Rescued Art

Pleasant EveningThe lady who ran the sale said: “We found bullets all over the floors: nine millimeter, 12 gage, 30 aught six.”

The old farm house was from an era since gone in Zilwaukee. The farms are all schools and houses and churches now. But this old house remained, not really true to itself in that it was dilapidated and moldy. But it remained there.

This place was neglected as was the old man who lived there. I think he neglected himself. His overalls were certainly as dirty as the curtains. The house didn’t smell of animals, just a person who long ago forgot about staying up to the minute, up to a bath in that cracked old tub.

And everything from the years was still there. Layer upon layer; picking through them was like an archeological dig, the lower down the older. Microwave oven, dish network, and frozen pudding on the top. Down under was an old pedestal TV from the 40’s, magazines from the same era, and kitchen chairs from before they even knew how to synthesize vinyl.

The neglect of the place was not new. There was an old bible, covered in brocade cloth and closed with a key lock that hadn’t seen a key since the old guy was in grade school. The neglect was neglected, it had lasted so long. The old guy had forgotten even how to tell dirt from clean fabric. His hands and the Bible cover had become the same, neither making the other pure nor making the other sullied.

Neglect extended throughout. There was no shining art print, no original oil that the old guy kept separate from his dirty hands. In the corner of the living room, on the floor were a pile of unframed prints. And they weren’t piled there just for the sale; they had been there on the floor for a long time. The prints were all stained, including the Walt Kuhn print with the title “A Pleasant Evening”. The matting was separate from the print, but I knew it fit because the water stain matched up nicely when I tried them together. And, in another pile, under the slagged glass window (even the glass had time to show itself as a slow moving liquid in this old house) was the frame and dirty glass. I had to discover that they all went together and I had to put back together what the old guy had let slide. He let it all slide.

The Kuhn print is wonderful; beautiful colors in a modernist style. Kuhn is famous for his paintings of circus performers and stars of the stage. This print shows his love of fun, laughing and women in dresses with bosoms aglow. The characters are three: smoking and drinking and laughing together. They are adults, but young. I think the old guy in this neglected farm house used to go out on the town in Zilwaukee after a day in the fields. After a day of soil and grease, he probably took a bath in that old tub and put on his best suit. By the time this Kuhn print had fallen to the floor, where it would remain until I found it and put its pieces back together, he had forgotten about nights out in the clean world of fun and bosoms. But I rescued these nights for a new owner to enjoy.