Art Lost & Found

A couple of Saturdays ago, my husband and I were making rounds at a local thrift shop when a piece of art caught my eye. It's so rare to find such a treasure seeing how much of the "art" that has been donated these days are remnants from popularized paint & drink classes that people seem to enjoy these days.

When I saw this piece, I knew it wasn't just an art project abandoned by a graduating senior. It seemed to have a bit of age on it because the paper had signs of "foxing" (those reddish-browns spots you often see on vintage paper items) along the edges, was unframed but it had been at one point because the print was mounted to a piece of board. It is an unnumbered, untitled print simply signed "Louis Abney". I searched the name on my iPhone quickly just to see what came up, but I found nothing with a simple name search.

It didn't really matter to me - I deemed it far too good to be left unappreciated in a thrift store, so it was going home with me. It had no price, so the lady at the counter rang it up at $0.50.

At home with my prize, I shared a photo on instagram, did another more detailed search for Louis Abney and the only thing I could find was his name listed as an Auburn University Art Professor Emeritus 1988 - no biography, no image, no other mention of his artwork and certainly no examples.

Fast-forward to Monday - I work at Auburn University, so I figured someone would know the fellow, I just hadn't had the chance to mention it yet. I shared the image of the print with co-workers over lunch and the artist sounded familiar, but that's about it. Tuesday I overheard a conversation and my ears perked up when I heard the name "Louis Abney". Another coworker was inquiring about Louis Abney because he had past away on May 23rd.

I just so happened to find that print on May 24th - the day after he passed away.

This coincidence, of course, sparked conversation about who he was and who might have known him. I found his obituary online and it mentioned a little about his life - an Alabama-born WWII veteran, he graduated from Auburn University with a BFA and MFA and stayed at Auburn as a professor for 38 years. Another coworker of mine, Al, was a former student of his and talked a little about what he remembered from his class. Al said he often taught "everything is relative" - that when painting you must remember color is relative to it's surroundings.

I can't decide if the subject in the print is holding cards, taking tickets, or holding money. Is he wearing a red arm band influenced by artist's experiences during WWII or perhaps he is simply a card dealer? I wonder how old the print is? Are there others? The color and line work on this print are beautiful and it has left me curious for more examples of his work.

I'm planning on framing the print to protect it and hang it in my office. Sometimes you can't quite put a finger on why you are drawn to certain things - for me, maybe it was the print's technique, the subject's face and stark silver hair, or the color and pattern of the shirt and tie - but, as the artist was known to say "everything is relative".

As a artist, I can only hope that one day someone comes across something I created and appreciate it as much as I appreciate this. It's bittersweet that I find this after his passing, but I hope that this little story inspires other artists to stop and appreciate art (in any form) more often and  think about the artist behind the work. That appreciation is a small but meaningful tribute to a life spent creating splendid things.