April 3, 2019

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

In this issue:

London dealers embroiled in Ezra Chowaiki fraud scheme over $1.2m Chagall painting
7 Things Artists Should Know before Filing Taxes
US Supreme Court declines to review a challenge to the National Gallery's ownership of a Matisse
Blacksburg's Mish Mish to close
German cathedral returns Nazi-looted Dutch Old Master to heirs
Survey Finds White Men Dominate Collections of Major Art Museums
Artist brings light to her watercolors
Museum is glad to finally hear: Yes, it’s really a Van Gogh
Art therapy combines expression and healing
This artist lost the use of his hands, so he paints with his mouth
Dutch Art Sleuth Recovers Picasso Stolen 20 Years Ago



London dealers embroiled in Ezra Chowaiki fraud scheme over $1.2m Chagall painting
Fresh complaint seeks the return of the work allegedly sold by the disgraced Manhattan dealer under false pretences

One of the victims of the disgraced Manhattan dealer Ezra Chowaiki has filed a fresh complaint in the New York Supreme Court against three London dealers saying they should return a Marc Chagall painting that Chowaiki sold to them under false pretences.

Last September, Chowaiki was sentenced to 18 months in prison for his elaborate multi-million-dollar fraud scheme which involved selling art, purportedly on consignment, without the owners’ authorisation. Among those works, court papers say, is a 1971 oil painting by Chagall, Bouquet de giroflées, which the Pennsylvania collector Rick Silver purchased from Chowaiki for $1.2m in 2015.

According to the lawsuit, Chowaiki then duped Silver into sending the painting to the Chowaiki Gallery “under the false pretence” that he would sell it on Silver’s behalf.

Without his knowledge or consent, Silver claims that Chowaiki sold 25% shares in the Chagall for $250,000 each to a group of London dealers: Hugh Gibson, Alon Zakaim and David Breuer-Weil. They, in turn, sold the painting to another collector and are now being sued for its return. The dealers all “vigorously contest” Silver’s claims.

In a joint statement Gibson, Zakaim and Breuer-Weil say: “The previous owner consigned the painting to Chowaiki & Co for sale. We bought the painting, in good faith from the gallery, paid for the painting in full and received the work and its certificate.”

However, Silver alleges that the London dealers ignored numerous “red flags” when it came to the purchase, failing to perform the “most basic due diligence”. According to the court papers, Chowaiki told the dealers that Silver was technically “the only rightful owner” of Bouquet de giroflées, yet the defendants made no effort to establish whether Silver had been paid. Furthermore, had they searched the publicly available UCC-1 financial statements they would have found that Chowaiki had already taken out a loan with the private finance company Borro using the painting as collateral. Silver says he had no knowledge of the loan. Three Alexander Calder paintings and a pencil drawing by Fernand Léger are also listed as having been used by Chowaiki as collateral for loans.

Silver claims the London dealers “expressed uneasiness” over the sale on several occasions after they wired Chowaiki $1m for the Chagall. One email from Zakaim reads: “Every day for three weeks we were subject to a different reason as to why the painting or the certificate [of authenticity] was not delivered… I will not accept this level of incompetence any longer. I have been silent for over a week to give you the opportunity to redeem yourself but I cannot sit by [and] have my reputation ruined by this nonsense.”

In November 2017, Chowaiki Gallery filed for bankruptcy, shortly after the Chagall painting was sent to London. In April 2018, Silver filed a claim asserting his ownership of the work and his right to recover it.

Bouquet de giroflées is listed as stolen on the FBI’s database. The agency estimates that works valued at more than $30m are still being processed as a result of Chowaiki’s criminal activities. The Art Newspaper


7 Things Artists Should Know before Filing Taxes

For U.S. residents, tax day is April 15th. And if you’re an artist, filing your income taxes is probably not so straightforward.

Like other professionals who work in a freelance capacity, artists typically earn untaxed income that they must report to the IRS—and if the artist had a clear intent to make a profit, their practice is considered to be a business. That means they can file a Schedule C form (which is designated for small businesses) to report earnings or losses and deduct expenses. But what counts as an expense? How should artists keep track of these things? And is it necessary to hire an accountant? We recently spoke to artist and accountant Hannah Cole—who counts many artists among her clients—for some basic tips to help artists navigate tax season smoothly.

Behave like a business

When artists report their income on the Schedule C, Cole explained, “you’re making an agreement with the IRS that you’re operating like a real business”—and that means you have a profit motive. People making art without a profit motive are considered hobbyists and cannot deduct expenses, she added.

