Teri isn't the kind of person who knows—or cares—much about art. But as CNN's Anderson Cooper reports, she has caused a stir in the upper reaches of the art world because of a painting she bought years ago, a painting she now believes is the work of the famous abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock.
If Teri's painting is by Pollock, it would likely be worth tens of millions of dollars. Not bad, considering she bought it as a gift for a friend and only paid $5 for it in a thrift shop in San Bernardino, Calif.
"I picked up the canvas and took it up to the lady in the thrift store," Teri remembers. "And I asked her what she wanted for it and she said, 'Oh, give me eight dollars. And I said, 'I love my friend, but I don't love her that much.' So she gave it to me for five. And that's why, how I bought, why I bought it."
Teri, who drove big rigs for 20 years, says she never liked the painting much, and only bought it as a joke. 60 Minutes met her in a New York warehouse where she now stores it.
"We were gonna get the darts and throw at it, but we never got around to it," Teri recalls, laughing. "We got to drinking too much beer and never went in the trailer and got the darts."
The painting was too big to fit through the door of her friend's trailer, so Teri put it in a yard sale, where an art teacher from a nearby college saw it. "He looked at it and he said 'I'm no expert,' he said, 'but this could be a Jackson Pollock.' And that's when I said 'Who the f--- is Jackson Pollock?'" she remembers.
Asked what he told her, Teri says, "He just started laughing. And he went on to tell me who he was."
Jackson Pollock was, and is, one of the most important American artists of the 20th century. His work was stunningly original and extremely influential; the Museum of Modern Art in New York has devoted a whole room to his paintings.
Pollock made those paintings by dripping, splattering and pouring paint on a canvas. He barely eked by, until those so-called "drip" paintings started to sell in the early 1950s. His reputation continued to grow after he died in 1956 in a drunk-driving accident, and so did the prices for those paintings.
One Pollock work, called "Number 5," recently sold for a record $140 million.
Teri may not know much about art, but after studying Pollock's works, and talking to people, she became convinced her painting was the real thing.
Teri thinks her painting is probably worth around $50 million. "And there are collectors that would love to have it, if they could get the art world to back it," she says.
Getting the art world to back it has been the problem for Teri; very few in the high brow world of art take her seriously.
"They tried to be kind about the names they were calling me, but I still figured out that they thought I was absolutely squirrelly," she says.
Teri the trucker was used to long hauls, and began stirring up so much controversy that a documentary was made about her struggle to win approval for her painting. The film, which has just been released on DVD, was made by Harry Moses, a former producer at 60 Minutes. It is called "Who the #$%& is Jackson Pollock?"
To get an idea of the art world's opinion of Teri's painting, the filmmakers showed it to Thomas Hoving, the legendary former director of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.
"My instant impression, which I always write down, you know, the blink, the 100th of a second impression was neat-dash-compacted, which is not good. He wasn't neat. He wasn't compacted," Hoving said in the documentary. "It's pretty, it's superficial and frivolous. And I don't believe it's a Jackson Pollock. It has no appeal. It's dead on arrival. Dead on arrival."
They also showed it to Ben Heller, a collector who bought his first Pollock painting 50 years ago. "I'm looking for the cracks in the, in the paint, and the way the paint is applied. That is, layering of one color on top of another. Makes me uncomfortable. This stuff, it just doesn't, this doesn't look like a Pollock. Doesn't feel like a Pollock, doesn't sing like a Pollock, doesn't fail like a Pollock," Heller told the filmmakers.