March 6, 2019

The Palette is available to all interested with an e-Subscription

In this issue:

Collector's Eye: an interview with Cheech Marin
Why some Georgia O’Keeffe paintings have ‘art acne’
Spot the difference: newly acquired Cranach painting joins earlier work at London’s National Gallery
Contrary to Popular Belief, “Wheatfield with Crows” Was Not Vincent van Gogh’s Last Painting
Faking Hitler: the story behind a sinister market
Art world scrambles to ship art before Brexit deadline
From the eyes of babes: art of asylum
Attic to auction: a timeline of the 'Lost Caravaggio'
Meet Pigcasso - The Pig Saved From a Slaughterhouse Became a World Famous Painter


Collector's Eye: an interview with Cheech Marin
The actor and comedian tells us what he's bought and why he loves it

By 2021, California will have a new institution dedicated to Chicano art, thanks to the efforts of the Riverside Art Museum and the actor and comedian Cheech Marin, whose 700-work collection will soon be housed in the new venue. “The Cheech”, as the art centre is already affectionately called, will be one of the largest public displays of Chicano art in the country. “It’s not a crowded field, you know?” the actor joked in an interview with The Art Newspaper. “There are other big collectors. Maybe some of them have more pieces, but over the years, I’ve realised that a collection is defined by its quality. That takes a long time to put together.”

Marin began acquiring work in the 1980s, but his interest stretches back to his most formative years, when he would look at art books in the local library. An academic education in Western art followed and Marin has created work himself as an apprentice to the Canadian ceramicist Ed Drahanchuk—“my Mexican artistic genes came busting out,” he says of his last semester in college, when he took his first pottery class. His collection then is the result of a life-long dedication to art. “When I discovered the Chicano painters, I thought: ‘These guys are really good. I know every painter in the world, how come they’re not getting any shelf space?’ So, that became my collecting process, to make sure they got shelf space.”

The Art Newspaper: What is the first work you purchased?

Cheech Marin: I believe there were three I bought at the same time. There was a piece by George Yepes, a piece by Carlos Almaraz, and one by Frank Romero. I bought them through Robert Burman, who was the dealer of note in the Chicano world.

What is your most recent purchase?

I just bought a beautiful Chaz Bojorquez piece. It’s graffiti elements of three different panels on Zolatone—a spray paint that comes out speckled—and then he puts figures on top of that.

What’s your preferred way of buying art: galleries, artist’s studios or art fairs?

All of the above. I always encourage painters to work with galleries because that’s how they get a public face. A good gallery owner would put them in the right collection and the right museums and distribute it. Because when art becomes a commodity, it’s like the stock market.

Speaking of commodity, what's the most valuable piece in your collection—or the work that means the most to you?

There’s a group of watercoloured etchings by Alvarez—my favourite little precious pieces. They’re very rare and they’re incredibly delicate and moving, and erotic and exotic at the same time. I think he’s one of the world’s great painters. I just watched his documentary, which I participated in—it’s a wonderful, unflinching look into his life and the way he paints, he’s like the John Coltrane of paint. He has such mastery over his technique that is at once very controlled and very free.

Is there work you regret not buying when you had the chance?

So many. But I’m not really the kind of art collector that can say: “Hey, send over two tons of that art shit.”

What is the most surprising place you’ve displayed work?

In the guest bathroom of my house. That’s where the Almaraz pieces are. I put them there because it is the one room that everybody goes into. I was talking to a novice collector and she said: “God, you put that art in the bathroom? I would never do that.” I said: “What do you do? Shit on the walls? Come on, babe, get with it.”

Which artist, dead or alive, would you invite to your dream dinner party?

My friend, [the painter] John Valadez, he’s a wonderful guy to talk to. So intelligent and knowledgeable in many different areas—and soulful. And [the muralist] Margaret Garcia, just so that she could start a bunch of arguments.

What’s the best collecting advice you’ve been given?

If you have the money and you see a piece that you are thrilled about, get it right then. Don’t sit around the whole show, wait a couple weeks, because it will be gone. That will be one of your biggest regrets. But it also depends on developing your eye; that is the most important thing in collecting. The Art Newspaper


Why some Georgia O’Keeffe paintings have ‘art acne’
A new imaging technique could help art curators track destructive bumps over time

Like pubescent children, the oil paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe have been breaking out with “acne” as they age, and now scientists know why.