“In the arts, I see a lot of people who really don’t talk about a profit motive,” Cole said. “They feel like they’re professional, but they’re focused on so many other things aside from just making money; they might be focused on getting good press and building their reputation and just making great work. But artists need to be extra, extra careful, and actually just think of themselves more the way that everybody else does—if I’m a professional, I’m trying to make income.”

…Even if you’re not turning a profit

Losses and a lack of income may make it hard to prove a profit motive—but you still can. You can be “applying for grants, doing your bookkeeping, and in general behaving like a business—trying to circulate your work and get it sold,” Cole said.

Having dips and spikes in income over the years is part of what can make filing taxes tricky for artists. You might win a sizeable grant and sell many pieces one year, and then have very little income the next. “But side hustles are the American way, so that is okay,” Cole said. “You can have a legitimate business that you do nights and weekends in your garage.” What’s important is to maintain a profit motive regardless.

However, issues may arise if you report losses on your Schedule C too frequently and you have other income: Losses can shelter that stream of revenue—essentially becoming a tax shelter. If that happens too often, it starts to look suspect. “The IRS may rightfully question whether you actually have a profit motive, or if you should actually be listing your art as a hobby (which means not taking any expenses as deductions),” Cole explained. In order to prove that your art practice is not a hobby, you should be able to have proof on all nine points of this hobby loss test.

If you have a clear profit motive that you can prove with documentation and you’re not making an income from your art, one thing you can do is opt not report all of your expenses. “You don’t have to claim deductions that you’re entitled to,” Cole said. “It’s illegal to not claim income that you make—you have to report your income, there’s no messing with that. But if you want to not report all your expenses, that’s a privilege, not a right.” If you don’t report all of your expenses, she added, you’re effectively overpaying your taxes, which the IRS permits.

Learn which expenses you can deduct—and be conservative

Keeping track of your expenses is to your benefit as an artist. Expenses can include obvious things like art supplies and studio rent, but they can also be costs relating to a studio space in your home, and portions of your phone and internet bills. You can also include museum trips and research expenses if they relate directly to the work you are making, as well as travel. For example, you could deduct travel expenses if you attend art fairs and make appointments in advance with curators and collectors. You could also take into account the cost of driving to see shows or purchase supplies.
“The more you can tie it to a specific thing you’re working on,” the better, Cole explained. “The general principle is to make conservative estimates; it’s when you get greedy that your returns get looked at.”

Cole noted that she often finds that artists try to include clothing as an expense, which is only allowed if the clothing is a costume—the general rule is that it cannot be something you could wear on the street. For an artist like Nick Cave, who incorporates clothing into his sculptures, Cole said, “I would start getting into more fine-grained detail about clothing, because that truly may be material for his artwork.”

Use a separate bank account for your art

The IRS expects you to operate as a business, so, in step, you should have separate bank and credit accounts for your art practice. “As a professional, you should not be commingling business and personal expenses on a single credit card or in a single bank account,” Cole explained. Another benefit of doing this is that it makes filing your taxes and gathering all of your expenses much easier. “Then, everything on that bank or credit statement is a deductible business expense,” Cole said.

Another way to organize your expenses is to keep a folder for digital receipts on your desktop or in your email, Cole said.

Don’t confuse itemized deductions with deducting expenses

One mistake artists often make, Cole said, is confusing itemized deductions with deducting expenses on the Schedule C. This can lead you to miss out on a lot of deductions. “Those two things are completely separate and unrelated,” Cole said. “Itemizing is specifically for mortgage interest deductions or charitable deductions and state and local tax deductions.” (There are other, smaller deductions, but those are the big three, she added.)

Be careful with crowdfunding

If you do a crowdfunding campaign, all of the funds you received are taxable income. However, presumably, you’re crowdfunding in order to use that money to do something, and when you do, you can deduct those expenses, Cole said. “So as long as you document those expenses really carefully, they probably will offset each other,” she explained.

“The thing to watch out for is the calendar,” she continued. “It would be better to do your crowdfunding when you get the money early in the year, so that you have all year to spend it. It would be trickier if you got all the money in December and didn’t spend it until the following calendar year, because then you’ll get taxed on it all before you ever get a chance to incur expenses.”

Find an accountant who’s a good communicator

Popular tax software programs that many people use, like TurboTax, are generally a good value, Cole said; they’re efficient and ask questions in simple English. However, they can leave you in the dark. She’s had several new clients come to her saying they’ve earned some income from their art and want to report expenses for the first time on a Schedule C, only to learn that they had been doing that for years through one such tax software, and were missing out on deductions.

