In order to run a business like Rescued Art, I have to love the culture of thrift stores . . . and I do. This one was in Wethersfield, Connecticut. It was the day after Thanksgiving so I take for granted that people were beginning their Christmas shopping. One lady had on a very fancy black leather jacket with expensive hair. She most likely belonged to the dark blue Audi parked in the handicap space. Another lady was big and had worked hard that day, still in her scrubs from the hospital. Her scrubs were dirty, so she probably cleaned up after the patients and doctors. They both were looking at the art, in the back along the wall.
I like to watch the pieces other pickers look at, trying to guess which ones they may like so that my art rescues may be more informed regarding the clientele who visit our website. Oftentimes, I predict very well: large floral prints in metal frames or impressionist prints of any sort. But on this day after Thanksgiving I could not understand what the other art pickers were up to.
As soon as I found the art section on the back wall (I don’t even pause at the front of the store any more), I saw this beautiful print of Indians from the American prairies. I didn’t leap to save it for myself right away, even though I had the hunter-picker urge to do so. No, I just watched the others. “Will they see this print with wonderful colors and aged wood frame?” I was willing to let it go to another picker . . . for the sake of market research.
But the Audi lady didn’t see the Indians for her seeking something small and bright for her sister’s bathroom. And the hospital cleaning lady actually moved them aside to get below to a landscape of the Long Island Sound for her fiancé. It surprised me, yet a few moments watching told me why. These ladies were looking for something sophisticated. They had no eye nor need for naïve views of the world. And naïve art is one of my favorites, especially when there seems to be no trained quality to the work, yet somehow the art is beautiful nonetheless.
In my imagination, this drawing was done by a boy in the fifth grade, probably in art class. The drawing assignment was in conjunction with a history lesson about the Indians of the plains before white civilization came to dominance. The drawing actually contains a few very interesting historical insights: dogs were used as pack animals on the trek to winter camp (never mind that dogs are blue in the mind’s eye of a fifth grader) and men wore their hair in a braided pony tail.
Yet, the striking style of the print was what drew me to them. It is almost without depth, an Egyptian-like profile of daily life activities. The scene is decidedly quiet even though depicted in school-boy stark colors and utterly creative geometric patterns. This print is a rare example of young genius expressed, sadly, simply to fulfill his teacher’s demand for a passing grade.