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Who the #$&% Is Teri Horton?

by Mark Scaramella, May 29, 2010

Teri Horton is a 70-something retired long-haul California truck driver who purchased an abstract painting from a thrift shop for $5 as a joke-gift for a friend which, Horton soon discovered, turned out to probably be a multi-million dollar Jackson Pollack painting. But so far, despite heroic efforts, Horton has been unable to prove to the art establishment that the painting is a real Jackson Pollack.

In 2006 former “60 Minutes staffers” made a documentary out of Horton’s find and her efforts to prove that it’s a real Pollack. The cast of characters reminds some reviewers of a class struggle between the sharp and persistant working class gal and the effete upper class art world.

The cast of characters alone makes Harry Moses’ documentary, “Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?” (Horton’s bleeped first reaction upon being told her painting might be a Jackson Pollack), very entertaining. The conflict between the art world and the truck driver, and the forensic investigations involved in trying to prove it’s a Pollack add further interest.

To an art layperson, the documentary makes a pretty convincing case that Horton’s discovery is a genuine Pollack. But the art world demands that the painting come with a “provenance” — a history of ownership — before they’ll accept it as a Pollack. Obviously, “I bought it at a thrift store for five bucks” isn’t much of a provenance.

It remains a mystery to me that Pollack’s paintings are worth millions of dollars. They appear more like very well done elementary school fingerpainting rejects than “art.” But I’m obviously in somewhat of a minority.

We won’t summarize the extent of the proof which Horton and her allies (including the documentarians while trying to be objective) are able to marshal. But the art world’s demand for a “provenance” deserves a bit more commentary.

Toward the end of the documentary, Moses presents Horton’s Pollack to a famous British art forger named John Myatt who, until he joined forces with famous art fraudster John Drewe, ran a small art operation he called “Genuine Fakes.” Myatt could paint realistic looking forgeries of the great masters which fooled the art world for years. In the film, Myatt takes a look at Horton’s Pollack and is asked, “Could you forge this?” After a moment of staring, Myatt says, dramatically, “No.”

Unfortunately, Moses doesn’t provide much background on Myatt due to the obvious limitations of the documentary form. But for the even more fascinating story of Myatt and Drewe, readers might want to explore the recent book about their famous art fraud, aptly named, “Provenance.”

But Myatt’s declaration that he couldn’t forge the Pollack is not much proof of anything since there are other current painters who can do pretty good Pollack imitations. In fact, given a few days in a local art studio, I don’t see why I couldn’t do one myself.

However, to pull off the Myatt-Drewe fraud, Mr. Drewe went one step further. He actually wormed his way into famous art museums and archives and inserted his own fake “provenances” into the records so that, when the art world went to check on his fakes, they found what looked like a genuine “provenance” in the archives. Drewe sold up to 200 of Myatt’s fakes this way before he got caught by Scotland Yard when Drewe’s estranged wife turned him in. To this day there are dozens of Myatt’s fakes masquerading as real works of the great masters and nobody knows which ones they are, nor do they even know which ones have fake provenances. Myatt himself refuses to say, claiming that to do so would devalue what the purchasers of the fakes now own.

The art world’s skepticism about Horton’s find may be justified. After all, it wasn’t until Professor Don Foster delved into our “Letters of Wanda Tinasky” and found out they weren’t written by novelist Thomas Pynchon, as many people thought. They were written by an itinerant former San Francisco beatnik named Tom Hawkins who lived in Fort Bragg in the late 80s. After writing the wonderful, highly literate letters which he signed as Coast Bag Lady Wanda Tinasky for several years, they abruptly stopped in the late 1980s. Hawkins seems to have gone to some lengths to hint that Pynchon was the author of the Tinasky Letters. Foster discovered that a few weeks after the letters stopped, Tom Hawkins was the guy who murdered his wife and ran his car off the coastal bluffs a couple days later. (Foster laid out his discovery process in one chapter of his own very interesting book “Author Unknown.”)

The point is that the literary world lost interest in the Letters of Wanda Tinasky, which I think are better than Thomas Pynchon, personally, when they discovered that the letters were not written by Pynchon. But a case can be made that, like Myatt’s fakes, the imitation is better than the original, whether the original is a pure, meaningless abstraction like Pollack’s drip-style, or if it’s the nearly impenetrable prose of Thomas Pynchon.

Who gets to say that one is “great art” worth millions and the other is a worthless “fake”?

(Note: This stupid wordpress blogging program for some reason won’t let me upload a comparable example of a real Jackson Pollack painting which is very similar to the image of Horton’s Find you see below. However, if you want to see one, there are plenty of Pollack examples on the world wide web.)

14 Responses to Who the #$&% Is Teri Horton?

  1. Judith l Silverman Reply

    January 31, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    The truth is that I painted this painting in 1970. I have another painting from the series in my house. If you want additional evidence, then please contact me at judith.l.silverman at gmail dot c0m.

