Sunday, August 30, 2009

Salt-block head

In the Old Testament, Lot's wife is turned into a pillar of salt after disobeying God. I wonder what this guy did wrong. One of the more unusual items in my collection, this salt head comes from Louisiana. It's amazing it didn't dissolve in that humid state.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

My dream school

No academic gobbledygook here. The Philadelphia Institute for Advanced Study employs lateral integration and ideogenesis as it cuts to the chase in the pursuit of meaningful answers.
Take a look:

Friday, August 28, 2009

You dog

We don't have a living, breathing varmint. Just these.

The cockeyed highchair

Sometimes humble is OK. The petite highchair, just 28 inches high, was made for budget-conscious families. The legs are spindly and a little askew, but the chair is not rickety. The pail, meanwhile, is marked fire on four sides, and the script is really lively, like flames.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Kennedys

Ted Kennedy's passing will not trigger the same kind of national sorrow that the deaths of JFK and RFK did. Not that Ted was a bad guy, but he was more of a Washington insider. Liberals loved him and conservatives didn't. In places far removed from Washington he was just another long-serving politician, not a heroic figure like his brothers. And he died like most of us will -- from disease. The cement busts above of JFK and RFK were made by a Georgia woman after the second assassination. Will we see similar tributes to Ted? I doubt it.

It's a gas, gas, gas

Relics from those heady days when fueling the car was not a stomach-churning necessity but actually could be fun, the "ready, set" before "go" on that long-awaited road trip to explore America. These old nozzles are surprisingly heavy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Walnuts chair

An old chair from Wisconsin decorated with walnut shells and smaller shells, perhaps from pecans. The walnut shells are nailed on.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Old headstone portrait

This marble headstone came from a monument manufacturer in Alabama. I was assured it was unused and not some grave robber's booty.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Is this a joke?

This painting of a monument in a rural foothills area is humorous in a Twin Peaks sort of way, but was that the intent? The previous owner thought it was an advertising piece and not meant to be droll. The maker drew pencil lines to make sure the lettering was straight, which makes me think it might have been used for business. But in truth, I'm just not sure.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Scary kitty

The maker's initials are carved into the back and it's dated 1880.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

More about Albert Freeman

Caroline Cargo, an art dealer in Pennsylvania, was kind enough to send additional information about efforts to learn more about the artist Albert Freeman, who lived in Lowell, Mass. Her father, Robert Cargo, acquired Freeman's work from a dealer when Cargo operated a folk art gallery in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Here's part of Caroline's message:

“The dealers were the Elliotts (Elliott and Elliott), and my dad knew them through the Heart of Country antiques show in Nashville. I believe they moved to Michigan some time after he had originally been in contact with them, and he did correspond with them after their move.

After purchasing the Freeman collection, he held on to them as an intact collection, not offering any of them for sale while he was off and on trying to discover more information. I think it was sometime after 1992 / 1993 when he finally decided to begin showing some of them in the gallery. By that time, he had tried following up on all the leads available to him. Here's that story:

My dad bought the Freeman collection of 185 works from the Elliotts in 1984. The Elliotts had purchased the collection from Kurt Suntheimer (Akron). Prior to the time my dad bought that large collection, Joel Kopp (America Hurrah/ NYC) had a group of about 40 pieces. Then Carl Hammer in Chicago showed a small collection of Freeman works in May 1985, which my dad understood was consigned to him from the remaining set of works that Joel had not previously sold. My dad knew that Joel did buy from Suntheimer from time to time. When he visited with Joel in NYC around that time (1985ish), Joel told my dad that he knew Freeman had lived at 22 Canada Street in Lowell (or maybe #21), and that the area was filled with boarding houses. My dad doesn't know how Joel had found out the specific address. Interesting to look at a googlemaps satellite image for that address.

In 1984, after purchasing the collection, my dad sent a request to the public library in Lowell to get a photocopy of the page of the local phone book with entries for "Freeman." Made calls to those 5 or 6 numbers, but didn't turn up any information. In June 1985, my dad sent a letter to the editor for publication in the LOWELL SUN, describing the works and asking readers to help with identifying Albert Freeman. No response. In 1992, my dad was in contact by phone and mail with Suntheimer again about the Freemans, hoping Suntheimer could fill in the gap with information about where he had acquired the Freemans, but didn't find out anything more in those conversations.

My dad guesses that the collection probably originally came on the market following Freeman's death, so a couple of years ago, I searched the Social Security Death Index records for "Albert Freeman" using a last address in Massachusetts. There are 7 listings in a search using those broad parameters. Two of those Albert Freemans died in the 1970's in Massachusetts.”

