Visiting Ken Ellenberger's Bluffton auction house is always a treat. Ellenberger Brothers has run eight thousand auctions since Ken's dad started it in 1924 and Ken's office is always packed with very cool stuff. And today some of the stuff is extra cool.
“They're collectible,” says Ken. “They're authentic and they represent...American values.”
On July 18th Ellenberger Brothers will auction off three paintings by American primitive artist Emma Schrock, a Mennonite woman born and raised in Elkhart County, Indiana. Schrock was a self taught painter. Her work is as bright and cheerful as art can be. Her subjects are the close knit Mennonite families who were her family, friends and neighbors. And her paintings depict the common, mundane chores, beautiful farms and enjoyable pastimes that make up the lives of rural Mennonites.
“The lady painted the strawberry patch and the barn raising,” says Ellenberger. “There's a lot of people that just are fans and collectors of folk art. It's straight from the heart.”
This is called 'Bonnyville Picnic', a family outing at Elkhart's historic Bonneville grist mill. This delightful view is called 'Autumn Glory', a secluded winding country road surrounded by an explosion of Fall color. 'Company Arrives' shows a handsome Mennonite farm where visitors have just arrived for a little socializing. Four years ago Ken Ellenberger auctioned dozens of Schrock paintings selling for thousands of dollars each and it's easy to see why. Her paintings are innocent and loving testimonials, visual diaries really, of a people and a way of life so out of step with the rest of America but so infused with those precious American values everyone talks about. A testimonial to us, really, and that simpler time so many today long to return to. This is Eric Olson reporting.