Tiny blisters, which can cause paint to crack and flake off like dry skin, were first spotted forming on the artist’s paintings years ago. O’Keeffe, a key figure in the development of American modern art, herself had noticed these knobs, which at first were dismissed as sand grains kicked up from the artist’s New Mexico desert home and lodged in the oil paint.

Now researchers have identified the true culprit: metal soaps that result from chemical reactions in the paint. The team has also developed a 3-D image capturing computer program, described February 17 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to help art conservators detect and track these growing “ailments” using only a cell phone or tablet.

O’Keeffe’s works aren’t the first to develop such blisters. Metal soaps, which look a bit like white, microscopic insect eggs, form beneath the surfaces of around 70 percent of all oil paintings, including works by Rembrandt, Francisco de Goya and Vincent van Gogh. “It’s not an unusual phenomenon,” says Marc Walton, a materials scientist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

Scientists in the late 1990s determined that these soaps form when oil paint’s negatively charged fats, which hold the paint’s colored pigments together, react with positively charged metal ions, such as zinc and lead, in the paint. This reaction creates liquid crystals that slowly aggregate beneath a painting’s surface, causing paint layers on the surface to gradually bulge, tear and eventually flake off.

How these crystals combine is unclear. “I wish we had an answer about why that’s occurring,” Walton says, “but it’s still an open research question.”

Medical scan
A new computer program can take closeup images of paintings, such as Georgia O’Keeffe’s 1941 painting “Pedernal” (left), and then strip away coloration (right) that can conceal damaging, tell-tale blisters. The program then analyzes the size, distribution and density of the bumps, which can be tracked over time.

For Walton and his colleagues, though, the questions of greater interest are about what factors may lead to crystal formation in the first place, such as relative humidity, light levels or temperature. “To be able to answer those questions, we have to look at it from a macroscopic point of view, and we’ve chosen imaging as a way to get there,” Walton says.

Walton’s colleague at Northwestern, computer scientist Oliver Cossairt, designed a computer program that shines particular patterns of light from a cell phone or tablet’s screen onto a small section of a painting, and then collects the reflected light in the device’s camera.

The program then removes color information, which can camouflage small distortions in the painting’s surface. Using machine learning, the software then distinguishes the knobby structures from other textures such as brushstrokes, and creates a sort of medical report by determining the location, size and density of the blisters.

It’s a bit like Star Trek’s “tricorder,” which could diagnose a human illness simply from a scan, Cossairt says.

The team is currently using this imaging technology to observe test paintings exposed to one of several environmental factors, watching how light, humidity and temperature may affect blisters’ sizes and rates of development.

“You see paintings with this kind of knobby, bubbly surface, and you don’t know if that has happened in five years, 50 years or more,” says art conservation scientist Kenneth Sutherland of the Art Institute of Chicago, who was not part of the research. The new imaging technique “starts to give you a way of monitoring how quickly [the bubbles] are forming and, more specifically, answer questions about what factors are influencing it and how we can control or minimize it.”

Although the technique doesn’t solve the dilemma of soap formation, it provides information that can help in protecting iconic works of art. If new bubbles are forming, for example, an art conservator could perhaps change the environmental conditions where paintings are stored. “Maybe this [process] is just an intrinsic vice, and the real solution is to find the right environment to store the them,” Walton says. Science News


Spot the difference: newly acquired Cranach painting joins earlier work at London’s National Gallery
Moral painting of Venus and Cupid by the German Renaissance master shows the young god of desire being attacked by bees

Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Venus and Cupid (1529) has gone on public display at the National Gallery in London after it was recently acquired by the museum. The German Renaissance master made several works during the 1520s and 1530s with Venus and Cupid as the subject matter. The new work will join the National Gallery’s Cupid complaining to Venus (around 1525) and be displayed in the same room so that visitors can compare and contrast the two works—or play spot the difference.

Both paintings show cupid with a honeycomb in hand, being stung by bees while his mother Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, gazes out at the viewer. By contrast, the new acquisition, painted later, depicts cupid with red wings rather than white, matching Venus’s hat, and a transparent veil is draped over her naked body; the work also omits the ass and the stag in the background.