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Porch sitting

Brothers Justin and Daniel take a break from farming in Millersburg, Ky., to watch the traffic go by on Route 68. I met them on a road trip while driving north from Atlanta. Porch sitting is a sign of a healthy neighborhood. A recent New York Times story said porch sitting was back in style in the formerly ravaged Astor Row section of Harlem. Socialite Brooke Astor, now dead, had helped with the revitalization by providing $1.7 million to restore many of the street's decayed wooden porches.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Go Away Evil air freshener

When I'm vexed by something and need a quick and easy solution, I head over to Rondo in downtown Atlanta. Love Spray, Fast Luck incense, Spell Breaker soap -- they've got it all. Rondo has been helping the superstitious for seven decades and seems to be recession proof. Now that's magic.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Calling all cobblers

The recession has been a blessing to the shoe repair business. "You can pay $200 for a good pair of dress shoes, or you can get heels and soles replaced for $45," explains Craig Strein, owner of the Silver Spur Saddle Shop in Waterloo, Iowa. "I think as young people learn that there really is an economic benefit to having their shoes repaired, it will grow the business." Strein commented in an article in the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier about the surge in mending shoes. The sign above is from an entirely different part of the country -- north Florida, some 1.200 miles from Waterloo.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Does God tweet?

That was a question posed this week on the Washington Post's On Faith blog. Here are some of the responses from experts quoted on the blog:
"No, God does not tweet nor does God have time to listen to almost 7 billion people insincerely pleading for mercy."
"Jesus spoke in tweets before tweets became cool, if by tweets one means short messages."
"There is nothing really offensive about the idea of getting short and snappy messages from the Divine."
"The question is not really whether God tweets, but are we capable of tweeting anything sacred, purposeful or meaningful."
On a walk the other day I happened to see God standing outside a garage door. I could have settled the matter once and for all, but I was too scared to approach.

Metal-clad buildings

I'm grateful for every metal-clad residential building I see in Atlanta. Developer focus groups apparently show that traditional sells because that is mostly what is offered. A metal-clad building tells me the developer is willing to take more of a risk and embrace the modern. I like that. It should be done more. Adhering to styles that were created generations ago is boring. Traditional style is faux old and faux anything shows lack of imagination. The building pictured here is a condo complex on Memorial Drive in intown Atlanta. The second photo shows an unconventional window in one of the units. I think I see a bean grinder and a toaster in there.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"First they took off my legs and threw them over there"

The Scarecrow in "The Wizard of Oz" was torn apart by flying monkeys, thugs working with the Wicked Witch of the West, but still managed to speak coherently. The movie, one of my favorites, opened this month in 1939. A young Judy Garland sang the beautiful "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." The maker of the concrete flying monkey pictured here also apparently loved the film.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Want to know more

Albert Freeman produced some terrific naive paintings from the 1930s to the 1950s, but hardly anything is known about him. He lived in Lowell, Mass., where he may have worked at a dress-making shop, according to Caroline Cargo, an art dealer in Pennsylvania. Cargo's father, Robert Cargo, purchased a large number of Freeman's drawings from an Illinois dealer when Cargo had a gallery in Tuscaloosa, Ala. A Freeman painting of a lion belonging to Cargo appears in the book "Animals in American Folk Art." In October 1989, two carvings done by Freeman were auctioned at Sotheby's as part of the sale of the American Folk Art Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Robert P. Marcus. Just enough is known about Freeman to make me want to know more.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Who you lookin' at?


Just opened some old mail to learn Folk Art magazine is ceasing publication. The notice said The Magazine Antiques will include more folk art articles to make up for the loss. It won't be the same.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Johnny's house

Johnny is a retiree who lives in a neighborhood near mine in intown Atlanta. He is passionate about interior design. Johnny's house is crammed with what some people call kitsch, with an African accent. It's all carefully arranged. Johnny is so meticulous he makes sure each kitchen chair sits exactly the same distance from the table. As you can see, salmon, black and white are favorite colors.

More of Johnny's house

Pop art

Don't get me wrong. This is not in my bedroom. And I grieved less than a day when 'N Sync broke up. That said, this lighted plastic sign is magic at a party when the lights are dimmed.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mask of a different sort

Bessie Harvey, who lived in Alcoa, Tenn., made this eerie artwork.

Draft-horse mask

I believe work horses wore these wire cages while in the fields so they wouldn't eat the crops.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The appeal of the strange

I love artwork that has an aura of mystery. The script on the Christ drawing is indecipherable. The bizarre standing figure, with arms of bundled wire, is downright frightening. And the painting from the 1920s has a puzzling title: "Beyond the Veil No. 1." I suppose it is someone's depiction of the afterlife.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


I could care less about cars or old glass per se, but combine the two and you might get my motor running. These are Tiolene Motor Oil bottles, ca. 1920s. At 18 inches high and less than 3 inches in diameter, the thick-glass vessels are severely vertical, and that unusual shape makes them quite attractive. Tiolene was sold by the Pure Gasoline Co. I don't see how today's uninspired plastic motor oil bottles will be collectible years from now, but who knows?

The eyes have it