In 2014, before I began the Immortal Artist blog, I wrote a short piece on Facebook about lost artists. I've reposted it here before I discuss a follow up to it.
Being an obscure artist, it always bothers me to find art whose creator is lost in the mists of time. On our bathroom walls hang two such artists and I sometimes take a moment to google different search patterns to find out a little of who they were. With only a last name as signatures, I am usually fruitless in my searches. But today I stumbled on the right combination of words to find one of the two artists and at least give myself peace as to who they were. I hope someone will do the same for me some day in the distant future. I am guessing that my mother knew her, as they lived in the same town and had some of the same interests. Here is the artists obituary and the beautiful painting done by her hand. I'll keep working on who the other artist was
Nancy Kathleen SNODDY PROPHIT
A funeral Mass for City of Grosse Pointe resident Nancy Kathleen PROPHIT will be celebrated Saturday, Nov. 27 at St. Paul Catholic Church at 11 a.m. Mrs. Prophit died of pulmonary thrombus in Arcos de la Fronteras, Spain on Sunday, Nov. 7, 1999. Mrs. PROPHIT, 65, was born in Detroit and was a wife, mother, artist and art teacher specializing in painting, drawing and sculpture. She was born in Detroit and was a graduate of the Center for Creative Studies. She was a board member of the Wayne County Council of the Arts and the Michigan Watercolor Society. She was also a member of the Detroit Society of Women Painters and Sculptors, the Grosse Pointe Artists Association and the Detroit Artists Market. Mrs. PROPHIT is survived by her husband, Malcolm P.; three daughters, Cecilia SZELES, Mary FLECHA and Sheila; three sons, Malcolm T., Peter and Paul; a brother, Brett SNODDY; and nine grandchildren. Funeral arrangement are being handled by Verheyden Funeral Home. Interment will be at St. Paul Columbarium. Memorial gifts may be sent to the American Friends of the Vatican Library, c/o Nancy Prophit Memorial Fund, 2701 Chicago Blvd., Detroit, MI 48206.
I wrote this back in September of 2014. To my surprise and pleasure two years later the daughter of the artist above contacted me. She had randomly come across my original posting about her mother. She asked me if I'd be willing to photograph the piece for her and I did so. I was so pleased to bring awareness of the piece back to the family.
But the fact is that too many artists are lost in time. There are so few ways to track artists work unless the artist is famous and has a national or international reputation.
For me personally I keep a pretty precise database of all my work, past to present including photos of its creation and development. But that is not the case for all artists. Most create and let the piece go out into the artistic ether never to be seen again.
There is some tracking now in the form of various arts websites, but that is maintained by the artists themselves and if an artists abandons the site then work is lost.
I propose that some entrepreneur consider a database where artists could log a name, date, description and photo of their work. If done properly then the database could become a valuable tool in the future for tracking the works of various artists who later in life become famous.
There are financial benefits also. The ability to track a type of art, say all pieces that have indians as their themes could yield both sales for the artist and important information about the directions art takes.
Look at all the pieces of art that get found in attics, the owner never realizing what they had. In many cases there is a painstaking process of verifying the authenticity of the piece. Maybe its time to start doing things in a different way.
For outsider artists, there is little to mark our creations. Even something as simple as a registration database could give us at least some hope our work won't be lost forever.
I for one do not want my work being lost in time. I look around me at the walls of sculptures I've created and wonder what will happen to them. Is it worth it? Perhaps its time to start making it worth it. It will not change unless we the artists make it change.