“Packed in a Trunk: The Lost Art of Edith Lake,” is the newest film from Michelle Boyaner which takes us on a journey across the country to discover a buried treasure. A gifted artist, yet relatively unknown to most, Edith Lake Wilkinson, whose creations have been packed away for decades, finally resurface thanks to Jane Anderson, Wilkinson’s great-niece. Not only is the art re-discovered, but the story behind the artist is finally told. Anderson, an Emmy Award-winning writer and director, has an inexplicable connection with her Great Aunt Edith, but she had passed away long ago. This connection, however, haunts her, pushing her to find out more about Wilkinson. Does this sound like a ‘Tales from the Crypt’ story? Well, in a way it is— in a very uplifting and upbeat sort of way.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE
Anderson, not only a gifted writer, is also an artist whose similarities with Wilkinson in painting style as well as personality are uncanny. As we travel with Anderson, we see even more similarities and witness the connection between the two growing deeper. Without giving away too much from this amazingly moving documentary, we find that Wilkinson was institutionalized due to the fact that she had a close female “companion” named Fannie. In the early to mid 1900’s, this was not an acceptable form of love and her family saw to it that she ceased not only living with Fannie, but also communicating with her. As would happen with anyone, Wilkinson’s creativity also ceased and with this, decades of paintings would no longer occur. It’s a story of greed, jealousy, and intolerance within a family and a community. But Anderson, through dedicated research
and persistence, finds a way to return her great aunt’s treasures to their home in Provincetown where Wilkinson’s talents were embraced and her lifestyle was not judged.
The filming of this story is what makes “Packed in a Trunk” even more intriguing. We, the viewer, through interviews and accompanying Anderson on her quest, feel a part of this discovery. We have empathy for Anderson as she discovers the creative life of her aunt cut short. We feel the injustices of a time period long gone. And we cheer as the story comes to its rightful end. Oh, and there are a few goosebumps when Anderson and her filming crew hit a dead end and need more information which is obtained by a spiritualist.
“Packed in a Trunk” is an enlightening and beautiful documentary revealing an important part of not only art history, but women influencing the course of art. There is a feeling of intimacy with Wilkinson as we begin to see her as a person and understand who she was and what her paintings meant. Admiration and appreciation for both Wilkinson and Anderson is at the forefront of this journey of discovery. Had it not been for this inexplicable connection between them, the world would never have known that Wilkinson was truly a key player in the art world. And thanks to the both Anderson and the filmmaker’s strength, intuition, and determination, that part of history will now be known. American art history will forever be changed by this uplifting documentary of discovery. It’s a hidden gem that will continue to shine more brightly throughout the years.
Beginning April 26, 2016, you can see “Packed in a Trunk” on demand through digital platforms such as iTunes and WolfeOnDemand.com as well as many other sites.