Ed. intro: “I have a Conrad Buff that belonged to my stepdad’s mother…” “I found a Val Samuelson in my brother’s condo…” People write to this website all the time with questions about found art. The inquiries break down into two categories: “Can you tell me more about the artist?” And “What is it worth?”
I love the first category because it often leads to the discovery of neglected desert artists. The juiciest queries have a seed of a story attached: “I have a painting that was given to my great aunt who lived in Mecca since 1914 when her family owned the Mecca General Store….”
If you have a puzzle of this sort, by all means send it on. The What’s-It-Worth category is more problematic. Contrary to what readers might hope, most desert paintings do not sell for enough cash to make even one car payment. For those who seek an expert opinion, there are few experts on painters of the Smoketree School. I often refer callers to Gary Fillmore, an Arizona author, appraiser and owner of the Blue Coyote Gallery in Cave Creek.
To answer your questions on appraisals of desert paintings, below is a link to an article by Gary: Art Appraisals: Who Needs One Anyway?
The piece is from Gary’s blog, Looking for Jimmy, chronicling his wanderings on the Colorado Plateau in Arizona. This guy he’s looking for, Jimmy, is Palm Desert’s own smoke tree painter, Jimmy Swinnerton. Gary has recently expanded his search for Jimmy to include forays into California, so his is a good site to bookmark if you appreciate boots-on-the-ground quests for desert painters.
Fillmore on appraisals: https://gary655.wordpress.com/2015/04/29/art-appraisals-who-needs-one-anyway/