So, if the tax process feels unwieldy and you’ve never filed a Schedule C before, you may want to seek out an expert. An accountant or tax advisor can help you make sure that you’re not missing out on deductions you may be eligible for, and that you are properly adhering to tax code.

As far as what to look for in an account, Cole said: “I have come to value communication above most other things.” Even if you’ve found an expert, she explained, if they don’t “let you make informed choices—they’re not making sure you get it—then it’s not worth much to you.” She added that it’s rare to find someone who specializes in working with artists (since tax code is so broad), but someone who has experience working with freelancers will generally be well-equipped to help artists. Artsy


US Supreme Court declines to review a challenge to the National Gallery's ownership of a Matisse
Grandchildren of muse depicted in 1908 painting exhaust their US appeals

The US Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal of a ruling that rejected a claim to a 1908 portrait by Matisse owned by the National Gallery in London.

Three grandchildren of Greta Moll, the muse depicted in the portrait, had argued that the painting was taken in violation of international law and demanded that the National Gallery pay $30 million in compensation for the painting or return it. But last September, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York affirmed a lower-court decision that the National Gallery and Britain were immune from the jurisdiction of US courts because the lawsuit did not meet the conditions set by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

Now that the Supreme Court has refused to review the case, the descendants have exhausted their appeals in the US court system. In a statement, the National Gallery welcomed the news that its “lawful ownership is confirmed” and emphasised that the museum bought the painting “in good faith” in 1979.

The painting was originally purchased from Matisse by Oskar Moll, the husband of Margarete Moll, also known as Greta, and taken to Germany. The couple were living in Berlin after the Second World War when, fearing the upheaval of the postwar partition of the city, they decided to send the portrait abroad to protect it from looting.

In demanding the work’s return, the heirs had argued that Portrait of Greta Moll was illegally sold by a former art student to whom the painting had been entrusted for safekeeping. The portrait changed hands several times before it was acquired by the National Gallery.

According to court documents, the three grandchildren—Oliver Williams, Margarete Green and Iris Filmer—first pressed their case for the painting’s recovery in 2011, but the National Gallery declined to return it. In 2015, they sought a review by the Spoliation Advisory Panel, a British government body investigating Holocaust-era art claims, but the government said the panel lacked jurisdiction because the Nazi era ended in 1945, two years before the portrait was sold in Switzerland.

The heirs then filed suit against the National Gallery and the UK in the US. The Art Newspaper


Blacksburg's Mish Mish to close

Local art supply store Mish Mish will close later this summer, ending a 49-year run as the go-to life preserver for procrastinating art and design students at Virginia Tech.

Owners Steve and Debbie Miller wanted to make it to 50 years, but a confluence of declining health and rising rents and online competition made that impossible.

“We’re already starting to panic. We don’t know what we’re going to do without Mish Mish,” Co-Director of Tech’s Center for Design Research Joe Wheeler said. “It’s heartbreaking. Mish Mish has been kind of part of our family.”

The business was founded as Apricot Enterprises in 1970, when the Millers and a couple of other business partners were third-year architecture students at Tech.

The group had grand plans for a chain of stores on various college campuses that would carry specialized tools for architecture, art, engineering, interior design and graphic design classes. The company would cater to students and keep its shelves stocked with high-quality materials not available at most craft stores.

The group changed the name to Mish Mish, a play on the Arabic word for apricot, when they opened the first location in Blacksburg. They had $300 and a loan that a couple of their professors had to co-sign.

But then reality caught up with the young entrepreneurs.

Mish Mish would not grow into a national brand, but would instead become one of Blacksburg’s longest running and most cherished downtown retailers.

The owners worked second jobs, continued taking classes and didn’t withdraw salaries for the first few years as they poured everything back into growing Mish Mish.

The store moved three times from an upstairs apartment to various basements before landing its first storefront with an office window in 2001.

It tried to expand into Roanoke in the 1980s, but that location struggled and ultimately closed as more and more college design work went digital.

The business was founded by college students for college students, an ethos the owners still stand by today.

Mish Mish is open until 10 p.m., about the time many students realize they don’t have all the materials they need for tomorrow’s assignment. The Millers have a philosophy against trying to upsell, but rather work with students to figure out what they need.

