The gauze-covered building rises above the eastern village like a bandaged wound. In May 1979, artist Francis Hines covered an abandoned five-story dwelling with 3,500 yards of white canvas, sealing stray drug needles and collapsing walls.
At the time, a friend of Mr. Heinz said, the soft, flowing makeup brought “life, beauty, and potential” to the East Village, and then became an emblem of civic neglect.
Mr. Hines won some critical acclaim for his wrapping this and other New York City buildings, including Washington Arch, in canvas, before his disappearance from the art world. He passed away in 2016 at the age of 96.
His work was rediscovered a year later by Jared Whipple, a Connecticut man who found hundreds of Mr. Heinz’s paintings in a trash can and has since made it his mission to attract the attention he believes the artist deserves.
In the past five years, Mr. Whipple, 40, has bored Heinz’s journals, messaged friends and relatives of the artist and dug up archival footage. His work as a self-taught Hines scientist will reach a milestone this week when some of the paintings in the trash can go on sale.
The solo exhibition opens Thursday at the Hollis Taggart Gallery in Southport, Connecticut, and will be accompanied by a smaller presentation in New York City.
Mr. Heinz’s escape from obscurity begins in September 2017, when Mr. Whipple is invited into a dilapidated barn by a friend who has been hired to remove it and learns that Mr. Whipple loves to rescue discarded materials.
In a trash can outside he found neat piles of hundreds of canvases wrapped in heavy plastic, which he assumed were the work of a hobbyist.
“When we started opening it up, we realized there might be something more,” said Mr. Whipple.
Mr. Whipple, a mechanic who also maintains buildings for churches, said he was drawn to the brightly colored drawings of wrecked cars and auto parts. He decided to move the group to his warehouse, where he spent more than a decade building an indoor skate park.
Mr. Whipple learned the artist’s identity after finding one of the paintings signed by his full name, Francis Matson Haynes. An Internet search led Mr. Whipple to a book published by Mr. Heinz’s wife, Sondra Hines, about her husband’s most famous work: the Washington Arch installation. In 1980, 8,000 yards of white polyester was used to wrap the arch as part of a fundraising drive by New York University to restore the monument.
In a video provided by Mr. Whipple, former New York art critic and reporter Grace Gluck praised the installation.
‘Well, I think he is very handsome,’ said Mrs. Gluck, ‘and, as I have told you before, anything that covers the arch of Washington Square, which I have always thought astoundingly ugly, I find attractive.’
Mr. Heinz, who was a commercial painter, continued to sculpt, paint, and paint after the important installation, but failed to attract much interest from opponents.
Whipple said that for decades, he’d shipped his finished work to a barn in Watertown, Connecticut, which he rented for storage and used as his main studio in the 1970s.
In the past decade or so, barn owners have repeatedly asked Mr. Heinz to move art because they wanted to sell the property.
he did not do. Instead, he let the protected art pile up under dirt, grime, and animal feces, leaving the project for another day—or for someone else. After Mr. Heinz’s death, his family took away the things that meant the most to them, leaving behind the things that Mr. Whipple had found.
Mr. Whipple has an insatiable appetite for information about the artist and has contacted his friends and associates who have shared photos, videos and messages. Mr. Whipple spent two years searching for photographer Ken Helberg, who allowed him to search his basement for 35mm slides of Mr. Heinz’s work.
Reverend Alan Johnson, 78, who has known Mr Hines for decades and considers him one of his best friends, said in a phone interview that he was grateful for Mr Whipple’s discovery and perseverance.
Mr Johnson was an official with the United Church Board of Homeland Ministries, which sponsored the East Village project in 1979, and was interviewed by The Times in 1979:
“Francis Hines chose a place in the city with problems, and it brought him something of life, beauty and possibility,” Johnson said.
He and Mr. Hines will share their successes and sorrows over Scotch one malt at the White Horse Tavern and travel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which Mr. Johnson said is one of the few places Mr. Hines will visit north of 14th Street in Manhattan. The artist always insisted on visiting only the African Art Pavilion.
“He would go down, and look at the artifacts, and at these beautiful pots and pictures, and he would say, ‘People made this with their own hands and made something that could be practical and useful,” Johnson said.
Mr Johnson said Sondra Hines, who died in 2013, would have appreciated her husband’s work gaining new recognition. In one of his catalogs, Mr. Heinz wrote a dedication to Sondra: “Without her talents and devoted work, much of what I am about would not see the light of day.”
Mr. Johnson said Mr. Whipple was an ideal custodian of his friend’s art because he approached projects in a pragmatic, pragmatic style in keeping with Mr. Heinz’s philosophy that ‘art solves problems’.
Mr. Heinz’s son, Jonathan Hines, said in a statement provided by Mr. Whipple that he was “destined” to have an outsider figure discover his father’s art and that it would not have happened if he had decided to keep the art, rather than throw it away.
“The bottom line is my father is receiving the recognition he deserves,” said Mr. Heinz.
New interest in Mr. Heinz’s art drew comparisons with the work of Christo, the Bulgarian-born artist, who with his wife and collaborator Jean-Claude used canvas to cover and create structures including the Arc de Triomphe. Christo – who used only his first name – passed away in 2020.
The Connecticut gallery, which will be showcasing Mr. Heinz’s work starting this week, specializes in drawing attention to lost and forgotten art. The gallery’s owner, Hollis Taggart, was introduced to the Heinz Collection by art historian Peter Hastings Falk.
Mr. Taggart said he was shocked at how Mr. Heinz used pastels on the painting, and then wrapped the paintings in a piece of cloth, something he had never seen before.
“In today’s contemporary market, there is a lot of interest in alternative media, you see a lot of work done with fabrics, ceramics, fixtures, wall hangings, things like that,” said Mr. Taggart. “What he was doing with weaving on canvases kind of fits what a lot of artists are doing today with alternative media.”
Taggart said about 30 pieces of Mr. Heinz’s work, including paintings, drawings and sculptures, will be on display next week. He said prices will start from $5,000 to $8,000 for paperwork, $20 to $35,000 for coated boards and $55,000 for sculpture.
The profit from the sales will go to Mr. Whipple, who has said he plans to use most of the money to upgrade his warehouse in Waterbury, Connecticut, where he exhibits the work of Mr. Heinz and local artists.
The exhibition may seem like the culmination of a Francis Haynes project, but Mr Whipple said it was just another step forward in his mission to gain recognition for the artist.
He is also working on a documentary about Mr. Hines and hopes to see the artist’s work on display in a major museum in New York City.
Mr. Whipple and Mr. Johnson acknowledged that Mr. Haynes was a man of the moment and did not share concerns about his legacy.
In an interview with The Times in 1979, Mr. Hines explained that he wasn’t precious about his work, after someone set fire to the East Village facility, eating a piece of muslin.
“Whatever happens, it happens,” said Mr. Haynes. “It’s almost part of the process. Your business becomes vulnerable to all kinds of things, including weather and vandalism.”