Buried Treasure

I was cleaning out some old storage containers last weekend when I found these wooden chairs and boxes that my Uncle Joe made for me many years ago.

Cool Uncle, huh?

They got packed away the last time I moved only to be unearthed now, after years in hiding. It’s funny, I used to look at these as everyday objects but now that they have been away for a while, it’s much easier to appreciate their value. His artwork is all over my house, and even though it’s special to me, sometimes it becomes so familiar that I fail to stand back and admire and appreciate it as much as it, and he, deserves, 
Uncle Joe started selling his artwork long before I was born, but despite his success and artistic chops, he has never been pretentious about how we treated or displayed his work. I think he liked the idea of my Barbies sitting down for tea time in these chairs. I think he liked the idea of using his boxes to store my stickers and clip-on earrings. I think he was, and is, uncomfortable with the idea of his work being put on some sort of pedestal, which is funny because he was always the first person to put my own work on a pedestal, crayon doodles and all.

When I turned nine he gave me my first set of oil paints… 

Unrelated Tangent: unless you are exceptionally confident in the child’s artistic abilities and *you* are directly responsible for stain management in the home, NEVER GIVE A NINE-YEAR-OLD OIL PAINTS.

…my Dad eventually had to hide them from me for fear I would paint that cat Cerulean Blue, but not before I finished a simple 8×10” canvas of a street light. It wasn’t much to look at, but as I recall there was an excess of texture, something that makes just about any piece impressive looking to amateur painters. I called it Rapunzel Fire Hair.

Sadly I do not have a photo to share, as Uncle Joe was so impressed with my artistic skill that he wrapped up the canvas in brown paper and sent it to one of his gallery contacts in Santa Fe to see if they would be interested in carrying a “young and upcoming artist.”

Two weeks later a letter arrived at house addressed to me. It was on formal letterhead (a first in my book) and included a check for $25.00 made out in my name (another first). The note indicated that the gallery was not carrying oil paintings that season, however, they wished to keep Rapunzel Fire Hair as an addition to their private collection, and as “down payment on future opportunities together.”

As you can imagine, I was over the moon and envisioned a lengthy career as an oil painter, in Paris of course, wearing blousy white shirts and eating croissants day and night.

Sadly, a few years later, in the middle of an adolescent tantrum, as I threatened to run away to Santa Fe to become a wildly successful painter of street lights, my Dad informed me of the truth: Uncle Joe had put the gallery up to it. He sent a letter to his friend the curator, and $25 check of his own, requesting they send me an encouraging rejection letter and a check for the same amount. Uncle Joe knew that a single letter would encourage me and validate my work for years and years, long after the check was cashed, and even after I found out the truth.

Cool Uncle, huh?

One of my favorite pictures of him, working away at make-shift studio set up in my parent’s dining room, surrounded by paint brushes and scrap wood.


  1. says

    As this post reminds us, Simple treasures are the best ~~ and finding your blog is among my favorite “simpe” pleasures.
    (and I applaud you for all the work that goes into it … especially your humor)
    HUGS from an admiring stranger

  2. says

    DARN .. no spellcheck !

    ~~and finding your blog is among my favorite “simple” pleasures.

  3. says

    Oh, wow, yes! A cool uncle indeed. Those bright little chairs and boxes are just beautiful. And I love the story! That is a fantastic sepia photo – artist at work! So glad you have it and the little pieces he made.

    But dang! I wish I could see the street light.

  4. says

    Aw Peaches you are so lucky to have him. What’s his name? Would love to see more of his work.

  5. says

    such a great story! and i love he taught you the concept of creating functional art at such a young age. cool uncle indeed.

  6. says

    Hey Joe,
    great meeting you again!
    I hear you are the best uncle the world has ever seen, and I have to admit, I have a little crush on you.
    You can be proud of Peaches, she’s probably the best sunt there is 🙂
    eagerly awaiting the book version

  7. says

    Those are incredible! What an amazing story to go behind it too. Thanks for sharing!

  8. says

    I’m going to second Becca jo… write a book! you have so many great stories to create a great collection of funny and touching memoirs. and this one was prob one of my faves so far 🙂

  9. Jen Lubby says

    I third Becca Jo. Can one “third” another? Ohell you get the point. hurry up and write a book already!

    I for one would like to see more of Uncle Joe’s work. Does he have a website? More pictures por favor. I know that picture at the bottom is from your family album but it looks like something from the urban outfitters catalog!

  10. says

    such a lovely story and truly a loving uncle. do uncles like that even exist anymore? i don’t have a one, and I have a ton of actual uncles… hopefully some of them are reading this post and taking a page from your uncle’s book. way to go uncle joe! i’d love to have you as an uncle any day!

  11. says

    What a wonderful memory for you! Every one needs an uncle like that and now it’s your turn! Thanks for sharing your precious story of him with us1

  12. mummymoo says

    This had me in tears from laughing and crying at the same time I kid you knot – you uncle sounds like the sweetest thing and i LOVE the photo!!! What a great way to inspire you and just so so special – I am weepy again damn it – thank you for share such a fabulous moment xox

  13. says

    Art breeds art, love breeds love, and I adore the continuing SAGA OF UNCLE JOE, whom I picture just as you suggested – Clint Eastwood in one of my favorite books/movies. The photo speaks- I love the impromptu art studio. Wonderful, Auntie Peaches… the best art-supported writing on the Internet.

  14. says

    Is the Uncle from the press on fingernails story? Just saw the new A Team and was thinking of you!

  15. says

    Oh Peaches, I love your blog (& have been obsessively reading your old posts since landing here-not sure how). This story made me cry. In a good way. Thank you.

  16. Jocamiev1 says

    What a wonderful story about a wonderful uncle!! Made me cry…


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