June 4, 2024 at 1:52 p.m.

Art addiction came about honestly

Back in the Saddle

Editor’s note: This column is being reprinted from June 3, 2009. Jack was an art lover, as this column, his house and our office prove. This column seemed appropriate as Jack’s wife Connie and sister Louise have spent the last couple of weeks sorting through The Graphic Printing Company’s art as we’ve been restructuring our office space.

If this is a character flaw, I come by it honestly. My father had a problem with charity auctions as well.

The latest proof of my own problem came over the weekend in Muncie.

Connie and I had gone to a wine tasting event at Ball State that was a fundraiser for Indiana Public Radio. The samples of wine were modest, but the munchies were delicious, enough to take the place of dinner.

And there was, of course, an auction. Part of it was silent, with people writing down bids. And part of it was live, with the usual shouting.

Everybody likes a good auction, and they’re even more fun when they are for a good cause. We’re regulars at the annual Arts Place holiday auction, which is the granddaddy of them all locally.

But as my wife will tell you, I sometimes get carried away.

I’ve been known, for instance, to try to run up the bid, only to buy something I had no intention of buying. (Mel Smitley will tell you I’ve acquired more than one hog at the 4-H Livestock Sale the same way.)

And sometimes when the bidding gets stalled, I give it a goose. Other times, when a donor has provided an item that’s selling for a fraction of its value, I lose my normal faculties and plunge in.

On Saturday night, several of those factors came into play simultaneously.

As we tasted the wine and appetizers, we looked over the items offered for sale. There was, we noted, a painting by David Slonim of Anderson.

David’s an extremely talented landscape painter, and he’s also found national success as an illustrator and author of children’s books. We bought one of his illustrations several years ago as a gift for a niece, and we also bought her an autographed copy of one of his books.

He’s also a really nice guy, so it didn’t surprise us to see that he’d donated a painting to the IPR auction. It wasn’t an Indiana landscape. It was a children’s book illustration of Pecos Bill riding a tornado. Lots of fun, particularly for a kid’s room.

But with our walls already full and no kids at home, we weren’t in the market.

Or so I thought.

About an hour later, the live auction started. Like all auctions, particularly one in the middle of a wine tasting, it took awhile to get off the ground. The first item drew few bids, and the second item up was the Slonim painting of Pecos Bill.

We were at the back of the room, barely paying attention.

The painting was valued at $700. Slonim landscapes that size will top $1,000 easily.

The auctioneer looked for $500. No takers. $400? No takers. $300?

Finally there was a bid for $100, and I assumed the action would take off.

But it stalled.

It was as if everyone’s attention was elsewhere.

I looked at my wife, and we did that ESP thing, and my arm went up at $125.

At that point, I figured I was just running up the bid, trying to get some excitement generated. I was trying to figure out how high I could go without actually buying the painting.

But I had bought it. There were no more bids. And suddenly I was taking home a $700 painting for $125.

Inevitably, I thought of my father.

Back in the mid-1970s, he and my mother had gone to a charity auction to benefit the Hoosier Salon. Artists from all over the state had donated paintings. But the weather was miserable, and turnout for the auction was dominated by bargain-hunters rather than those supporting the Hoosier Salon.

I’m not sure how many pictures he bought that day while trying to run up the bids. All I know is that on Monday he called the newspaper offices to inform us that we now had a corporate art collection and that he needed to have a check written to the Hoosier Salon.

So, if it’s a character flaw, I’m in good company.

As to Pecos Bill, well, we have a nephew in Arizona who might be getting a birthday present for his bedroom.




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