“We try to make them learn. We try not to do the projects for them,” Steve Miller said. “But we do suggest materials and occasionally ways to do things.”

The store has expanded beyond just the students. It has a custom frame shop, an art gallery displaying work by local artists, children’s craft supplies and everything a local artist would need.

The Millers, who own the business along with a third silent partner, probably could have sold the store and retired. But they said they wouldn’t feel right if the next owner wasn’t able to be successful.

And the idea of selling to a big chain after almost five decades of carefully building a reputation didn’t seem right either.

Wheeler, of Virginia Tech, said there are online options for his students, but he’s not going to forgive late assignments from those who don’t build in enough time for Amazon’s two-day shipping.

He added that online shopping doesn’t work well when it comes to finding specialized papers, over-sized foam boards or a pen that feels just right.

“It was just great to be able to go in and find a pen and have the little pad to test it,” Wheeler said. “It’s just going to be a lot different.”

The notion of leaving the business first came up after Debbie Miller was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer nine years ago.

The Main Street storefront Mish Mish originally leased for under $5,000 per month had risen to $8,000 per month – and up.

So Mish Mish decided to sign a shortened three-year lease, which is set to run out this August.

Before that came up for renewal, Steve Miller was hospitalized in November with a subdural hematoma. Analysis later revealed he had lymphoma.

“So the family that cancers together, stays together,” Debbie Miller joked.

Steve Miller finished rehab in December and was back at work two days later. Today, both Steve and Debbie Miller keep an eye on the store with the same meticulous attention to detail as always.

But things just aren’t the same, they say.

Suppliers for products like Sharpie have stopped selling directly to smaller shops. That means the store has to pay more for its merchandise, but now shoppers walk through the aisles with phones comparing everything to Amazon.

“Retail is not as fun as it used to be,” Steve Miller said.

Mish Mish has enough supplies to get Virginia Tech students through all the big projects due at the end of the semester. This summer the Millers plan to start discounts with the goal of closing entirely in July.

After so many years in downtown Blacksburg, the couple has had a front row seat to the changing times, as more and more local retailers have been replaced with chains, restaurants and bars.

“There’s no retail left,” Steve Miller said. “And unfortunately I’m going to contribute to that.”

“Yeah. But —,” Debbie Miller added, pausing. “We have to.” The Roanoke Times


German cathedral returns Nazi-looted Dutch Old Master to heirs
Dutch Square is one of many paintings the Bavarian state returned to the families of the looters instead of the original Jewish owners after the war

The cathedral community of the German city of Xanten said it will return a seventeenth-century painting of a Dutch square attributed to Jan van den Heyden to the heirs of Gottlieb and Mathilde Kraus, who fled Vienna in April 1938 to escape the Nazis.

The Kraus family, prominent Jewish members of Viennese society, left behind 160 artworks which were seized and sold to benefit the Nazi regime. Dutch Square, a tranquil scene showing a twin-towered Gothic church, children playing on cobbles and a little dog watching an old woman at the gate of a gable-roofed house, was among thousands of artworks recovered by Allied troops after the Second World War.

An investigation by the London-based Commission for Looted Art in Europe into how the painting entered the possession of the cathedral in Xanten, a small town in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, turned up some surprising discoveries. After its seizure, the painting was sold to Heinrich Hoffmann, Adolf Hitler’s friend and photographer.

Hoffmann’s collection was confiscated by Allied officers, who entrusted the state of Bavaria with about 10,600 works in total on the understanding that looted art would be returned to the heirs of those who were robbed by the Nazis. Dutch Square was among the works that entered the Bavarian State Paintings Collections.

But instead of tracing the Kraus family, the State Paintings Collections returned it, in exchange for just 300 deutschmarks, to Henriette Hoffmann von Schirach, the daughter of Heinrich Hoffmann.

“This led to the discovery that many paintings were secretly returned by Bavaria to families of high-ranking Nazis over a period of some 20 years after the war,” the Commission for Looted Art in Europe said in a press release. Among those who benefited from these Bavarian returns were the families of men indicted at the Nuremberg trials—including Reich Youth Leader Baldur von Schirach and Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring.

Hoffmann von Schirach sold Dutch Square a few months after recovering it. It was purchased by the Xanten cathedral community at Lempertz auction house in Cologne in 1963.

The painting is only the seventh recovered by the Kraus heirs—the other six were returned by Austria in 2002 and 2004.

