At Rescued Art, we say that we save beautiful art from dusty places. Were we to add ‘moldy’ ‘cob-webby’ ‘smoky’ and ‘grimy’, this would add up to a true statement.
And it is not just the thrift stores. It is the life and environment of the places where the art spent its ten or fifty years before being dumped at the back door of the thrift that spawns the dust.
The dust tells us a story about where “Spirit Eagle” lived its life. It graced the wall of an old home in western Michigan. The husband was a smoker, not turn-of-the-century enough for a pipe, but definitely a cigarette or two after supper each night. And the wife cooked in bacon grease, scooped out of a tin can that sat on the stove top. As years passed, the wife could no longer reach high enough to dust the frame of the picture nor spray Windex on a cloth to wipe the glass clean. For the past twenty years “Spirit Eagle” just gathered dimming grime. The husband did try to paint the living room back in the nineties, just to brighten up the space for a family Christmas gathering. Yet, he was too creaky in his back by that time; he couldn’t manage removing the pictures from the wall, so he merely painted around everything. The eggshell off-white paint sprinkled off the roller onto the top of the frame and his sash brush left a streak all along the right hand side. Dust tells us a lot about the art we rescue.
This piece has stood dull in our studio for over a year, not calling out to be refurbished . . . until today. Today, I turned my care to it like to a quiet street kid who eventually creates a tug of feeling as we pass by. Today, I disassembled the piece. I lightly scraped off the husband’s paint and refinished the gold frame. I cut new backing board and added a new sawtooth hanger. And most importantly, I cleaned the glass. It is difficult to believe that, even covered by tightly glued backing paper, an original chalk drawing like this one will gather sticky dust on the inside of the glass. The life of the husband and wife had seeped in over time.
With the glass cleaned inside and out, the colors of the chalk became bright and subtle to the eye. And the landscape revealed itself not as a scene observed by the artist who had taken his easel to the western environs. Rather it is an epitome: the quaking Aspens of Colorado, the spires of Wyoming’s Grand Teton Mountains, and the red sandstone cliffs of Utah all drawn together in a beautiful fantasy rendering.
Then there is the eagle, the reason I rescued the art in the first place from the thrift store and its fluorescent lighting. It is black, almost a shadow soaring low over the waters, probably peering under the surface for the shadow of a lake trout. The eagle seems to be the only life in the picture above the evolutionary level of rock and tree. Yet it is not featured in the center of the frame and it is quite small, made smaller by the grandeur of the mountain lake scene.
Now, with the glass newly transparent, we realized that the artist’s name was not Dan Yearling as we had concluded by holding the piece up to the light and squinting through the dusty glass. Dan Yearling is actually Dave Teuling, perhaps the most famous chalk artist in the US. And his fame is based in his singular talent of drawing double landscapes on one surface. The first is viewed in daylight; it is the scene of quakies, mountains, sandstone, and a small solitary eagle. The second scene is revealed under black light. Take a look! You will be treated to a giant soaring eagle and other spirit delights.