I don’t know when my mother’s interest in art began, though I suspect it was pretty early in her life. I just remember it filling her life from the time I can first remember. Twenty years after her death, we cleaned out the house and moved my father in with my brother. In that process we distributed much of her art work. This post will focus on paintings, with others to follow for other mediums.
This is by no means a complete gallery of Mom’s art. During her life she gave many paintings away. I hope they are still being enjoyed as much as we enjoy these.
In the drawer of the cedar chest we found some small canvases with what appear to be very early, even childhood paintings.
College Art Student
My mother, Joan Wheelwright, attended Weber College in Ogden, Utah as an Art Major. At that time Weber was a Two Year Junior College. Her education refined her natural talent. She created a number of works at Weber College and had some exhibited.
This painting is also signed Joan Wheelwright, so is an early work. It had been given to a neighbor when Mom was still living at home. This neighbor’s grandson found it when he moved into the house and felt it should be returned to family. He gave it to my cousin who had bought our Grandparents’ home after Grandpa died. She then gave it to me. It It was not in very good shape – some warping and water damage. I had it reframed and now it hangs in my home.
These other unsigned and unframed water colors appear to be early paintings. They were found in the cedar chest and other places around the house.
Other Early Paintings
Mom and Dad married in 1951, just before Mom turned 20 years old. These paintings are signed Joan W. Eggleston, so done after their marriage, but probably when she was still young.
Landscapes in Oil and Acrylic
Through the years, Mom painted many landscapes. I remember camping trips where we kids would be running around exploring while Mom sat and painted the scenery. At some point she started using a pallet knife to get more texture. Earlier landscapes were desert scenes or ones with fall colors.
These were probably the last acrylic paintings Mom did. In her later years she went back to water colors. The three small paintings hung over Mom and Dad’s King size bed.
Mom painted many flowers – some oil or acrylic, and in her later years all water colors, including the one at the beginning of this post.
Water Color Landscapes
Besides flowers, Mom did several water color landscapes. After she redecorated with blue, she painted and matted most of these to match the color scheme.
A Few Small Still Life Paintings
To Be Continued
We found this unfinished painting and wondered what to do with it. Fortunately, there are several artists among Mom’s posterity. One grandson stepped up and offered to take and finish it. We will have to see how it turns out.
Note: Most of these photographs were taken to send to family members so they could choose which painting they wanted. Unfortunately, I didn’t think ahead to doing something like this, so the quality of the photos is not great.
My Mom was an artist. She had a gift, one which some of her posterity have inherited to some degree or another – I much less than others. Part of her gift was an eye for color. Where I might see merely brown, she could distinguish the subtle variations and hues, and blend to make new shades. Her art went through many phases and multiple mediums through the years. She liked to take art classes through community education and even taught some herself. I remember her painting, making pottery and jewelry, drying and arranging flowers, and making porcelain dolls with intricate clothing. She was also an expert seamstress and quilter, her eye for matching and combining colors evident there as well.
My early childhood memories seem to be in black and white, perhaps because all the photos were. I do have early memories of turquoise, popular in appliances of the day which were in our kitchen, but also used in glazes and the real turquoise jewelry Mom created.
When I was 12, we moved to a new house which gave Mom the opportunity to decorate from scratch. The “quality industrial grade” carpet picked out for the whole house, which remained in two upstairs bedrooms until the house was sold because it never wore out, was a blend of browns and orange. Those are the colors I remember for years filling our home and Mom’s art. Mom’s earliest paintings were with oils and then acrylic, some of those being fall or desert scenes typical of southern Utah. Her paintings, along with some from other artists, covered our walls like a gallery.
The first painting to break the color mold, was a large seascape that was placed over the fireplace. Even it had a good deal of brown in the rocks on the shore, but the look was the first of the blue.
The Shift from Orange to Blue
Because it happened after I was married and immersed in my own life and family, I do not recall exactly when or how came the shift from orange to blue. With more money for remodeling and redecorating, Mom and Dad replaced the tan wood siding on the exterior with blue vinyl. With new off-white carpeting in the living room, Mom stenciled a blue design as a border on the walls. They put blue carpet in the master bedroom and Mom made curtains and a beautiful blue quilt to cover the bed. Blue wallpaper replaced the orange in the kitchen and bathrooms. When the younger children moved out, the largest bedroom downstairs became Mom’s Blue Room. It was intended to be a TV room, but after Mom passed away, Dad didn’t spend much time there. It was always Mom’s room, and always blue. A curio cabinet housed her dolls, those she had collected for years and the many porcelain dolls she had made. A collage of prints she acquired on trips covered the wall.
The shift to blue was accompanied by a change of medium as well. Mom turned to water colors, painting delicate flowers and winter scenes to replace the autumn ones. One of the now empty upstairs bedrooms became her studio. As her health worsened and became an excuse for not doing many things, she still found energy to paint.
Blue to the End
When we met with funeral directors after Mom’s death, they offered to get a nice casket spray of red roses. No! Though red roses are beautiful and this was a nice gesture, that was not right. We went to a florist and ordered one of delicate blue and white flowers. The shift to blue complete.
