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except as noted, words + photographs © 2013 by J R Compton
Reviewing Ann Cushing Gantz' Estate Sale
About fifty people had gathered before the opening set for 9 a.m.
I was surprised to receive an invitation to the Highland Park Estate Sale [address deleted] ... 9-5 Friday and Saturday June 7-8, rain or shine, cash or credit cards only. No checks, please." I'd never been invited to an Estate Sale before. I always before just stumbled on them and explored. The invitation was profusely specific:
"Come and experience the creative genius of prominent painter, printmaker and teacher, Ann Cushing Gantz. Immerse yourself in literally hundreds of original paintings executed over the decades in every style imaginable. From impressionistic to modernistic, from surrealistic to realistic, from diptych to triptych, from large to small; her legacy is a body of work that will amaze and delight for generations to come. A rare opportunity to admire a lifetime of work... in one place ... at one time. A not-to-be-missed event. The upstairs studio is filled with art supplies, tools and much more."
"We also have: Mahogany furniture 100's of books and records Elegant attire Heavy duty woodworking equipment: Delta, HEMA, INCA, Killinger Tools and a few fishing poles Dark room equipment: Image processor Radio control helicopter 6' balsa wood airplane frame Electronics Pasquini and Classic Gaggia espresso machine Decorative and collectibles Children's vintage clothing The house, garage and back shed are packed with wonderful items. It's everywhere! Just Let Lynn Do It! 214-616-6542 Doors open promptly at 9:00 am each day, rain or shine. See you there!"
Not sure what I had in mind when I beheld the invitation — maybe the opportunity for an alternative view of recent Dallas Art History, as experienced at an estate sale ten months after the death of another classic and very popular Dallas artist. Dare I review art at an estate sale? Oh, why not?
This estate sale story would be something
I've been hungering for, an experiment into the unknown. Not an art show, exactly,
but a differently exhibited show of art selected by time, circumstance, chance
and its late owner, not some silly curator or abstracted jury.
The Estate Sale Crew — Lynn Reagan is
on the right behind the table — shot from the hip
I was intrigued enough to think about it a few minutes, then almost immediately email Lynn Reagan of Just Let Lynn Do It, who was handling the sale, for permission to photograph the house and contents. I didn't notice the link to photographs of some of the stuff (which were good) until much later when I put fingers to keyboard to begin writing this opus:
The sun was still low, and there weren't enough trees to stand under away from its glare. While I waited for Reagan, whom I'd never met or heard of before her mass (I assume) invitation, I watched the neighborhood slowly come awake enough to absorb the event. People walked or walked their dogs, one man got into his large, expensive sports car and raced down the narrow street, fast past lots of parking spaces. I assumed most of the neighbors knew who had lived here, and probably knew she died at very nearly 78 years of age last August 22nd. I'm sure the sale crew had been there all week organizing and identifying everything left of the noted Dallas artist's household and art collections.
I met Lynn at "about 8" the first morning of the sale, and she let me into the house through the garage, because there were already a dozen guys, lined up waiting at the front door when I arrived. When she'd done with several initial sales tasks, she gave me a quick run-through of the house whose front door was still locked, showing me where everything was with an emphasis on the painter's studio upstairs.
Dallas Morning News obituary for Ann Cushing Gantz
Ann Cushing Gantz Self-Portrait Side
Lot of assumptions in this story. I assume this self-portrait was done comparatively recently, say the last ten or twenty years. I assume that's her hand painting purple on her back, although I have no idea what that is above her and her brush hand.
Compared to many of her paintings from what I assume is that era, this is simple, overt, obvious without a plethora of stringy textures blotting the landscape. Except whatever's going on behind her head and hand, this is an uncomplicated presentation. Another earlier portrait, perhaps another self-portrait on green and in purple is just below.
Early arrivers arranged themselves loosely along the front sidewalk and out into the yard, informally keeping track of where they were in line. They were queued informally with lots of space between them and were obviously comfortable; laughing and talking loudly about other sales and prizes they'd discovered; happy to be at the front of a line that grew to more than fifty people by the time I left, still well before the official 9 o'clock opening.
