My sister-in-law has gone viral!

You may have heard about Beth Feeback, who found a giant canvas at the Goodwill for $9.99, purchased with every intention of painting over the abstract art with one of her distinctive, colorful and whimsical cat heads.

An important-looking sticker on the back gave her pause, however, so she did a little Google research and discovered it was actually created by a famous Russian abstract artist named Ilya Bolotowsky.

Further sleuthing and a conversation with Sotheby’s indicated its value was estimated at $15,000 to $20,000. Sotheby’s actually auctioned it for $27,500 on Sept. 21!

Beth’s 15 minutes of fame has extended into at least a half an hour. She has been interviewed by the Huffington Post, NPR, most every regional newspaper in North Carolina, Good Afternoon America and mentioned by the CBS Late News, Yahoo’s news feed and the list goes on. The recent sale also prolonged media darling status.

Of course I am thrilled for a beloved family member who can use the money (and who couldn’t?). She has been without a regular income since the economy closed down the community newspaper she edited and health issues further sidelined her ability to work. There has been a lot of added interest in her pet portraits. Her style is naïf, whimsical, fantastical, fun, funny and folkloric. Her work was recently accepted into a fabled folk art festival.

There are also fable aspects of her story. So many themes! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder? Be careful what you donate? Don’t be leery of second-hand stuff? Good things happen to nice people?

I’ll land on just one, and that is the very capriciousness inherent in how we value things. One fine-art collector’s abstract is another’s addition to the church yard-sale (where this precious painting began its journey to the Goodwill). So check out your attic, garage and the guest room closet. You may just be sitting on a fortune.

We all fantasize about how we’d slice and dice lottery winnings. Beth is still considering how to spend her windfall. Bills, savings, and a modest splurge or two have already claimed some of her fortune. And yes, she has made a charitable gift.

I think I may just tackle that disaster of an attic this weekend…

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