Almost five years ago I wrote a blog post about stuff – stuff with meaning, specifically family heirlooms, along with stuff without meaning, and decisions about what to do with it all. In the years since, I have had the task of going through the stuff of three individuals, deciding with others who should take what, what to toss, and what to give away. Now that the stuff has been disbursed or disposed of, I am feeling a need to record and share the stories about the stuff. But first the stories about distributing the stuff. . .
My Three Adventures in Distributing Stuff
The decisions about what to toss and what to take are complicated by the closeness of the relationships with the previous owners of the stuff, as well as by the relationships with the other people who are involved with deciding. My first experience was going through my brother’s storage unit after he was placed in a care center. Not being too attached to his stuff, I looked more at usefulness with most of it. We had a garage sale, which I vowed would be my last. I took some useful items that didn’t sell and a few I just liked. Other family members took some things. We donated most of the rest to thrift shops. I ended up with a bin of personal items and a file box of his records that I felt responsible to hold on to, just in case he might need them.
Dispersing my mother-in-law’s stuff was a little contentious in the beginning, with some eyes on the monetary value of things. Eventually however, we all just wanted to get it gone. I took less of useful things, and more of the things that I just liked. One surprise with this endeavor was the question of what to do with the stuff from the deceased steps – her husbands’ (my husband’s step fathers – yes, two of them), the last husband’s previous wife (who actually had some lovely things I took, but also other family history type stuff no one wanted) and that husband’s wife’s deceased only son. Look forward to more on this complicated stuff in another post.
The last adventure was with my Father’s stuff, which included my family’s heirlooms and stuff. At age 94, we finally convinced Dad to move in with my brother and sell the house – the house he had built and lived in for almost 55 years. Yes, there was lots of stuff. Because we moved him first and had him pack up what he wanted and thought he would need, we didn’t feel much urgency with this. The problem was that it drug on for weeks, even months, of Saturday visits to the house, with him included. Dad kept finding more stuff to take to my brothers, and unfortunately for me, I managed to take another box or two of random stuff back to my house after each trip.
I always thought tossing stuff would be easy for my kids and their cousins, but we found it otherwise with their Grandma’s stuff. We got a big dumpster and some of us started tossing stuff in. There was really a lot of plain garbage in the house, or so we had determined. What ended up happening was some serious dumpster diving. Family members were pulling treasures out of the dumpster almost as fast as others were tossing in, validating the saying “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.”
With my Dad’s disbursement taking so long and I being the one living closest to his home, I had the weekly task of filling up the garbage cans and putting them out to be picked up. It seemed rather never-ending at some points, with the cans being filled up right after being dumped and more bags full and waiting for the next week. Even the recycle bin filled up quickly with all the small boxes Dad had saved (not really big enough to haul stuff away in, but saved for wrapping gifts), plastic containers (that had been reused) and bottles that served as water storage. After weeks of this, we started filling up truck beds and making weekly trips to the dump. Those included the 50 year old wheat and food storage no one dared to take, along with building materials and spare parts for everything.
Dividing up Family Heirlooms
My Dad tried to give away some of family heirlooms earlier, but somehow no one wanted to take anything out from under him leaving gaping holes on his walls and in the rooms he lived in. Some things had names put on them from when he had told his grandkids to do this at his 90th Birthday. There were other things that one or another of us had put dibs on or he had promised to us. I will have to share the stories of this meaningful stuff in separate posts.
I have a really hard time with meaningful stuff like family heirlooms being given away or sold to strangers. My tendency is to take what others don’t just so it stays in the family. I took more of that stuff than I intended because somebody had to keep them in the family, right?
As the designated Family Historian, I was tasked with going through the boxes of certificates, old letters, journals, unidentified photographs, and Mom’s youthful scrapbook full of ticket stubs, old programs and commemorative paper napkins. I did some tossing as I went through, with lots of scanning to digitize the memories, without having to keep all the stuff.
Dad had a library that seemed to go on and on, with many old, rare books. I ended up with more that I had space for so I ended up taking home a small bookcase which I immediately filled up. Mom was an artist, so the house was filled with her art work. Dad wanted every one of his children and grandchildren to have a painting. I think we eventually fulfilled that.
I attempted to keep with my hoarding-resistant pattern of getting rid of something when I acquire something new. This worked well with some pieces of heirloom furniture which replaced some things I donated to charity. I was amazed though at how a box full of random small stuff could so easily fit into my drawers and closets and on shelves – kind of like sand filling in the spaces between rocks in a jar.
To Sell and Not Really Make Money
We went through Dad’s house in winter, so rather than one big estate sale, we posted things online and ended up with several min-estate sales. At least we were able to keep going through cupboards and closets while waiting for the people who said they were interested in furniture, but never came. We had a few productive sale days. What was satisfying to me was sending items off with someone who I felt would give them a good home, either because they really needed something or because they loved those things.
