shipping them to Rodney.

And that’s how these prints found their way to Rescued Art, rescued twice.

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