The plaque on the tree in the painting explains that cupid was stung by a bee after stealing the honeycomb—a moral tale showing that fleeting pleasure can result in enduring pain—while Venus’s headdress has an inscription in German that reads: “‘all is vanity”.

“This exquisite small painting shows off Cranach’s characteristic combination of moral purpose with painterly delight in the representation of the female nude set in an idyllic landscape,” says Susan Foister, the National Gallery’s curator of Early Netherlandish, German, and British paintings, in a statement. Cranach was “one of the most impressive and prolific painters of the Renaissance in Germany,” adds the museums director Gabriele Finaldi.

Cranach was active at the time of the Protestant Reformation and was friends with Martin Luther, who he painted on several occasions. The German city of Wittenberg, where Cranach lived for much of his life, was the centre of the reformation. Cranach embraced the new movement and his works reflect the rise of Classical mythology as a subject matter as demand for explicitly religious paintings declined. Cranach had previously worked in Vienna and travelled to the Low Countries before settling in Wittenberg for the rest of his life where he worked for three successive electors, or rulers, of the state of Saxony. He ran a large workshop in which his two sons, Hans and Lucas the Younger, also worked.

The new painting was donated to the National Gallery by the Drue Heinz Charitable Trust, after the death of the philanthropist Drue Heinz last year at the age of 103. Her fortune came from the Heinz family—whose food company is famed for its ketchup and baked beans—who had purchased the work in 1964. The Art Newspaper


Contrary to Popular Belief, “Wheatfield with Crows” Was Not Vincent van Gogh’s Last Painting
John Berger was wrong! But we have the answers.

The ominous imagery of Vincent van Gogh’s “Wheatfield with Crows” (1890) practically paints the image of the Dutch artist’s final days on earth. Blackbirds haunt the darkening sky above the dust-ridden farmland — a literal murder of crows who portentously circle above the famed painter’s one-eared head. “This is the last picture that Van Gogh painted before he killed himself,” writes John Berger in the opening pages of his magnum opus, Ways of Seeing.

Except it wasn’t.

Scholars at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam are correcting the historical record by degrees of subtlety, writing wall texts for the institution that indicate a different attribution. According to their research, a more obscure painting named “Tree Roots” (1890) is the likeliest final painting made by the artist.

“Already at the beginning of the 20th century, it was thought that ‘Wheatfield with Crows’ was one of Van Gogh’s last paintings,” explained Teio Meedendorp, a researcher at the museum, over email. “Even when it became quite clear from [the artist’s] letters that the painting originated July 10, 1890 (c. 2.5 weeks before his death), the ‘myth’ persisted in popular culture.”

Before his death in late-July 1890 at age 37, Van Gogh created more than 900 works. A fastidious draftsman, he rarely left a painting unfinished. And as art historians Bert Maes and Louis van Tilborgh argue in a 2012 essay about “Tree Roots,” this fact indicates that an incomplete work was likely the artist’s last. There are only two unfinished paintings from Van Gogh’s final days in Auvers, France: the aforementioned landscape and “Farms near Auvers.”

Researchers at the Van Gogh Museum have also been able to limit the scope of their inquiry by trusting the words of Andries Bonger, the brother of Theo van Gogh’s wife, who in 1891 submitted “Farms near Auvers” to the Salon des Indépendants as “Village, last sketch.” However, he described a different painting to a newspaper only two years later. “The morning before his death, [Van Gogh] had painted an underwood full of sun and life,” Bonger wrote.

The above description perfectly suits “Tree Roots,” which is an almost incomprehensible image of tangled foliage and branches flooded by a golden sunlight. Given the strange, arabesque twists of Van Gogh’s roots, it’s almost impossible to distinguish them as vegetation. Rather, the viewer might mistake them for whole trees themselves, or posts underneath some unseen structure. In reality, Van Gogh’s painting looks so strange because it illustrates the root system hanging in midair, as if it came from the sideways stump of a felled tree.

