Saturday, October 31, 2009

Who doesn't love Baby?

What could be scarier tonight than opening the door to a giant baby head? This is a paper-mache parade head from eastern Pennsylvania. It fits over a smallish head. The painting is very finely done. Note the strands of reddish-brown hair.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Oooh, scary!

Picked up this small carving years ago at Brimfield. I thought I'd let him loose for Halloween.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Married man's hands

Naively carved wood hands showing veins that look like vines or branches. I believe they're from the Midwest. I thought it was interesting that one hand shows a wedding ring. Perhaps these are the hands of someone in particular. Do the veins represent the family tree? The cuffs have a jagged edge and pinhole decoration. The backs of the hands are flat and undecorated.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Art that glitters, at least for awhile

Roland Knox is an 80-year-old retiree in Atlanta who used to make artwork encrusted with jewelry pieces, some of which came from the wife of Coca-Cola founder Asa Candler. Knox's mother was a maid who worked for the Candlers. Mrs. Candler gave Mrs. Knox boxes of discarded jewelry, which years later became the raw material for her son's art — until recently, that is. Knox quit making art because he feels he got burned by a local dealer and by a couple who hold auctions. The dealer and Knox disagreed over compensation. The auctioneers last year convinced Knox to submit two pieces to a no-reserve sale. He received only $400, far below what he was expecting. For Knox, producing art in large quantities, which he began doing in the early 1990s, was always about generating income. His wife, Rosa, also had been a maid. She worked for a woman who was a neighbor of the dealer's mother. One day, Rosa showed her employer a jeweled piece her husband had made for fun. His inspiration? Button-covered artwork he had seen in Germany while serving in the military years earlier. The woman alerted the dealer's mother, who alerted her son. The son was impressed and urged Knox to ramp up production, and paid him several hundred dollars per piece — good money for someone who was mowing lawns and helping build stages to support himself. When Knox was hot, the House of Blues acquired his grander creations. At Knox's south Atlanta home today, just two streets removed from where he lived as a child, little remains of the distinctive art that dazzled admirers and earned the former IBM worker a modicum of fame. While Rosa watches soaps, Knox plays solitaire and speaks bitterly about art world professionals.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Squirrel coffin

I'm calling this a squirrel coffin because of its size — 17.6 inches long. Its real purpose is unknown, but maybe it's just an example of construction merrymaking. The box, rough wood with crude incised decoration and carrying handles on both sides, was built by an eccentric Polish-American from Shamokin, Pa. He made a number of oddball items, including a zany cuckoo clock. The lid is attached by twisted wire.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Yaqui Indian stone sculptures

These sandstone portraits were made by Native-Americans in southern Arizona. They used to belong to Morgan Rank, a dealer/collector in East Hampton, N.Y.

Friday, October 9, 2009

IOOF ceremonial tombstones

In a secret Odd Fellows ceremony, these replica wood headstones would have been held by robed members. They date to about 1925. Today, they're unusual and sculptural decorative objects.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

These prices are INSANE!

Crazy Eddie wasn't the first to go bug-eyed over low prices. Check out this guy's reaction on a cardboard sign to $1 a week for a fridge. The face and voice of Crazy Eddie was a radio DJ who copied an earlier TV pitchman, Madman Muntz. One of the Crazy Eddie founders was charged with fraud, fled to Israel and returned to the U.S. to serve prison time. New owners could not save Crazy Eddie and the business folded 20 years ago.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

White House art

The New York Times reports on borrowed art in the Obama White House, including this George Catlin painting:

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Church signage

These are two churches near my home that differ on the importance of signage. The first church, Holy Hill Church of God in Christ, put a lot of thought into its sign, using fancy grillwork that mimics the grillwork on the door. And just in case you were thinking about parking real close to the door, forget it; that's the pastor's spot, as those big letters clearly indicate. The second church, The House of the Lords Prayer, seems to want to hide. I saw the sign only because I was walking by.

Exotic landscape

This 19th century oil on canvas has a fantastical quality I really like. It used to hang in a Manhattan home. When I bought it it had two significant tears that I had repaired. The scene looks imagined because it seems to combine two different climate zones and the colors have a dreamy richness and variety.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mother and child

These carvings apparently depict a mother and her child. The child has no legs, so he or she appears to be kneeling. The mother, however, is fully formed, with high heels and sequins on her dress. Even her fingernails are painted red, but oddly enough the painted nails on the inside hand are on the wrong side in order to show all the painted nails from one view.

Friday, October 2, 2009

He-man I'm not

I go to a fitness center a couple times a week, but not because I like exercise as an end in itself. It's boring. I'd much rather just take long walks with my wife or stroll around with a camera. Unfortunately, that doesn't provide the same health benefits. You must sweat. The fellow pictured above — Charles Atlas? — obviously liked working out much more than I do and showing off the results. Have you ever seen the lifelike sculptures by Duane Hanson? Well, imagine those people just standing around in their shorts. That's more like me. But I'm working on it.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Handsome woman portrait

This painting, from Cleveland, was done around 1935, a time when demeaning caricatures of African-Americans were considered OK in many parts of the country. The woman pictured here is real: stylish, sophisticated, smart, nobody's fool. She's someone you'd be proud to call a friend. Her portrayal defied the times.