Monday, April 3, 2000  

Roaming down the aisles of your local thrift store, you might notice a myriad of unwanted amateur paintings collecting dust. While most of us see these as horrible reminders of art classes gone wrong, artist Razen Cain sees hidden masterpieces. He takes the art home, reworks them with his own pop culture touch, and then sells them online to people who appreciate his creative makeovers.

Cain, 31, isn't your typical folk artist. He never attended art school, but he claims most of his training comes from "watching monster movies late at night." In a suburb of Orlando, Fla. where he lives, Cain is often spotted rummaging around junk stores looking for oddities to sell online, such as bizarre spoken word records or TV memorabilia. Yet without even trying, Cain always manages to discover a painting that is in dire need of his help.

"I used to always see these amateur paintings and wish there was some way I could present them back to the public," Cain explains. "On some of them it's obvious that the artist tried to do his or her very best but just couldn't quite get the hang of it. I used to buy them and just hang them up in my house as decoration. After I started doing that I would always think that it would be more interesting if the landscape had flames in it or there was a llama in the background. It kinda took off from there."

Ever since Cain began to add life to abandoned paintings and then sell them online, the reaction has been anything but predictable.

"A couple of people think that what I do is wrong, that I have no right to reinterpret someone else's art," Cain says. "My thought to that is that the artist probably doesn't care if he gave it to a thrift store. I also have people who really dig the idea. A woman named Carol in Texas just sent me this awesome painting of a couple driving a car she found in a junk store. She says she can't wait for me to transform it. Most people seem to dig it."

Recently, Cain finished a piece of art called Bob Hated Mars. The original painting is a profile of a bored young man looking off to the side. He doesn't look happy with his mundane surroundings. After Cain gets a hold of the painting, we see the depressed man in an astronaut's suit with craters and a rocket ship in the background. Bob still looks somber, but at least his environment is intriguing.

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