By MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS
TRAVERSE CITY —
Evelyn Shelagowski has painted so many works that it's hard for her to remember them all.
But one that turned up recently in Indiana rang a bell with the octogenarian artist.
Penny Ramey, an Indiana homemaker who loves art and primitive antiques, was given the painting about six months ago by a neighbor who combs auctions, flea markets and garage sales for items to resell.
After noticing Shelagowski's signature in the corner of the painting, Ramey did an Internet search for the artist, who has painted for more than 70 years and has taught hundreds of budding landscape and portrait artists. The search led her to a phone number for Megan Satkowiak, Shelagowski's great-niece and owner of MSat Art gallery in Auburn, Ind., about 195 miles away.
"We sent her a picture of the painting," Ramey said. "She took it to her aunt three days later and said, 'My aunt remembers which one it was.'"
The impressionist painting is about 13 inches by 10 inches and depicts a trellis and a tree in a field of flowers. It's surrounded by a carved wood frame painted antique gold.
"It's in mint condition," Ramey said. "I don't know where it's all been."
After getting Shelagowski's phone number from Satkowiak, Ramey said she called the artist a few weeks ago and the two traded stories. Afterward, Shelagowski sent Ramey a watercolor pencil postcard thanking her for letting her know where the painting was and inviting Ramey — and the painting — for a visit.
Shelagowski doesn't remember the exact painting, but recalls a similar series.
"It could have been stolen or someone could have gotten it as a gift from one of my clients," she said.
Shelagowski started painting in acrylic and oil and won her first award in 1966 at a fair in her native Saginaw Bay area. She said she still paints every day and often donates her work to auctions and charities like the Father Fred Foundation. The foundation was the recipient of proceeds from a June sale of her work at Notably Naturals in the Mercato at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, where Shelagowski was the first resident.
Associate Eleanor Caluory said Shelagowski's work is "extremely popular" at the store, which has about a dozen of the artist's paintings on recycled product boxes for sale.
"It also helps that she's one of the best residents," Caluory said. "She comes in to say hi all the time, gives tours of the building, gives art lessons. She also plays the accordion."
Shelagowski said it isn't unusual to receive calls from people who wind up with one of her paintings and track her down through her signature.
"I get a call every so often and they say they bought it at an estate sale," she said.
Ramey said she plans to store the painting until she decides what to do with it.
"I'm going to hold on to it for a while," she said, adding that it doesn't fit in with her hunting and fishing home decor theme. "If I don't do something with it, I'll pass it on."
As for Shelagowski, "She said she's glad it found an awesome home and someone appreciated it," Ramey said.