Some prevailing beliefs about the advance of Van Gogh’s style corroborate the notion that “Tree Roots” is the final painting. One says that the Dutch artist’s paintings became more abstract as he became more mentally unstable, edging toward suicide. Surely, this composition is far more abstract than both “Wheatfield” and “Farms.” The ambiguity of this composition stunned researchers, who have sometimes argued that the roots are vines and that the backgrounds is less parts sunshine than it is sandy soil. (For the record, Maes and Van Tilborgh claim that the Auvers soil was more chalky than it was sandy.) There is clear improvisation in “Tree Roots,” demonstrating Van Gogh’s ability to experiment with perspective and three-dimensional space.

A bolder, wilder interpretation of impressionism, Van Gogh’s use of color and geometric form here is somewhat reminiscent of the aesthetic deployed by friends, including Paul Gauguin and Émile Bernard. Researchers assume that the yellow hues apparent in “Tree Roots” would have been much stronger when originally painted, but because Van Gogh likely used an unstable pigment called geranium lake, the colors have faded over time.

Even though the debate continues vis-a-vis “Tree Roots” and “Auvers” for the title of Van Gogh’s final painting, evidence is clear about tossing “Wheatfield” out the proverbial window. Why, then, does its myth persist in popular culture?

Meedendorp points to Irving Stone’s bestselling novel about the artist from the 1930s, which depicts Van Gogh committing suicide a day after having painted “Wheatfield.” This impression got a boost from Vincente Minelli’s famous 1956 adaptation of the novel, called Lust for Life. The misconception has propelled into the social conscious from there. After all, there was artist Julian Schnabel’s 2018 film about the artist, At Eternity’s Gate, which plays with the image of the wheatfield. In 2002, there was even an adaptation of Van Gogh’s life story set within the modern day music industry (because, why not). The movie’s name? Wheatfield with Crows. Hyperallergic


Faking Hitler: the story behind a sinister market
Despite the failure of five of the dictator-to-be’s watercolours to sell at auction last month, a market for his works—both real and forged—remains

Family-owned Auktionshaus Weidler perches on a cobbled street that winds uphill to Albrecht Dürer’s home and the medieval castle of Nuremberg. In the basement auction room, crammed with a haphazard assortment of chandeliers, paintings, furniture, clocks and silver, Kathrin Weidler called out bids in rapid fire on a Saturday in February.

The lots on offer were mostly humdrum furnishings cleared from the homes of the dead: lamps, carpets and oil paintings in varying conditions, unwanted by the heirs. Some sold for as little as €20 apiece.

It was almost a routine auction. But two days earlier, on 7 February, law enforcers had seized 63 paintings and drawings attributed to Adolf Hitler from Auktionshaus Weidler on suspicion they were forgeries. Twenty-six of those works had been destined for the Saturday auction.

Five further works were still on offer in Weidler’s Adolf Hitler Special Auction, led by Village by a Mountain Lake, a watercolour signed A. Hitler. With a low estimate of €45,000, it was by far the most expensive item in the three-day sale. A handful of journalists watched as the few customers kept their paddles low. The silence continued as four more watercolours, all signed A. Hitler, failed to sell.

A telephone bidder—a German man, according to the auction house—paid €5,500 for a Meissen vase that was allegedly seized from Hitler’s private rooms in the Reich Chancellery in 1945. But a table cloth and a wicker chair featuring swastikas—given by Hitler to his vet Karl Reimann, according to the catalogue—went unsold.

Major auction houses shun this dark corner of the art market. “The circle of buyers is a very special one that Ketterer Kunst doesn’t serve,” says Robert Ketterer, the owner of one of Germany’s biggest auction houses.

But Auktionshaus Weidler is not alone in developing this niche. Mullocks Auctioneers, based in Church Stretton in Shropshire in the UK, has previously sold dozens of such watercolours and oil paintings; in 2017, for instance, a watercolour village street scene sold for ₤3,800. A butterfly painting attributed to Hitler, with a guide price of between ₤8,000 and ₤10,000, failed to sell at auction on 23 February, according to Ben Jones, who manages customer relations at Mullocks.

“We have never had a complaint about the items we have sold,” Jones says. “All the information we receive from the vendor is passed on to the purchaser.”

In 2014, Auktionshaus Weidler sold a Hitler watercolour for €130,000 to a private buyer from the Middle East, seemingly encouraging other consignors to approach the auction house—the 31 works in February’s auction (including the 26 seized by police) came from 20 different sources. Of the five that were finally offered for sale, three came from the same Austrian consignor, according to Kathrin Weidler’s sister Kerstin, also an auctioneer.