By then, the street was jammed with cars, and I assume more people came all that day and the next. I'd thought about coming back early on Saturday, but that didn't work out, and I didn't mind. I was glad to have seen this estate sale in its most pristine condition, before the front door was unlocked and the people mobbed in.
I brought my best art camera, with the most easily adjustable White Balance, and there were many varieties of light intensities and colors to deal with, sometimes changing inch by inch throughout the house, bright daylight mixing with variously dark lamps everywhere in there.
The house was packed with tight rows of sale items, narrow walkways around and through them, so everything was always within easy reach, but crowded. I could almost imagine how open the house was before, but now it was all, wall-to-wall crammed tight for sale, and everything was tagged with brief, often hurriedly-written descriptions, item numbers and prices.
If I had been as interested in some of Cushing's
art then, as I am beginning to now, I might have stayed and got in line. Many
of the prices were low. I'll include some of the descriptions and
prices I found on tags in captions down this page, and apologize that it took
me awhile to remember to hang the tag off the corner, photograph the work, then
let the tag hang back down, although sometimes I just like to remind us where
The Front Stairs
I took my time in the house, visiting all the rooms, going up and down the carpeted front stairs, seeing everything at least three times, taking the obvious photos, as I got the lay of the land and learned what was there, and where what I wanted to photograph was. I saw a lot of paintings, a very few of which I thought might have some importance, and others I found interesting for other reasons.
There wasn't a lot of space left over, but I had easy-enough access to almost everything I wanted to see or photograph — even standing some away from their groupings to catch better light — although the light was rarely ideal. I didn't have a plan. I just wandered around, wondering and discovering.
Some of these images are on this page because I liked the art, some because I didn't. Overall, there were more of the latter, and there were truly many styles represented. I'd call it a hodgepodge, and that dismayed me, but I had seen her teaching studio a couple times on the North Dallas Artists Studio Tour, so I was neither shocked nor surprised.
I don't think I saw any pieces tagged with year
dates, which are the historically important factoids I'm usually more interested
in than prices. I suppose Sotheby's would have had dates
for everything and a fancy color catalog, but putting anything in chronological
order was clearly inconsequential in this everything-must-go sale.
Unsigned Cushing Woman in Green #193 $95
I assumed this palette knife paintings was — and I wanted it to be — a much younger self-portrait of the artist, but the tag only referenced a "Woman in Green" so I don't know, and I had little idea what she looked like younger, but her younger self probably had red hair, too.
This small painting at the top of the front stairway seemed to have been done quickly and with ease. The lines and areas are sure, and not much reworking shows, except maybe the the chin, the only troublesome area. The style is direct paint on board, brush-mixed maybe a little here and there. The tonality seemed blocky up close, but back off a bit, and it was almost subtle, certainly more so than most of the paintings in the sale.
I never met Ann Cushing Gantz, although
I visited her teaching studio on two North
Dallas Artists Studio Tours,
where were many works by students.
I liked some of the details in Cushing's own work, but her students seemed
to be way too deep into me-tooing the teacher. I also visited her gallery
on McKinney Avenue twice and was impressed with the work she chose
to show — I
especially remember elegant classic brown clay pots.
Her Easel in Her Studio
I always wish I could have watched artists — whose
studios I visit too late — working on their art. It's difficult to
know what was there when this was her studio, and what got tacked on
for the sale, but I like the paint-splattered easel, pink chair and black stool.
They look comfortable. Lived in. Paint splattered on. The windows behind the
frame display, faces south and was probably open when the weather was kind.
Lower Easel Detail
I wondered how many years this easel served; how
often she used it, and what she did when she wasn't painting or teaching.
Ann Cushing Gantz signed still
life with vase and flowers
One of the less flagrantly florid pieces, I passed
this painting by several times at too close range before I decided to collect
its image. Some of her periods or styles — no dates, so no telling — were
wildly busy with scribbled areas and lines, but this seemed tranquil in its short
spectrum of shadowy spaces. Not a great piece perhaps, but a lovely, lilting
one. A gentle glimpse into somebody's home, a quiet space of some tranquility.
more flagrantly florid paintings stacked
in the living room downstairs
I quickly developed a taste for her more secure work, and I was happy to pass by the great majority that wasn't. Of course, what you see in an estate sale, besides the deceased's sometimes extensive personal collection that no one quite knew what to do with, are all the pieces nobody ever bought, many of which may have been purely experimental and never expected to fetch a price or even be seen, but some still had lessons for their artists.
