ELY – Two Ely venues feature some old and familiar artwork of the late longtime resident Bob Cary. The original painting he produced of The Root Beer Lady, Dorothy Molter, is now hanging in her museum and an exhibit featuring dozens of his portraits of Ely-area residents will run through the month at the loft in A Taste of Ely.
This spring, the Dorothy Molter Museum procured Cary’s original painting which was used for the cover of his book “The Root Beer Lady,” a chronical of Molter’s 54 years in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
The museum held an introduction party recently to unveil the painting now hanging in the museum’s gift shop and main office.
Molter Museum director Sarah Guy-Levar said social media was instrumental in obtaining the piece of art.
“We found out it was being auctioned on eBay and knew we just had to try to get it,” Guy-Levar said. There were five bidders total and the museum submitted the highest bid. She would not disclose the selling price.
“Bob had sold it to a friend many years ago and that person decided to sell it over the Internet,” she said. “One of our members alerted us to the sale and went after it. There is usually a flurry of bidding in the last 10 minutes (of these auctions), but we had no issue in getting the last bid in.”
The piece of art now belongs to the rightful owners and is displayed for visitors to the Ely landmark.
An opening reception for the month-long exhibit of “Faces of Ely” was also held recently at A Taste of Ely. Cary’s daughter, Barbara Cary Hall, was on hand to greet old friends who came to view her father’s works.
There are approximately 50 original pieces on display through the end of June. “This is only the tip of the iceberg of the portraits he did of people in the area,” she said.
He would make portraits of people and pets from photographs. He worked with pencil, pen and ink, watercolor washes and oils. “He even did a selfie,” she said.
Also on display is a quilt featuring many of his portraits that was produced and given to the family by Hand-Done T-Shirts in Ely after Cary died seven years ago.
The exhibit is presented by the Northern Lakes Arts Association and A Taste of Ely, 117 N. Central Ave.
Cary was born in 1921 in Illinois. He studied journalism and commercial illustration there and moved to Ely in 1966 with his wife, Lil, and daughter, Barb, and founded Canadian Border Outfitters on Moose Lake.
During his first year he met and became friends with Dorothy Molter and eventually wrote and illustrated a book about her life in the BWCA. He organized the local canoe outfitters association and taught wilderness guide classes. He enjoyed fishing, hunting, camping and skiing and was an advisor to the Northern Tier High Adventure Scout Base on Moose Lake.
In 1974, he became editor of the Ely Echo and wrote a column, “Birdshot and Backlashes” for many years. He wrote articles for Outdoor Life, Field and Stream, Sport Afield, Travel, Boundary Waters Journal, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal and many other publications.
His office is replicated in an exhibit at the Dorothy Molter Museum which features his typewriter, notebooks and articles in addition to his artist’s tools. The exhibit also features artifacts from his 1980 presidential campaign. He was a candidate of the Independent Fisherman’s Party, losing to Ronald Reagan by some 63 million votes.
He painted two murals in downtown Ely that can still be viewed today. “Camp Scene” was painted for Greenstone Public Arts and can be seen on the east side of the parking lot of Zup’s Market on Sheridan Street. “Windigo” is located on the wall next to the WELY radio station on Chapman Street.
He made other contributions to the Ely area. He served on the committees to establish the International Wolf Center and the North American Bear Center. He was a founding member of the Ely Nordic Ski Club. For two years he was host of the WELY radio show, “Camp Talk.”
For more information on Bob Cary, visit the website, www.jackpinebob.com.