Kerstin Weidler says bidders for works attributed to Hitler are “not right-wing extremists” but “people who want to own a piece of world history or make a financial investment”. But however unsavoury profiting from Hitler’s art may be, it is legal, even in Germany, where Nazi symbols such as swastikas are prohibited. Knowingly selling forged art is, by contrast, of course illegal. The seizure at Auktionshaus Weidler was the second in Germany in a month: on 24 January, Berlin police seized three watercolours from Auktionshaus Kloss on suspicion that they were forged. The auction house insisted that the paintings, signed A. Hitler, were produced by the dictator-to-be in 1910 and 1911.

Forging Hitler’s art is a time-honoured tradition. After his second rejection from the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts in 1908, Hitler eked out a marginal existence painting watercolours, mainly postcard-sized city views of Vienna. His agent Reinhold Hanisch sold them, and the income was good enough to allow Hitler to move out of a homeless shelter and into a new boarding house with Hanisch. The art historian Birgit Schwarz describes Hanisch as “a shady figure and notorious liar” in her book Geniewahn: Hitler und die Kunst (The Craze for Genius: Hitler and Art).

By the time Hitler seized power, the market was flooded with forgeries of his work, Schwarz says. Among the fraudsters was Hanisch, who “oversaw a veritable forgery centre in Vienna,” she says. He was arrested in November 1936 and died of a heart attack while in custody in 1937.

Hitler tried to clamp down on the market in forgeries by ordering the Nazi Party’s central archive in Munich to track down and buy both the genuine and forged works. He planned to authenticate the real ones to be entered into a catalogue raisonné, while the fakes would be destroyed. “But often he didn’t know whether they were genuine or not himself,” Schwarz says. “He had no distinctive artistic style. You can go into any number of antique shops in Vienna today and find paintings by other artists from the same era which look very similar in style.” Hitler banned publication of his art in 1937. Since then, there has been no scholarly attempt to fully catalogue it, Schwarz says: “It would be impossible to go about this seriously.”

In Nuremberg, Kerstin Weidler showed journalists a copy of Billy Price’s 1983 discredited “catalogue raisonné” of Hitler’s works. Titled Adolf Hitler: The Unknown Artist, it includes the five the auction house offered. Price was a collector who owned a large number of works attributed to Hitler. His book is dedicated to August Priesack, whose signature is on the “certificate of authenticity” that Weidler provided for Village by a Mountain Lake. But Priesack cannot be considered reliable—he was the first historian to authenticate the infamous “Hitler diaries”, unveiled as forgeries in 1983.

Schwarz describes Price’s book as “catastrophic”—more than 30 years ago, the historian Hermann Weiss identified several of the works included as fakes by Konrad Kujau, who was imprisoned as the forger of the Hitler diaries. Both Schwarz and Stephan Klingen, an art historian at the Central Institute for Art History in Munich, have been consulted by the police in recent weeks.

“No one has really conducted any serious comprehensive research into Hitler’s art,” says Klingen. “The amateurish work that has been done so far is by those who are making money from the market. It’s good the police are getting involved. Perhaps that way the market will dry up.”

But it may be difficult for prosecutors to press charges. Antje Gabriels-Gorsolke, a spokeswoman for the Nuremberg-Fürth prosecutor’s office, says it is not enough to prove the works are forgeries; police must find evidence against individuals who knowingly introduced forgeries into the market.

Given the vintage of some fake Hitlers, it is quite possible that the original scam merchants are all long dead. The Art Newspaper


Art world scrambles to ship art before Brexit deadline
Pavilion commissioners among those to allow extra transport time for Venice Biennale as “huge ramifications” dawn

British institutions and galleries are rushing to ship works to and from the European Union (EU) before the Brexit deadline of 29 March as uncertainty mounts over the free movement of goods in the event of a no-deal scenario.

The British Council is sending all works for Cathy Wilkes’s Venice Biennale exhibition in Italy “well ahead of the 29 March deadline to avoid any possible disruption”, says a spokeswoman. Wilkes, who is based in Glasgow, Scotland, has been selected to fill the British Pavilion this year.