I had hoped to see enough work to help me piece
together her oeuvre, but I was often disappointed in their quality. It would
take a dedicated bargain-hunter to even sort through all the stacks of work like
this, although I sorted through several stacks till I just couldn't anymore.
Ann Cushing Gantz title and price
By the time of this extravagant painting, whenever
that was, her signature had become less boldly dominant, so it might have
been when she felt less need to proclaim her name, but just as obvious was her
need to fill every square inch with tone, texture and several competing colors.
The flipped price tag in the upper right corner is the only respite I found in
this busy melange I'm guessing was done in the Seventies, when the Sixties
finally made headways into Dallas.
Everything and the Kitchen Sink
It didn't help that the whole house and all its
rooms were stacked solid with everything nobody else wanted. Paintings
like those in her florid, fill-every-inch style are best placed where
a viewer can get some visual relief, but in this crowded, gill-filled interior
landscape, there was only more and more stuff. Even the sink structure was
already crowded with dark once-trendy colors and busy textures, although I don't
even remember looking out that back window toward a perhaps more serene yard.
Beads and Glitter to Add to Paint
Upstairs again, in a storage room not far from
her studio, were neatly-stacked white shelves full of materials for paintings.
Here, recycled jam jars packed with glitter and other
shiny things "to be added to paint," Lynn told me.
Glittery Green Mask with Peacock Feathers
On top of that neat white shelf against this pea
green wall was a $4.50 carnival mask a little worse for wear. I doubt it was
there during her lifetime, but you never know. I can imagine it at a gala party
or as costume for a special portrait that must have sold immediately.
Ann Cushing Gantz unsigned nude back
Because I walked up and down those bright front stairs so often, I tuned into the work hung along the short walls adjacent and just opposite. One series that attracted, then gathered my attention was a series of unclothed women's backs. I've known painters who had trouble depicting faces so they turned people's backs instead, but that was not Cushing's issue.
There's at least real curves in this body with its perhaps distorted, abrupt hour-glass figure, roughly-hewn shoulders, but subtlety hinted wrap and turban with long, thin, barely-there earrings dangling. I only hope I've rendered these subtler pieces with their appropriate tonalities.
They look about right now, but that next one still seems bright.
Ann Cushing Gantz Woman with Braid 163 $148.50
I am reminded of Ellen Soderquist Bergman's very successful series of very large, monochromatic nude backs, which might possibly have been of the same era as these — circa late 1970s - 1980s and since. But Cushing's work here is less certain, not quite finished or realistic in the depiction of the human beings whose hair or hats have caught the painter's attention. More something to put behind whatever that person's feature might be.
Ann Cushing Gantz signed nude
This one, which may be the most finished of what's left of the series, seems more subtle and dimensional a presentation despite ragged lines at her ear and buttocks. But I can't shake the feeling I've seen this nude in this pose and maybe even that hat before, perhaps in somebody else long-ago's painting.1
Cushing's clearly-delineated signature here looks almost like a tattoo, counterbalancing the ruffled whites and shadow of the whatever is bunched on the model's left elbow, and the matching hat. And we almost get a glimmer of her face above.
Here, the shoulders are almost perfect.
Ann Cushing Gantz Woman with Orange
Scarf "After The Ball" 168 $148.50
This one, which I thought of as the last of the series, and a kind of afterthought at that, goes a little overboard with clothing details with the back of a necklace, too much hair detail, the busy, gilded scarf, purple edged dress and bold signature against the three-tone, gray, white, black background. As if she'd noticed a friend's back after a party, clicked a snapshot and worked from that instead of a model.
The bright gold frame competes glaringly rather than completes this too-busy humanscape, allthough hair and skin are rendered more realistically, in spite of the artist's ongoing issues with separating shoulders from backgrounds. I like what I think of as the earlier work better for their comparative serenity.
