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I’ve just finished reading The Monuments Men, about the small group of individuals tasked with saving public and private art looted by Nazis in World War II. Saving it and returning it to its proper owners. You may have seen the movie made from the book. These people dealt with sculpture, flatware, glass, crystal, furniture, oils, watercolors, tapestries, books, incunabula, manuscripts—everything artistic of value. Some of the pieces were acknowledged masterpieces, some “from the school of,” some artwork that paled in comparison with the other. But each piece had been identified as art worth having. Art not worth having, “degenerate” art, modern art, was burned.

My mother was a bohemian spirit in the body of a Southern Baptist preacher’s wife. She loved all kinds of art, performed or produced. She loved jazz and classical music, architecture, sculpture, painting, furniture, and fiber arts, particularly rugs. When she talked about moving into assisted living, she wondered what she should take from her three- bedroom house to her single-room space. “It needs to be functional,” I told her, “but it should also feed your soul.” I set up her “room” for her to see by putting pieces inside the imaginary walls until we knew what she could take and where it would go. Then it was time for the artwork. We adorned her walls with art that meant something to her. We made it “her” room. The administrator asked so often to show perspective clients her room that I half-jokingly told him that Mother needed a commission from each new client he got that way.


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