“My family has been waiting for this moment for eighty years,” said John Graykowski, the great-grandson of Gottlieb and Marie Kraus. “It is never too late to grant a measure of justice and compassion.” The Art Newspaper


Survey Finds White Men Dominate Collections of Major Art Museums
A comprehensive study reveals that 85 percent of artists featured in permanent collections are white, while 87 percent are men

It’s been 30 years since the Guerrilla Girls, a feminist collective dedicated to diversifying the art world, famously asked: “Do Women Have To Be Naked To Get Into the Met. Museum?” With this provocative question, the group lambasted the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s lack of female representation—discounting, of course, the overwhelming number of women seen in nude paintings adorning the New York institution’s walls.

A landmark study published in the journal PLoS One suggests little progress has been made in the decades since the Guerrilla Girls' bold statement. An analysis of more than 40,000 works of art detailed in 18 major U.S. museums' online catalogues found that 85 percent of artists featured are white, and 87 percent are men.

According to lead author Chad Topaz of Williams College, the new survey marks the first large-scale investigation of cultural institutions’ artistic diversity. Previously, Topaz and his colleagues write in the study, researchers have focused more on demographic diversity—or lack thereof—among museum staff and visitors. (As Brigit Katz reported for Smithsonian.com earlier this year, a 2018 report revealed museums were making “uneven” strides toward equal employment, with curatorial and education departments hiring more people of color even as conservation and leadership roles remained largely dominated by white non-Hispanic individuals.)

For this latest analysis, a group of mathematicians and art historians created lists of some 10,000 artists represented in the permanent collections of museums including the Met, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art and the Detroit Institute of Arts. Next, the team recruited workers via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing platform and asked them to identify various artists’ gender and ethnicity. Each set of names went through at least five rounds of classification, and responses were cross-checked in order to reach a consensus.

Overall, the researchers report that white men dominated the sample, making up a staggering 75.7 percent of the final data pool. Trailing behind were white women (10.8 percent), Asian men (7.5 percent) and Hispanic men (2.6 percent). All other groups represented in terms of both gender and ethnicity were recorded in proportions of less than one percent.

Some museums fared relatively better than others: The Guardian notes that African-American artists constitute 10.6 percent of artists in the Atlanta High Museum of Art’s collection, as opposed to just 1.2 percent across all museums studied. Meanwhile, Pacific Standard’s Tom Jacobs points out, Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art boasts a percentage of works by Hispanic artists roughly three times the national average. Leaders in the percentage of works by women included LA MOCA at 24.9 percent and New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art at 22 percent, as Eileen Kinsella reports for artnet News.

Still, the MIT Technology Review points out, disparities in representation were especially stark at the National Gallery of Art, where more than 97 percent of artists included in the collection are white, while some 90 percent are male. And, despite focusing on a period in art history that fostered more diversity than ever before, New York City’s Museum of Modern Art counts only 11 percent of female artists among those in its collection.

Although the numbers largely speak for themselves, it's worth noting that there are several limitations to the study. The authors only included artists whose identities could be determined with nearly absolute certainty. As a result, many anonymous creatives from centuries past, including those likely to have been people of color, were omitted.

Interestingly, the team writes in the study, their results showed little correlation between a museum’s stated collection goals and its level of overall diversity.

“We find that museums with similar collection missions can have quite different diversity profiles,” Topaz says in a press release, “suggesting that a museum wishing to increase diversity in its collection might do so without changing its [emphasis] on specific time periods and geographic regions." Smithsonian


Artist brings light to her watercolors

Lana Cease loves light and loathes rules. Note these essentials in trying to understand her work.

Artists sketch a “study” as experimentation, sorting out problems in advance of creating an ambitious final work. Cease tackles her watercolor problems with a camera and Photoshop.

“I probably would get kicked out by the artist police,” she concedes.

The Nodaway County woman embraces art as, pardon the expression, a rule-breaking discipline.

Her eye as a photographer, a practitioner of captured light, blends with her explorations in painting. Why not use all the tools you possess as a means to the finished piece?

“Being a photographer first has given me a really great skill set for watercolor,” Cease says. “Most of the time I know how to work out a problem with lighting or composition.”

Her photography business, Cease Fire Studios, resides a couple of blocks south of the courthouse in Maryville. She started this in 2007. Her home, about eight miles away, serves as a nocturnal base for her other art. There, she drives crazy her husband, Gene, by switching on lights and never switching them off.

“I’m a light person,” the artist says, just resigned to it.

Cease had a genetic predisposition to this life, her mother a painter who worked in oils. Growing up in a small town near Bedford, Iowa, — “the last census was 40 people” — she drew from a young age and even got some early commissions.

