By Associated Press - Sunday, March 9, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - The artwork of a southwest Missouri man who spent most of his life in a mental hospital is returning to Springfield, where decades ago it was found discarded in a trash heap.

James Edward Deeds, who died in 1987, spent most of his life in a mental hospital in Nevada, Mo., where he also created 283 drawings on hospital ledger paper, The Springfield News-Leader reported (

A collection of several of Deeds’ drawings, each numbered, was found leather-bound in a trash heap in 1970 in Springfield’s Brentwood neighborhood. The identity of the artist was unknown until a newspaper article in 2011 helped uncover the mystery.

Deeds’ works have since been published in a book, “The Electric Pencil,” and were the subject of a documentary. While his art has been displayed in New York, Miami and Europe, it has never been exhibited in the Ozarks until now. Fifteen pieces from his collection will be on display at Art Inspired in Springfield until the end of March.

Tom Parker, associate director of Hirschl & Adler Galleries in New York, which represents the collection, said Springfield is likely the smallest market where the pieces have been exhibited. Several of the pieces will be for sale for $16,000 each.

“It’s fair to say, but in many ways, it’s the most poignant and best market for them,” Parker said.

Parker said Deeds is considered an outsider artist - or one who is self-taught - and the market for pieces by those artists is strong.

Deeds’ niece, Julie Phillips of Springfield, said her “Uncle Edward” was raised on a family farm in Ozark and did not get along with his father. He was forced out of the house and lived in a cabin on the family’s property until his father had him committed to a mental institution when he was 17.

He was discharged to Christian County Nursing Home in 1973 when he was 65 and died of a heart attack in 1987.

His drawings ended up with his brother, Clay Deeds. In 1969, when Clay Deeds moved he told the movers they could have the contents of the attic, not realizing his brother’s drawings were up there. At some point, the drawings were tossed into trash where a 14-year-old boy found them in 1970 and kept them for 36 years until he sold them.

About one-third of the collection has since been sold to collectors around the world, Parker said.


Information from: Springfield News-Leader,

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