The organisers of the biennial’s Irish pavilion are also transporting works from Eva Rothschild’s London studio early to avoid any delays at British ports. “We don’t know what’s going to happen after 29 March but it’s not worth the risk of things getting held up at customs. The ramifications are huge,” says Mary Cremin, the commissioner and curator of the pavilion and director of the Void Gallery in Derry, Northern Ireland.

The pavilion is using Italian shippers who are “concerned about where the work is coming from and whether it’s within EU circulation”, Cremin says. She notes that the early deadline has created “a lot of pressure” for Rothschild, who has had less than a year to conceive and fabricate new sculptures for the exhibition.

Confusion over the so-called Irish backstop could create further problems. After Venice, Rothschild’s work is due to be toured throughout Ireland, starting at the Visual Centre for Contemporary Art in Carlow and ending at Void Gallery. The Republic of Ireland will remain part of the EU after Brexit; Northern Ireland will not. “That may impact whether the works come to Derry or not,” Cremin says. “It all depends if it’s a hard or soft border and what the implications are customs-wise.”

The prospect of hefty EU import taxes is already disrupting exhibition programmes in the UK. Tornabuoni Arte in London is closing its show of paintings by Alberto Burri and Lucio Fontana two weeks early and transporting the works back to Italy to avoid a potential multimillion-pound reimport bill. Italy’s import rate stands at 10%.

“We are covering our backs because no decision has been made yet, but we are looking at an enormous amount of money to reimport incredibly expensive works. It’s crippling,” says a gallery spokesman.

Others are looking even further ahead to avert trouble. The London dealer Kate MacGarry is showing works by the French artist Bernard Piffaretti at Frieze London in October and is importing the pieces from Paris before 29 March. “I’m stocking up in a way. I don’t want it to be a panic, so I’m getting organised,” she says.

Museums are also facing uncertainty over export licensing regulation and border disruption. According to a statement released by the Museums Association (MA) last month, “the combination of transport disruption and lack of clarity on regulation will lead some museums to decide not to lend and borrow to/from European partners”.

Loss of public funding, staffing and security and conservation risks to works being held at the border for prolonged periods are among other key anxieties. “We are concerned about the prospect of further museum closures, reduced opening hours, staff reductions and a reduced public offer,” the MA says. “No deal would heighten the concerns of our EU staff and will make it more difficult for museums in the UK to retain EU staff with specific areas of expertise.”

Shipping companies, meanwhile, are advising clients to make sure records and bank VAT deferment facilities are up to date. The London-based art logistics company Gander & White recently opened its fourth customs-bonded warehouse that works “just like the Geneva Freeport”, says the firm’s operational director, Victor Khureya. “Art works can be imported into our bonded warehouses and held in storage without any duties or taxes being paid upfront,” he says.

Despite this, Khureya warns: “A hard Brexit means all shipments to and from the EU will require customs clearance, which will result in more paperwork and costs for both dealers and fine art agents like ourselves.’’

The London shipping firm Martinspeed has prepared a no-deal Brexit contingency plan, in which it advises customers to use various ports “to avoid possible congestion at Dover” and to “allow a margin for additional costs whether for extra time and routing, customs formalities or transit guarantees”.

According to the company’s executive chairman, Simon Sheffield, a question mark now hangs over the temporary admission procedure, the EU legislation which ensures that works imported temporarily for events such as fairs and exhibitions are exempt from import duties and VAT. “We haven’t been alerted either way as to whether temporary admission is going to remain or go. There’s no information coming out of HMRC on this,” he says.

Sheffield notes he has seen an uptick in shipping enquiries as the Brexit deadline approaches. “People are quite rightly erring on the side of caution. Our advice is: avoid moving anything in or out of Europe at the end of March.” The Art Newspaper


From the eyes of babes: art of asylum

Give kids paper and crayons, and they will give you their hearts. At Tucson's Casa Alitas, a Catholic Community Services short-term shelter for immigrant families released from detention, kid's artwork covers the largest wall in the house. Guileless and profound, art by immigrant children puts the border rhetoric of adults to shame.

