"Packed in a Trunk: The Lost Art of Edith Lake Wilkinson" Celebrates the Talents of a Long-neglected Painter

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17 July 2015
Packed in a Trunk
Photo credit: Courtesy of HBO
"Packed in a Trunk: The Lost Art of Edith Lake Wilkinson"
Debuts Monday, July 20 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT, exclusively on HBO
            Emmy®-winning playwright, screenwriter and director Jane Anderson (HBO’s “Olive Kitteridge”) grew up in California surrounded by the paintings of her great-aunt, Edith Lake Wilkinson, which were rescued by her mother from trunks in a dusty attic. Anderson learned to paint and draw under the influence of Wilkinson’s brilliant, light-drenched canvasses. Later, when she moved to New York to pursue her own life as an artist, Anderson began a decades-long journey to get that work back into the spotlight. Along the way, she uncovered revelations about the woman she’d always found to be an inspiration – and whose life, she discovered, uncannily paralleled Anderson’s own.

            Debuting Monday, July 20 (9:00-10:30 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO, PACKED IN A TRUNK: THE LOST ART OF EDITH LAKE WILKINSON follows Anderson’s decades-long quest to find answers to the mysteries surrounding her great-aunt. Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Michelle Boyaner (“A Finished Life: The Goodbye and No Regrets Tour”), with original music from indie-folk songwriter Danielle Ate the Sandwich, the heartwarming, feature-length documentary also highlights the progress society has made in the last century towards acceptance of gay and lesbian Americans.

            Painter Edith Lake Wilkinson was part of the Provincetown, Mass. art scene in the early 20th century and produced an astounding body of work. In 1924, at age 57, Wilkinson was mysteriously committed to an asylum, perhaps with the help of the family lawyer who was siphoning her funds and may have objected to her “close and constant contact” with her partner, Fannie. Once she was institutionalized, Wilkinson’s work and all her other worldly possessions were packed into trunks and shipped to a relative in West Virginia, where they sat in an attic collecting dust for the next 40 years, consigning her art to obscurity.

            Inspired by the beautiful works that were the backdrop of her childhood, Anderson tried to find traces of Wilkinson’s paintings in Provincetown decades earlier, but no one recognized her work. Anderson moved on, but in her late 50s – the same age at which her great-aunt was committed – she decides to renew her quest.

            Piecing together fragments of information, Anderson discovers striking parallels between their lives, as well as the magnitude of her great-aunt’s contribution to the art world. In the process, she also finds a community of artists and historians finally ready to appreciate Edith Wilkinson and is able to return her works back home to Provincetown, where she would finally get the recognition she long deserved.

            Other HBO playdates: July 20 (4:00 a.m.), 22 (midnight), 23 (7:30 a.m., 4:00 p.m.), 25 (3:00 p.m.) and 30 (11:30 a.m.)
            HBO2 playdates: July 26 (8:10 a.m.) and 28 (8:00 p.m.)

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