In lower grades, what she describes as “the first unicorn phase,” she would draw the horned creature and sell the art to friends. In high school, where she took art classes for four years, Cease dabbled in photography, largely forsaking both endeavors after graduation.

She revived her interest in painting in 2012 when Gene bought her a gift of watercolor classes being taught at the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art in St. Joseph. The techniques felt familiar and foreign all at once.

As her skills increased, Cease began to enter group exhibitions and have success. Her momentum got helped along by demands she made on herself to try new things.

“I challenge myself because I’m not going to get better if I don’t,” she says.

(The same dynamic worked with her photography. Wanting to take an underwater senior picture of a girl who had worked as a lifeguard, Cease taught herself how to snorkel. “I got sunburned really badly,” she recalls. “I shot for like two and a half hours in the middle of the day.”)

Writing out artistic goals at the beginning of each year, she approaches new possibilities with no fear of aiming high and missing.

Once, the artist felt compelled to paint things reflective. Cease pulled out a Ball canning jar and three marbles, and the subsequent work sparked in her the theme she needed for a solo show at the Albrecht-Kemper.

As she cultivated new ways of portraying reflections, along with working in increasingly bigger scales, this particular artistic output led her to some self-discoveries as well.

With its soda caps and pop bottles, Cease recognized a nod to small-town life, something homespun arising from memory.

“I started looking through the body I was creating, I realized I was creating happy memories from my childhood and I didn’t know it,” she says.

The 2016 solo show went by the name “Personal Affects.”

Beginning anything new, Cease has a routine that works for her. The artist does not lack for confidence. She just doesn’t want to get too comfortable.

“If I’m not sitting there thinking, I’m a little bit scared and I don’t know how I’m going to do it, if I don’t feel a little bit nervous, then it’s not a challenge for me,” Cease says, adding, “Your harshest critic is always going to be yourself.”

A gray day beckons outside her studio window as she says this. The artist doesn’t mind supplying her own light. News-Press


Museum is glad to finally hear: Yes, it’s really a Van Gogh

A painting at a Connecticut museum that has long been thought to be by Vincent Van Gogh has been authenticated as such by Dutch researchers.

The Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford announced Friday that the oil painting “Vase with Poppies” has been verified by researchers at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam as having been painted by the Dutch artist in 1886, just after he moved to Paris.

It has been in the museum’s collection since 1957.

Its authenticity was called into question in 1990 by art historian and Van Gogh expert Walter Feilchenfeldt, who raised concerns about many purported Van Goghs around the world, the Hartford Courant reported. The artwork was taken out of museum displays and shelved.

Years later, with advances in technology and knowledge of Van Gogh, the museum decided to revisit the question.

It was examined initially at the Atheneum, where a digital X-ray revealed an underpainting that looked like a self-portrait, which added to confidence about its authenticity.

The museum in Amsterdam analyzed the artwork’s paint, materials and style to conclude it was indeed done by Van Gogh.

“One can say that slowly but surely, real progress is being made in Van Gogh studies. Some of these floaters even turned out to be firmly anchored in Van Gogh’s oeuvre, and ‘Vase with Poppies,’ I am happy to say, is one of them,” said Louis van Tilborgh, a senior researcher at the Van Gogh Museum.

The artwork fits stylistically with other floral paintings he made shortly after arriving in Paris.

The Atheneum now officially has two Van Goghs in its collection. The other is a self-portrait painted in 1887.

“Vase with Poppies” will go back on display in April.

“These studies have revealed just how much we still need to learn about Vincent and his growth as a painter, new to Paris and exploring new avenues for his art,” Wadsworth CEO Thomas Loughman said. The Washington Post


Art therapy combines expression and healing

One of Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune’s (NMCCL) newest team members works with services members through the Intrepid Spirit Concussion Recovery Center (ISCRC), arming them with paint brushes, pencils and their own hands to combat their newest battle of diagnoses with Traumatic Brain Injury or concussive-event injuries.

Danielle Braxton, ISCRC’s creative forces program manager, leads group and individual art therapy sessions as a means of working with those enrolled in the clinic’s program.

Art therapy, according to Braxton, is a “marriage” of therapeutic treatment as well as art.

“They are able to use art-making and the creative process as a way to deal with difficult emotions or other traumas they have received,” Braxton said. “Basically, they are able to use art to work through those things like they would in traditional therapy.”

