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Monthly Archives: October 2015

Some previous works from my collection:

For Halloween

Collage #1

Collage #2

Collage #2


Abstract #1


Abstract #2

Abstract #3

Abstract #3

The joke being, of course, that most of these works of art were found in the wild–on the street–not in a gallery.  I collected them with a camera–mostly.  There is one in the group above that is a “real” painting, signed and dated by the artist.

The paintings in the previous post from October 16 were all “collected” from downtown Portland.  The paintings above are from Korea (2004), New York (2009), Fairbanks (2000), and Spokane (2014).

While I am a photographer, my first art purchase was of a painting.  Of course, there is a story.  My wife Rachel and I were traveling in Europe, intending to do a bicycle tour of Denmark and Norway–a five week vacation.  We landed in Homburg, Germany (I think the plane tickets were cheaper there), and took a train to Aarhus, Denmark, our bikes in the baggage car.  My bike made it, but Rachel’s did not.  We waited in Aarhus for the better part of a week, waiting for the bike to show up.  To make matters worse, the bike was my wedding gift to Rachel–so there was sentimental value in addition to the monetary value.  While we waited, we walked through Aarhus, looking at stores.  We found a “good used painting shop”–something we had never seen in the US–something sort of like a cross between a gallery, an antique shop, and a thrift store.  Most of the paintings were drab and dreary landscapes of Denmark–the owner seemed to have a fondness for them.  But one painting caught our eye–a painting of Greenland–and the light in that landscape resonated with our recollection of the light over the water in Kotzebue, Alaska.  The painting was priced well beyond what we thought we could afford–but we went back to look at it several times.

Greenland, 1953, G. Thorbjorn

Greenland, 1953?, E. Thorbjorn

When the bike failed to be delivered after a week, the railroad offered to pay us for the lost bike.  We protested the pittance they offered at first, but when the offer rose to something close to the price we paid, we accepted–an amount which was sufficient to purchase the painting.  We took our cash from the railroad station to the used painting store and watched as the proprietor removed the canvas from the stretcher and rolled it in a tube.  We now had our first painting–and a new wedding gift.  The twist to the story–within hours of completing the purchase, we got a call from the railroad station–the bike had arrived–so we went and bought the bike back–but kept the painting.

The proprietor gave us a small slip of paper with information about the painter–in Danish, of course.  A few years later, we had a friend translate the slip of paper–my recollection was that the painter was a man who made a living painting houses.  Of course, now we have the internet–I just did a search of G. Thorbjorn–and discovered that I either have a bad memory, or had a bad translator–the painter is Evelyn Thorbjorn–1911-1985–and a woman.  I managed to find some auction records–the prices paid clearly indicate a lack of interest in her work among the hedge fund set–all the records I found were less than the price we paid for the painting more than 20 years ago.  In other words, not a great investment, at least not from a financial perspective.  But we’ve owned the painting for 22 years–and I’ve looked at it almost every day–it’s been hanging in our living space all that time.  It still brings back the memories of the light and space of the arctic.

Which perhaps leads to what I think the function of art is, at least in my life.  It permits my head to go to places I want to be.   I like having it because I can look at it often.  It makes the bare walls of my house into a space that is mine.

Wild Painting--Graffiti under highway bridge, 2014

Wild Painting–Graffiti under highway bridge, 2014

And I love the act of collecting “wild paintings” off the street using a camera.  I am certain that some of the paintings I have found this way were created intentionally, by artists working with surfaces other than canvas in a studio, put on public display until some “beautification project” destroys them.  My one regret is that I have no knowledge of who created the work, or why, or where to go find more of their creations.    Other “wild paintings” have been created more by accident and aging than intention, like the layering of posters on a wall, or paint splashes on the side of garbage dumpsters.   Either way, I feel like my role, as a photographer, is closer to that of a collector than a creator.  I see something I admire–something I would stop to look at if it were hanging in a gallery–so I frame it in the viewfinder, and take it home.  It is now mine, but only in the way of owning a painting.  It is part of my collection.


Yesterday, I traveled to a big city (by my standards, anyway–good bookstore, good galleries, good food)–spent time looking at books, looking at art, and eating…

This morning, I acquired several paintings.

Untitled Painting #1, 10/17/15

Untitled Painting #1, 10/17/15

Untitled Painting #2, 10/17/15

Untitled Painting #2, 10/17/15

Untitled Painting #3, 10/17/15

Untitled Painting #3, 10/17/15

So, as a collector, did I make any mistakes?  Someone once said that the way to not make any mistakes as a collector is to look at a million paintings and you will never make a mistake.  I may be a few  paintings short of that mark, so maybe I missed.  But I think these three are worth at least every dollar I paid.  Maybe more.