Poplar Hill, Virginia

George and Helen Spelvin abruptly pulled their Volvo station wagon over to the side of the road as soon as they spotted Lucas Farley’s house. Surrounding the small, two-bedroom structure were fifty painted records hanging from the fence. Each of the collaged and painted 33 rpm records sported a strange comical face, some of which included cigarettes dangling from their mouths. It was the most unusual thing the Spelvins had
ever seen.

The year was 1978, and the Spelvins were in the area looking for land to purchase. Instead, they encountered the work of Mr. Farley and developed a passion for collecting contemporary folk art.

The previous year Farley’s mother, Estella, had died of lung cancer. Farley began painting records and placing them on his fence as a tribute to her. Among the records were the sound track from the movie “To Sir with Love” and two albums from Percy Faith and his Orchestra. Since his mother never liked secular music, turning the records into paintings may have served as a form of penance.

Although the Virginian Pilot and Ledger Starran a story on the painted records, most of the neighbors thought of them as “Halloween decorations that had been left out too long.” Several had even been vandalized by local youth.

The week before the Spelvins appeared at his front door, Lucas Farley had been laid off from Turnipseed Greenhouse. He was thrilled to sell the records to the Spelvins. Farley used the money to buy an 8-track sound system for his Chevy Nova.

In 1992 Mr. Farley died of lung cancer, just like his mother. They both smoked Camel Lights.