Ann Cushion Gantz
I didn't read the tag, but at least it's
not on the front of this more subtly-signed painting, manifesting a grace with
interior spaces. The bright banners with their busier toned and
textured lower portions lend plenty of color to the extended expanse
with tall, new and old paintings of women in a grande salon of extended balustrades
and extended stages.
Two Fat Cherubs in the Sitting Room Downstairs
I'm not sure this, or the
next shot either, belongs in this story. But they show us another side of the
painter and her worlds.
And Two Skinny Ones Upstairs
I probably shouldn't even mention that these little
cuties' clothes are dangerously close to falling off, and there's another red-haired
doll parked on the top shelf.
This was about all the elegant attire I was willing
to explore. I was more than happy to return to the art, as if some of it
fit right in with changing fashions.
Ann Cushing Gantz Woman in Hat amid
I can't read the tag. It scribbles the price and
something about purple. Not sure who bestrew the blue-red extending the headstone-shaped
painting of a hat with a person, who reminds me too much of Audrey Hepburn,
attached. I wonder if, for that price, you had to take all the purple, too.
Ann Cushing Gantz Unsigned Cushing
Daffodils 205 $127
I struggled taking this photo. I wanted it true to the floral unreality before me, but the confluence of living room colors conspired against me. Of Cushing's florid paintings in the house, this was perhaps the best, most likable, and there's almost actual purpose in the remnant floridity between the stems. Despite my misgivings about the curdling milk textures, I liked this thing and wondered in whose house it would end up and for how long.
Maybe thirty inches wide or forty (another statistic
I miss knowing), this seemed an outstanding example of the sort of painting Cushing
might otherwise have been overly tempted to fling way more colors and shapes
onto, but she was somehow constrained. I didn't like it so much that I'd want
to wait around and fight all those other art connoisseurs to buy
it, but I appreciated it for its mild restraint and wild color.
Ann Cushing Gantz
Now here's a wildly Romantic notion. A short,
single bed bestrewn with florid drapery on a beach, itself bestrewn with colors,
textures and shapes, all in front of a landscape of lilting sunrise/sunset.
Maybe I should have just stopped with Wildly Romantic.
Ann Cushing Gantz unsigned large
format Abstract 210 $127.50
Ascribed to her, and she may well have done it,
and it's not terrible a painting, although it's not abstract —
nor do I know which of her too-many other styles this was a marked escape from.
Nice mix of colors familiar from her other oeuvres and an oddly simple cast of
container characters, dancing chopsticks and no signature, so she was as unsure
about it being hers as I am.
Paints and ...
Back upstairs, we find shoebox shapes full of
paint tubes and brushes, and I again wondered how she would have left them
out while she was taking a break from painting. Was she neat or maybe a little
sloppy, changing like her styles all through her life, never settling long enough
to truly master one? Or set in her wandering ways since childhood?
Her Ironing Board
Somebody else in the family collected and flew
large, quarter drone-sized powered model airplanes, two examples
of which occupied major space in an extended closet downstairs, back near the
garage. I've always been a fan of Fokker D.VIIs, but the reason this photograph
is here is that I liked the sky that grew down to became a lowly ironing board
that still reminded of a cloudy blue sky, and might that dark shape be one of
her early signatures writ giant?
Unsigned Cushing Head Portrait 203 $62.50
We'll end this surmise with another red-haired woman portrayed in purples and greens. Both colors in vertical smears like trees behind her and in front, her red hair blends watercolor-like into the horizontally smeared sky. This person is not happy but not quite angry yet, either. If it's not her, exactly, it could be an alter ego.
1 = First, I looked at All Degas Paintings, which was fun but not useful. Then, the name Ingres came to mind, and there it was, The Valpinçon Bather, which she may have copied honestly, assuming everyone would know that famous painting.
Contents of this site are Copyright 2013 or before by publisher
J R Compton.
All art shown on these pages are copyrighted by the originating artists. Unless otherwise noted, all photographs are copyrighted by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without specific written permission.
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