  2. L. Cathey Reply

    January 24, 2013 at 7:20 am

    Teri you are my hero. Stand your ground for the rest of us who love the adventures of treasure hunting where ever our journeys lead us. Its my opinion that those so called experts who wont validate your painting as authentic are afraid. Their fear help keep those elite greedy goblins safe from the real world. For them to speak up would lead them to the hot seat and tarnish their reputations or some how devalue all other so-called works of art that the rich have paid small fortunes for. Bottom line, no matter where a work of art comes from, if it is in fact a true work of art, that’s just what it is. For the “elite” to deny the possibility that more wonderful creations exist makes me think they know the truth and only God knows how many paintings have been scrapped because the artist was unsatisfied with them. Maybe they don’t want to admit they are hoarding/coveting typical canvas with paint splats that could have ended up in a dumpster. Its a shame that these individuals put class over truth. I believe your painting is a real work of art and if it could speak, it would tell us its had one hell of a ride, sorta like J, Pollock. :)

  3. misty erin- melomdy reese Reply

    October 18, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Teri said after she bought the painting that SOMEONE told her you might have a JP painting. My thought was who was this person? Why did they think this? And Teri u u should tell them….Thanks a lot!!!!!!! If it wasn’t for that observation none of this would be!!!! I love to get stuff out of dumpster & for those who would never, you’d be amazed at what people throw away. You go Teri!!!

  4. Chuck Becker Reply

    March 23, 2012 at 1:26 am

    I really hate this shit where the value of something depends on who’s the ‘author’. I mean, I really really really hate that shit. How in the name is crap does it make any difference if it was Shakespeare who said, “Would that which we call a rose….” or if it was J. Dumwad? Is it good art, is it insightful, does it add value to civilization?

    Do not, please do not, offer up that ‘derivative’ stuff, either. We’re humans, everything is derivative. That’s how we humans progress.

    I’m tapering off here, time to shut ‘er down. The promise of the Internet was as the leveler of creativity. Nobody would really know where something came from, only its intrinsic value. Instead, it’s become an enabler of the status quo. Except for YouTube, which somewhat bizarrely, has become the most egalitarian of all media. YouTube does stuff like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQOQWAKnB1Q as the rest of the media (and Internet) simply prop up the status quo.

  5. Sona Markholt Reply

    December 13, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    Hi Teri,
    Just watched the documentary. When the supposed experts talked every one of them repeatedly asserted that it was their expert testimony that could verify or authenticate the painting. Science be damned. I saw a bunch of bloated, insecure egos and nothing more. I would, however, hope that you will eventually get to enjoy some fruits of your labors.
    By the way, Jackson Pollock was probably a very high functioning fetal alcohol affected person. If you look at pictures of him as a child he has distinct facial features of a child damaged by alcohol in the womb. This would explain his alcoholism during most of his life and his lack of any kind of judgement. This would be an area that the art world so called experts would have no knowledge of whatsoever, but has been scientifically studied. It would also explain how so many of Pollock’s paintings could have wound up all over the place without documentation. He was a sort of a mad genius, without a thought or care to consequences or commitments. He functioned on the level that he did because his wife enabled him to, no matter what he did to her. This observation is based on what I have read about him. In any case, your story highlights how art is really only valued based on a flawed system of human emotion, taken to be the absolute gospel of truth, by those espousing it.
    They are all full of hot air but they all have to eat, sleep and take a crap like the rest of us.
    I love your tenacity. Please keep us posted.

  6. Karen Reply

    November 29, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    Hi Teri,
    Get that Saudi back on the phone…! Could we at least get a continuing documentary?

    Thanks and best wishes again.

  7. Teri Horton Reply

    August 18, 2010 at 8:41 am

    Hi Back to you Myra,
    I have to agree with you on all points in your comment…..I would love to sell the peice & I’m not at all going for $50 million or anywhere close to that amount.
    However, there is a real problem…..since Theresa Franks, CEO of Fine Art Registry has paid her puppet henchmen to do her dirty work of alleging that my authenticator forged fingerprints on another Pollock work, it has made potential buyers. to back off until this issue is resolved as a blatant lie.
    Recently there has been another attack against my authenticator, Paul Biro and
    the issues brought against him …..come from none other than Theresa Franks.
    However, on “techdirt” comments about this new issue….a gentleman by the name of “John Golfis” who used to be in partnership with Franks….posted the following….I pray that someone will bring this issue front & center to clear Biro of any wrong doing. I than hope I can do as you advised.

    It is posted at the following site

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100729/01335510404.shtml#comments

    False Story
    J. Golfis, Jul 30th, 2010 @ 2:28pm
    According to reports, David Grann jumped on this story as a result of Theresa Franks, an art dealer and CEO of Fine Art Registry, who had a supposed Pollock painting, sent it to Biro only to find that no prints, as she hoped, were on the painting. She paid Biro thousands of dollars for his professional services via a third party named Anthony Cooke. When the painting came back to Theresa Franks as inconclusive, she chose to go on a tirade against Biro on a ruthless and carefully calculated smear campaign. Mr. Biro was also physically threatened according to Canadian police reports.