Art therapy isn’t an art lesson, Braxton explained, but rather a way of introducing different materials to patients to encourage the creative process of art making.

Most of the sessions are focused on creativity, with time to discuss pieces once the patient has decided they are finished. It is these moments of explanation of their pieces that introduce the therapy, Braxton said.

“For whatever reason, our brains allow us to bypass that area to find the words and do art. Then once we have the art, it allows us to come back around to that verbal place and actually talk about the things that are in the artwork,” Braxton said. “Usually, the conversations, whether they are here or with other therapists, or with their families, expand far beyond the artwork itself.”

The most common project associated with art therapy is the creation of a mask. Many of these masks are on display at ISCRC.

The purpose of the project, like all of the projects within the program, is to encourage expression of self.

“[Mask making] always focuses on their identity. Often they are struggling with that when they come to therapy,” Braxton said. “They are trying to figure out what they are doing now, who they are based on what they’ve learned while going through the clinic, for example maybe a new diagnosis. It helps them to just really get focused on themselves and take some time and really see who they are.”

Art therapy is a crucial element of treating the whole patient, Braxton said, which is the focus of each patient at ISCRC.

“We support each other while we’re trying to take care of these patients because it is difficult work. It can be very challenging at times, but also every person who touches that patient knows them in a different way. You can gain a lot by listening to others talk about things that are going well in their treatment. That is a really great ability to be able to offer the whole person when we are treating them here.”

Braxton’s passion for art and helping heal those working through treatment are highlights to her job as an art therapist at NMCCL. Helping those in uniform adds an additional level of “honor” and drive for Braxton in being able to provide art therapy.

“On a daily basis, how they use materials is often a learning experience for me, showing me ways I would have never thought of using the material,” Braxton said. “But they also show me how powerful art can be. I’ve used art all my life to express myself, yet, I come in here, and I see how they use it to express themselves, how they deal with their daily struggles through art and the power it really has to make them feel better.” Camp Lejeune Globe


This artist lost the use of his hands, so he paints with his mouth

Alex Biagi initially posted his painting of a fox on Reddit last month hoping to drum up a little support for an April auction supporting his favorite animal rescue group in Denver.

But when a video of him working on the painting went viral with more than 44,000 “upvotes” and was followed by almost 100,000 positive votes for an oil painting of a rooster, Biagi was inundated with requests on social media from people hoping to buy copies of his work.

Although Biagi was surprised, he probably should not have been. His new fans were in awe when they watched his technique: He paints by holding a brush in his mouth because he no longer has the use of his hands.

Fifteen years ago, Biagi, who lives in Morrison, Colo., was diagnosed with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP) — a rare autoimmune neuromuscular disease that causes sensory loss and weakness. No longer able to draw, paint or play the piano, Biagi gave up his artistic pursuits until his mother showed him a calendar in 2015 featuring projects by mouth and foot artists who also could not use their hands and arms.

"I was blown away,” said Biagi, 38. “I thought, ‘Wow, if they can do this, so can I.’ "

He asked his mother, Caroline Biagi, to drive him to Michael’s to pick up art supplies and a table easel and then went to work, teaching himself to hold a paintbrush in his mouth and to apply the right pressure to the canvas.

One of his first mouth paintings, the one of the rooster, took several months to finish.

Drawing and painting always came naturally to him, he said. The first time he remembers drawing was at age 6 at his kitchen table with paper and crayons to sketch out a likeness of Spider-Man.

"When I was a kid, I’d sit down to sketch something almost every day,” Biagi said. “I was always running through paper. It’s something that continued through junior high and high school and when I went to community college. I loved creating with my hands.”

Biagi’s plan was to earn a degree in 3-D animation and design from Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood. His dream was to get a job with the Walt Disney Company or Marvel Entertainment. But in 2004, while working at Costco near his hometown, his plans were put on hold. Biagi, then 24, suddenly developed cramping in his left hand and could not spread his fingers apart. He thought that perhaps his hands were simply tired from playing the piano or clicking his computer mouse.

When the problem spread quickly to his right hand, Biagi’s physician thought he might have carpal tunnel syndrome and referred him to a specialist for outpatient surgery. As the pain and numbness worsened and more tests were done, physicians discovered Biagi had CIDP.

By September 2005, his legs and feet had also weakened, and he difficulty walking. Eventually, he needed a power wheelchair.

"I had to quit my job, and I also realized that I could no longer live in an apartment on my own,” Biagi recalled. “So I had to move back in with my parents. I went into a depression for a while about having to give up my independence.”

