Charlottesville artist: FedEx lost my paintings en route to gallery in Denver

Charlottesville artist: FedEx lost my paintings en route to gallery in Denver
A piece painted by Mae Read. Read had four paintings vanish en route to a show in Denver. (Source: WVIR)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - For artists, paychecks are far from consistent. So, when Mae Read got the opportunity to display seven of her paintings at a solo show at a gallery in Denver, she jumped at the opportunity. Then, more than half of the paintings were lost in transit.

Galleries, like theaters and entertainment venues, are some of the businesses that were shut down the longest by COVID-19 precautions. Some have not reopened yet, others have closed for good. That doesn’t just affect gallery owners: artists depend on the shows to pay for their expenses for months.

“I basically will not have income for months at a time and then I have a show," Read explained. "That’s, like, how I make up for the next month.”

Read says all of her shows since the beginning of the pandemic had been cancelled, until this one. She got to work, painting for hours at a time for months to complete the seven paintings for the show. Read’s work is impressively detailed and photo-realistic. She doesn’t know how long each piece took, only that they took a while.

“That’s the hardest part for me," Read explained. “I, leading up to this show, was here from like 9 a.m. to 11 or 1 a.m. almost every day for many, many weeks to try to finish those.”

Read shipped the paintings to the Denver gallery in 2 boxes: Four paintings in one, 3 in another. By the time the show was supposed to open September 9, only one box had made it to Denver.

“They were shipped together, they were scanned in at the same minute into Staunton, same moment scanned out of Staunton,” Read said. "One of them never got scanned in at the next location.”

FedEx tracking shows that one of the boxes, the “master,” box, was delivered in Denver on September 3. The other was scanned out of Staunton, and has not yet been scanned into another FedEx location or delivered.

More than a week since Read realized the paintings would not make the show, she is keeping the pressure on, and attacking the mystery from every angle.

“Right now I have a friend who’s contacting another friend who is an executive there. I also Facebook stalked some people who clearly work at the hub that I think it’s missing at. I still have not been able to get the case manager to call me back," Read explained. "I’m trying everything.”

As she searches, and holds out hope, Read says there are some important lessons she’s taking away from the situation.

“Get the insurance anyway, because then they have incentive to find it. That’s something to know," Read said. “Probably won’t ever ship paintings in one box again. So if they lose one, it’ll be one, not four.”

Even though the paintings still have not been found, Read says the gallery has been in contact with her and is working with her to reschedule the solo show with other pieces of her work.

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