    Theresa Franks hired a fingerprint examiner named Pat Wertheim who has made a career out of challenging law enforcement’s latent fingerprint examinations. In 2006, Pat Wertheim accused Danny Greathouse, the former Section Chief in the Latent Fingerprint Section of the FBI of falsifying evidence. These accusations were later found false and Mr. Greathouse is now with the Division of Homeland Security.

    In 2007, Pat Wertheim was PAID by Ms. Franks to fabricate a fingerprint by use of a rubber stamp. Then, he claimed Biro may have put it there. However, Pat Wertheim later admitted that he in fact forged the fingerprint but said it was for research purposes. Biro was never charged with anything.

    According to at least one law enforcement official and several art experts, Theresa Franks, CEO of Fine Art Registry currently has fake Pollocks for sale on her site. http://www.fineartregistry.com/search_results.php?keywords=&submit=submit&artist2=Jackson Pollock

    Of course, David Grann chose to ignore this in his article. But then again, as mentioned in previous posts, the New Yorker is known for churning out such false, libelous “news”. They are the Mad Magazine of journalism.

    • joseph baron-pravda Reply

      October 7, 2010 at 3:36 pm

      Loved the documentary, and your die hard character. Never let them see ya sweat, doll, and know that all these priesthoods are no better than the lies they tell each other. They remind me of the old fable ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, all afraid to acknowledge that they know nothing.

    • Mike Hays Reply

      March 6, 2011 at 7:19 pm

      Dear Teri Horton,
      I know how to authenticate whether or not your painting is a Jackson Pollack original. I’m not a con, but a struggling working artist who makes pottery, et cetera. If I could just get mywebpage to work! I stumbled upon how to authenticate the, and would like to contact you personally, just hoping you might have some generosity in return for the knowledge, and some interesting insight and facts.

  8. Teri Horton Reply

    July 19, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    I like your article…fair & not loaded with a lot of bias. Thanks
    Cheers …Teri

    • Myra Reply

      August 16, 2010 at 6:37 pm

      Hello Teri- Just wanted to let you know that I admire your courage to hold out for the truth. I don’t blame you in one way, but darling you know that you can not take this painting with you. Don’t you think you may have been given another chance so that you can be recognized as a true person who is indeed true to themselves and beliefs? You have proven that now to everyone who has seen the documentary and other shows and read the articles about this matter, I would think. Hoorah for you, but be sensible and take the money if for nothing else but to help the homeless or your children and grandchildren in college or something useful. The Lord will reward you 4 fold, I promise. It is like an idol to you now and the search will not stop because you have the interest of so many to seek the truth about this painting and wonderful find from a great thrift shop. I, too, have the privaledge of finding things that are worth way more than people think they are. They laugh at me and I put the money in the bank and sleep well at night. Who has the last laugh will be decided when you make your decision to sell it or not. It is worth the appeal to the customer and right now you need to be the smart one and use common sense as the poor people of America will believe in you so much more. You have proven your point a hundred times over. If nothing else, prove that it is worth something to those EXPERTS in the art world. It is as though they don’t want you to embarass them now so if nothing else that is another reason to TAKE THE MONEY and do just that. Use it wisely and help others as God has instructed in the Bible. This may be a test of your faith in Him so please don’t fail it. Your hereafter will be determined by how you are here on this earth. You need to prove nothing more than that you are deserving of praise for your courage and to honor the Lord our Father with the money by using it that way.

      I hope you pray about this and have peace in your heart.

    • Cynthia Elkins Reply

      June 11, 2011 at 11:25 am

      Ms. Horton I think I acquired an original smaller Pollock painting that was found in the basement of a house in NJ that was bought and sold by friends of my parents who used to live across the street from my parents. Those friends of my parents gave the painting to my parents. In the interim, my family began to investigate because my family was familiar with Pollock’s paintings from reading books and articles. I acquired the painting from my parents due to their efforts of trying to prove that the painting I now have is a Jackson Pollock but to no avail. An actual art gallery stated the canvas was too new to be from 1940’s-50’s era but this painting had been preserved in the basement of this NJ house. The painting has fingerprints on the back of the painting with no signature. Who do I contact to find out if this painting is an original?

  9. Sandy McCroskey Reply

    June 10, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    It’s “Pollock,” not “Pollack.”
    (Gee, am I really the first person to comment? Hello?)

    • Dale Reply

      March 20, 2012 at 9:46 am

      A good article for the most part. But there are a couple of things to consider. First, When John Drewe was asked if he could copy Teri’s piece his answer was the only possible answer. No drip art can be exactly copied by hand applied means. As for a Pollock-like painting, nearly anyone can do that. But as with all art, the painting quality has little or nothing to do with value. It’s usually all about who did it and the story. A big story means big value, etc. Another thing missed by everyone except me is the possibility that Lee copied her husband’s style after his death (and maybe even before). Jackson’s art was making the big money, not Lee’s. This could also account for Teri’s piece. It could have been done long after Jackson passed. Just some thoughts.

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