I am plagued by what to do with my father’s art, much of which resides in my basement. Dad was a prolific Sunday painter as well as an art collector. I have inherited artwork from him as well as his own canvases. My home is covered with art, both my father’s and from his collection. My children have taken some of Dad’s paintings, as have my brothers and their children. And now, what to do with the rest?
Dad painted on weekends when I was growing up and, after he retired at age sixty-five, for countless hours over the last twenty-five years of his life. He created hundreds of oil paintings While he initially took lessons from a local artist, most of his later paintings were inspired by his self-study of art. In the beginning, he created landscapes, often based on magazine photos under the guidance of his teacher. Later he progressed to more abstract work, culminating in geometric designs. Some family members preferred the early work while others enjoyed his more modern phase.
When he died, my mother insisted we put all of the excess canvases in storage. She extracted a promise from her children to save everything. My father never wanted to show or sell his work and felt its value was minimal. He gave much of it to his family over the years, but still so much remained. After Mom died, we retrieved Dad’s unclaimed art from the storage shed and tossed a few items that had sustained water damage. The rest live on in my basement and my brothers’ garages.
One of Dad’s granddaughters catalogued photos of the art, both hanging in family members’ homes and stored by his children, so there’s that. But the question of what to do with my stash of paintings plagues me. I can’t bear to throw them out, but eventually I will move and have no place to store them. I guess my children will have the same feelings about all of my writing someday. Like my father’s art, writing is more of a hobby and retirement career, but it’s important to me.
Perhaps my own experience is the key to feeling less guilty about the fate of those paintings in my basement. As an early childhood educator for over thirty years, I spoke countless times to teachers and parents alike about the importance of process over product. The joy derived from creation and experimentation far exceeds the end result of that artistic exploration. How many times have teachers wanted to snatch away a child’s easel painting when it looks great rather than letting her continue to add layers of paint, resulting a brown blob? As a writer, I know the enjoyment of transforming my thoughts into an essay brings most of the joy. Sometimes, folks like what I write. Other times, very few people read it. My book was far from a best seller, but creating it was so important to me at that stage of my life.
Still, I keep wondering if there are people or places that would welcome Dad’s framed oil paintings to add color to their walls. It would feel so much better to give them away than to assign them to the trash heap. I know they brought great pleasure to the life of a man who wished he were something other than an accountant – a man who would have preferred to be a trained artist or art history professor.
If anyone has an idea of how these paintings could bring joy to others, please let me know.