Many of the immigrant children at Casa Alitas are refugees fleeing the unimaginable. Multiple drawings depicting houses and pets left behind, long roads traveled, and mountains and rivers crossed, testify to the trauma of wholesale familial displacement. As an Alitas volunteer and former art therapist, when I see images of fiery volcanos erupting and great tears filling a sky, I can't help but remember other drawings I have seen by young burn patients who use whatever body part was left unburned, even if that meant their toes to grasp a paint brush or crayon.

At Casa Alitas, artmaking is spontaneous, mostly self-directed, and done on the fly. In the middle of near constant chaos of guests and volunteers, drawing and painting compete with eating at a multi-purpose kitchen table. Once the kids are given art supplies, they grab crayons and press down hard on their paper as if their lives depend on it. They may not be at the house for long, but they will leave their mark nevertheless.

The time-honored symbols children use form a universal vocabulary that spans culture and language. In the sunniest drawings, the Thank you's and Hello my name is… looming clouds and rain can darken blue skies. Winged hearts, perhaps the most common symbol in young immigrant's drawings, rip and tear down the middle like the border itself. Big eyes, drawn wide open, remind the viewer that these kids see everything.

When they finish their drawings, the children seek out the house volunteers and together, we look at their pictures. Many are too young and traumatized to articulate what they have been through, but their artwork speaks for them. Shy kids smile and hand us their papers to hang on the wall. When we manage to find an available space between all the other drawings, they break into open grins. Their story has joined the others. They are no longer alone. They matter.

Years ago, I was given a kid's school notebook found among stands of cactus in the desert near the border. Tucked in the pages was a drawing, a map of the journey to the border; a look at migration through the eyes of a child.

In the drawing, an X-ray view of a hotel that flies the Mexican flag reveals the familiar elements of home: a kitchen, a bedroom, even a T.V. A long winding road leads from the door of the hotel to the border. In the bottom corner of the drawing, a box truck stops at a dark impenetrable wall. On the other side of the border, leafy trees and tall grass beckon.

Another pencil drawing found in a backpack left behind in the sand was a letter a young girl, Marisol, had written to her missing father. On the back of the letter, Marisol drew her complete family: tiny figures of her father, mother and her sister standing together, dwarfed by a large house. Will Marisol's house, devoid of windows with a heavily penciled roof protect the family from being ripped apart again?

During a recent volunteer shift at Casa Alitas, a small teen handed me a crayon drawing of a sparse, faintly-colored desert landscape.

"Desierto?" I asked.

"Si, dos días en el desierto." (Two days in the desert.)

He stared at his drawing.

"No agua, no comida" (no water, no food), he said, his voice barely audible.

It was when I hung the drawing on the wall that he smiled at last. His desert landscape next to the other more colorful drawings — bright flowers and family — blended into a wall of hope: fresh, unrestrained hope. As far as these children have come, after everything they have endured, they still believe with all their hearts that they will get to stay. Global Sisters Report


Attic to auction: a timeline of the 'Lost Caravaggio'
The painting, thought to be the second version of the Baroque artist’s Judith Beheading Holofernes will be auctioned this June with an estimate of £86m-£129m

The story of the lost Caravaggio found in an attic in France has captured the attention of both art world experts and the general public since it was discovered in 2014. Unveiled yesterday at Colnaghi gallery and due to be auctioned at La Halle aux Grains in Toulouse in June, we look back at the journey of the painting from obscurity in a dust-filled attic to media spotlight and controversy.

April 2014: On the 23 April, the auctioneer Marc Labarbe is called to the private home of a client in Toulouse, France, to appraise a large canvas. Reportedly, burglars had broken into the home to steal items, but had left the painting, deeming it worthless. The painting depicts the biblical story of Judith, a young widow in the city of Bethulia who puts an end to the Assyrian siege on her city by seducing and beheading the general Holofernes.

A 30-month export ban is placed on the work by the French government as tests are carried out to determine its authenticity.

April 2016: Following two years of authentication, including three weeks in the laboratories of the Louvre Museum, the work is unveiled to the press in Paris on 12 April and pronounced a “national treasure” by the French culture minister.

The Old Master expert Eric Turquin says that “experts, art historians, conservators, restorers and radiologists have weighed in on the painting in the utmost secrecy.” He adds that though “there is no consensus [on attribution], I’m not looking for a consensus. In 2003, there were still criticisms on the Dublin work [attributed to Caravaggio 1991]. Caravaggio is an artist who lends himself to controversy.”