His parents were empty-nesters after Biagi had followed his older brother and sister into college. But they were ready and eager to help.

“He’d had roommates and freedom and his whole life ahead of him,” Caroline Biagi, 67, said. “Then this. It wasn’t a big deal for him to return home, but it changed everything. Each new development in his condition was serious for all of us.”

Alex Biagi’s father, Mauro Biagi, installed a new shower and did some remodeling around the house to make everything more accessible for his son, who suddenly needed help with skills he had once taken for granted such as bathing, dressing and putting together a simple sandwich for lunch.

While life has been hard on Biagi and his parents, his father said that at his core his son is the same person he was before the diagnosis: “He’s a good kid — ambitious, full of ideas and very smart.”

Three years ago, Biagi had a stem cell transplant through a clinical trial program at the Colorado Blood Cancer Institute in Denver.

"Basically, they wiped out my entire immune system and bone marrow, and everything rebuilds over time,” he said. “I was in the hospital for 43 days.”

Although the recovery was challenging, Biagi said he has since seen a dramatic turnaround in the progression of his disease. With braces on both legs, he is walking again without pain and has noticed an uptick in his energy and stamina.

"My left hand is still completely paralyzed, but I've regained quite a bit of motion in my right arm and some in my left arm,” he said. “And what's really great is that I now have enough strength in my right hand to use a computer mouse, so I can work again on graphic design and music.”

Biagi hopes one day he will be able to pick up a paintbrush in his hand, as well. If not, he will continue to transfer his visions with his mouth, he said.

Already, he has completed seven paintings and has found new motivation from strangers who have left him hundreds of heartfelt messages of encouragement online. Messages such as, “I don’t think I’d ever be able to do something like this. Mad props to you, dude,” and “You paint this with your mouth, and I can barely throw a stickman together with my hands. Wow!”

People who saw his paintings were perhaps most impressed with a portrait Biagi, a longtime basketball fan, created of LeBron James, star forward for the Los Angeles Lakers.

“I’m a huge fan of his, and I love how he helps out his community and is a great role model,” said Biagi, who dreams about meeting James. “He has a big heart, and that means a lot, especially today.”

Because so many people have asked for copies of his painting of James, along with his other works, Biagi now sells prints on his website, alexbiagi.com.

“Painting is a time to zone out and focus and forget about my worries,” Biagi said. “I have a lot to be grateful for. I’m painting again, I’m walking again. Life feels really good for me right now.” The Washington Post


Dutch Art Sleuth Recovers Picasso Stolen 20 Years Ago

A Dutch art detective said Tuesday that he has recovered a valuable painting by Pablo Picasso 20 years after it was stolen from a wealthy Saudi's yacht in France.

Arthur Brand told The Associated Press that he took possession two weeks ago of the 1938 painting "Buste de Femme" after trailing it for years in Amsterdam.

Brand, a renowned sleuth whose previous finds include a pair of bronze horses sculpted for Adolf Hitler, has since handed over the painting, which he estimates to be worth around 25 million euros ($28 million), to an insurance company. It wasn't immediately clear what would happen to the painting.

Brand said he knew it was the real thing as soon as he got his hands on it and peeled away two plastic bags covering the canvas.

"You know it's a Picasso because there is some magic coming off it," he said.

But that wasn't the only reason he was convinced of its authenticity.

In cases of stolen art, he said, the back of a painting can tell experts more than the front.

He said that since the theft from a yacht moored in the swanky French Riviera port of Antibes, a number of forgeries had been offered to insurers and rejected.

"But a forger never knows how the back looks," Brand said, without specifying what was there. "When I saw the back of the painting, I knew it was the real one."

Brand began his latest hunt after hearing rumors about a Picasso stolen from a boat.

"Finally, I tracked somebody down who had had it in his possession 10 years ago and he told me which one it was," he said. "And then it still took me three years to get near it."

Brand said the painting had circulated in the criminal underworld of the Dutch capital.

"It was used as some kind of money as payment for drug and arm deals," he said.

Eventually a person who had the painting in their possession decided to turn it in and reached out to Brand.

Martin Finkelnberg, head of the Dutch national police's art and antique criminality team, welcomed the recovery. No arrests have been made.

Finkelnberg told Dutch national daily De Volkskrant that having such a painting can be a burden and taking it to Brand is a way out.

"Done. Everybody happy," Finkelnberg said. "The most important thing is that the artwork is back." WSB