One day someone who was interested in a family heirloom that no one in the family had a place for, showed up with two other women. They ended up going through the whole house and bought many things, including that heirloom cupboard which was quite a feat to get up the stairs and into their truck. This woman loved this cupboard and I shared the story of it with her. It had been in my Grandparent’s house in Jackson Hole where Grandpa homesteaded. In talking we found out that she knows a cousin well, one whose own father was born at that house in Jackson. She later sent me a picture of the cupboard in her house, all decorated for Christmas.
Giving Away Stuff and Memories
I felt good about other items finding good homes. There was a soup tureen from Mom’s stoneware set that was left in the house when she had given my brother the set. I sold the set to a friend when going through his stuff. She was excited to get the whole set. Then I gave her the tureen just in time to use for Thanksgiving dinner. We were able to find a good home for my brother’s large aquarium with a local non-profit. I took a whole carload of my mother-in-laws suits to the local women’s shelter.
Mom and Dad had made porcelain figurines for years and often gave them for gifts. They made good Christmas gifts, as did the books, movies and CD’s that went to a Veteran’s home. Blankets were given to those in need. I took a case of soap to a homeless shelter. Some things we just offered to whoever would haul them away. Because we were doing my Dad’s house during COVID, it was a challenge donating to thrift stores. We had to make appointmentsm, so tried to maximize with as much as we could take at a time.
Finally Dad’s house was empty, but there was still stuff in sheds in the yard when we put it up for sale. The people who quickly bought the house are now the new owners of some of that stuff. Sometimes leaving stuff behind is all you can do.
Vedia Eggleston’s Postcard book contained over 100 postcards when Donna purchased it. Some cards had already been removed and sold individually. It was quite a collection and gives us some idea of how popular and prevalent it was to send these cards to friends and family. It was very much like texts, tweets and Facebook posts we send today to keep in touch and share updates on our lives.
This card was sent from Edith in Afton to Veda who was in Malad. The postmark appears to be 1915.
My father has collected a lot of stuff during his life. He has also inherited a good deal of family history records and memorabilia. I have gone through boxes of stuff at his home a number of times. On one occasion, we found this little Autograph Album which had belonged to my grandfather, Joseph Smith Eggleston. His sister Mattie May apparently gave it to him in January 1901, though his mother’s entry was dated December 26, 1900. His parents and sister were the only ones who wrote in it, but their sentiments are precious. It is also a treasure to have something in their handwriting. It was probably May who added the decorative stickers.
Cover Page and inscription: Presented to Joseph S. Eggleston by his sister May Eggleston Afton, Jan 19th 1901
Joseph’s Father gave him an interesting warning.
Afton, Wyo. Jan 20th 1901 “My Son, forget not my counsel Enter not into the path of the wicked and go not in the way of evil men. For the ways of the wicked are darkness Your father O. H. Eggleston
Joseph’s Sister Mattie May with Friendship and Love
AFton Jan 19th 1901 Dear Brother Joseph Amongst those of most esteem be sure Your place forever is secure Your dear Sister May Eggleston
Simple thoughts from his Mother
Afton Dec 26th 1900 May happiness be forever thine Your Mother Christine Eggleston
Vedia Eggleston was born July 17, 1897 in Afton, Wyoming. She was the daughter of Orson Hyde Eggleston and Mariett Farley. Vedia received many postcards in her early life. She preserved these in a Postcard Book which was miraculously acquired by the family some years ago. These are Birthday postcards to Vedia.
As Spring began to bring new life back to the earth and people prepared to celebrate Easter, festive greetings were sent through postcards to friends and family who were away. These cards from Vedia Eggleston’s Postcard Book contain Easter Greetings.
Easter Cards from Sister Lettie
This card was sent to Vedia in Afton from her sister Lettie with wishes for a good time on Easter. The postmark is smeared, but appears to be 1914 from Deweyville.
David Henry Johnson was born March 6, 1874 in Eden, Weber County, Utah, the son of Peter Johnson and Ane Marie Madsen. His parents were both immigrants from Denmark, who met and married after coming to Utah. David’s father died in December 1878, probably from pneumonia after being caught in a terrible snow storm. David related: “I was only four and a half years old at the time of my father’s death so do not remember much about him. My mother and I were very close and companionable. She taught me all that she knew about horticulture and animal husbandry. She inspired me with ambition and the practice of thrift and industry.”
Education was important to this family. David related that all eight of the children were sent to school whenever it was in session. A great amount of learning was impossible but they had the opportunity to take advantage of whatever was available. I have inherited a number of text books that belonged to David and his siblings.
David Johnson signed inside this book Steeles Hygenic Physiology
In the early 20th Century Valentines were sent thought postcards to special people who were far away. Vedia Eggleston’s Postcard Book contained several Valentine postcards.
Vedia’s sister Lottie was good to remember her on Valentines Day. The written messages were not very newsworthy. They were probably continuations of other conversations sent through postcards and letters. The intent was to keep in touch. A a colorful card with a message was a special remembrance.