Another Caravaggio expert, Mina Gregori, tells the New York Times that she believes the painting is a copy by the Flemish artist Louis Finson. Asked if the development presents a new dilemma for Caravaggio scholars, Richard Spear, an Italian Baroque expert at Princeton University, says: “It's not a dilemma nor necessarily a surprise since opinions on the attribution are divided.” Turquin tells us meanwhile: "I am more convinced than ever that the picture is the lost Caravaggio seen by [the Flemish painter] Frans Pourbus in 1607."

November 2016: The work goes on display to the public for the first time at Milan’s Pinoteca di Brera, alongside the institution’s Caravaggio masterpiece, the Supper at Emmaus (1605-06). The director James Bradburne says that the exhibition Caravaggio: a Question of Attribution, will give the general public a unique opportunity to assess the controversial attribution for themselves.

The choice to display an unattributed Caravaggio causes controversy and the art historian Giovanni Agosti resigns from Brera’s advisory committee in protest against the “uncritical” presentation of a painting that is “not only private property but for sale”.

January 2019: On the 24 December the export ban is lifted. The ban was put in place partly to allow the Louvre enough time to decide whether it would purchase the work, which it does not. With the painting allowed to circulate freely, Turquin tells Le Figaro: “This allowed us to begin cleaning [the piece] immediately. But a decision about any sale will definitely not be taken before the work is restored. This will be down to the family [owners] and the auctioneer in Toulouse [Labarbe] who represents them”.

February 2019: The work travels to London to go on display at the Colnaghi gallery from 1-9 March before it goes back to Toulouse for the auction this summer. Turquin says that, “it will be an auction without reserve. It will be a real sale, no guarantees, no nothing, a real auction", and suggests that a museum will be the likely buyer.

The discovery means there are now 68 known paintings attributed to Caravaggio. The Art Newspaper


Meet Pigcasso - The Pig Saved From a Slaughterhouse Became a World Famous Painter

Step aside, Pablo. At just under 3-years-old and 1,000 pounds, Pigcasso the pig is conquering the art world. Her paintings sell for thousands of dollars - and now she even has a collaboration with watchmaker Swatch.

Pigcasso was rescued in 2016 from an industrialized hog farming facility and now lives at Farm Sanctuary SA just outside Cape Town, South Africa. According to her owner and the sanctuary's founder, Joanne Lefson, painting came naturally to Pigcasso. Soon after she was rescued, Lefson gave Pigcasso some items to play with and she immediately gravitated toward the paint brushes.

"For some reason, she took a knack to the paintbrushes and it wasn't long before she was dancing the brush across the canvas and selling artworks all over the world," Lefson told CBS News.

Pigcasso uses a tailor-made brush and child-friendly, non-toxic paint to make her abstract expressionist masterpieces. She signs the corner of each of her complete paintings with the tip of her snout, using a mixture of beetroot and acrylic ink. When she's not painting, Pigcasso loves to snack on her favorite food: caramel popcorn.

Pigcasso sells her artwork to benefit the sanctuary. In 2018, she became the first animal to host her own exhibition, "OINK," at The Waterfront in Cape Town, and she also sells her pieces online and through a gallery at the sanctuary. Her masterpieces typically sell between $500 and $4,000. And she's bringing home the bacon - Pigcasso's artwork has brought in close to $145,000 for the sanctuary.

The mission of Farm Sanctuary SA is to inspire compassion for farm animals. According to Lefson, the sanctuary uses the money from Pigcasso's works to rescue more farm animals and "educate the general public on the atrocities of today's factory farming practices that don't just harm animals but also one's health and environment."

This month, Pigcasso launched a collaboration with Swatch featuring her brush strokes to celebrate the Chinese Year of the Pig. Lefson said Swatch contacted Pigcasso following her popular "OINK" exhibition. "They gave guidelines on the colors and general style, Pigcasso did the rest!" she said. All proceeds from the sale of the limited edition watches will go to the sanctuary.

"I am so proud of Pigcasso," Lefson said. "From pork chop to global Swatch designer, it's just another reason to see pigs as the smart creative divas that they are - and to eat less bacon and to go shopping instead!" Ozarks First