Friday, July 31, 2009
Ran across a 3-year-old American Heritage magazine article about a fruit farmer who collects only the best folk sculpture. I thought "farmer" and "struggling" went hand in hand. Not always, apparently. The farmer enlisted the help of the most prominent dealers in making his choices. The whirligig fragment above is from a far more modest collection -- mine. Here's the article:
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Cherry Valley, N.Y., a burg that predates the Revolutionary War, is Cooperstown's quiet neighbor to the northeast. Its handful of lovely old homes, two cafes and one fancy restaurant provide a diversion from the baseball hubbub 15 miles away.
Monday, July 27, 2009
But an autograph is worth quite a bit. A day after the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony, retired stars sold their autographs in downtown Cooperstown. Yogi Berra's signature fetched $75. That's not worth $100 today, Berra would say. And it's certainly not worth $599 -- the price of a Rickey Henderson autograph on a shoe or cleats. Henderson and Jim Rice were inducted into the Hall of Fame Sunday, so their signatures were fetching big bucks. Henderson sat outside a CVS drug store as a long line of fans eagerly opened their wallets for a brush with fame. A true superstar, Henderson showed up 40 minutes late. ESPN was to blame, the fans were told.
As a former newspaper reporter, I was drawn to these plates with women's faces. The store is in New York State near the Pennsylvania border. The owner is an IBM retiree who said he makes little money running a junk store but likes being around old stuff and the people who like old stuff.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Returning from a fishing trip on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, I drove south on Route 11 between Watertown and Syracuse and stopped in Adams. Located in dairy farming country in upstate New York, Adams' striking buildings appear to be at risk. A resident told me the first outboard motors were made in the red building, now filled with junk and artifacts, like wooden boats, that await a real home. A boy pulled along by his mother glances back at the stranger in town pointing a camera.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
Not really, of course. But sometimes the most mundane things -- like a door handle -- can attain a special quality because of age and design. This very old handle came off a building in Maine and was sold to me at a show in Massachusetts.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
We recently had a house guest who was creeped out by these children's cards, patented July 23, 1912. A little dearie would put the appropriate nose, eyes and mouth cards behind the faces to finish them. "When these features you begin to choose. Try to have them exactly right. Or Grandma and Grandpa will be a sight. If you fix them right, they will smile at you. As 'really' and 'truly' grandfolks do." It struck me as funny that out of context, these cards turn frightening.
One of my favorite movies as a child, "Creature from the Black Lagoon," is slated to be remade. Let's hope it's more than a special-effects extravaganza. I'm guessing the maker of this creature also was a fan of the 1954 film. The skin is the red tape an electrician might use, the eyes are sheet-metal screws and the whole thing is slathered in liquid rubber, giving it an appropriately icky feel.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
A shopping center in Fayetteville, Ga., used to offer the convenience of drive-through prayer requests. The small, standalone building -- an island in a vast parking lot -- was built for photo processing. When that business failed, a Baptist church took control. The prayer booth operated for a few years, then closed. The entire property is now on the market. Undoubtedly, a few prayers have been said that it will sell.
So the Kohler Arts Center in Wisconsin acquired the whole kit and kaboodle from artist Gregory Van Maanen. Kudos to the center for wanting to preserve an entire collection, figuring that's the best way to appreciate an artist's work. But Van Maanen? I have never seen hundreds of Van Maanens together; maybe that's powerful. But I have seen individual pieces and they reminded me of festival-booth art in which colorful shock is supposed to entice. Van Maanen's life story makes his work a bit more palatable -- a bit -- but is it necessary to know that before deciding whether art is good or not? Van Maanen strives to show war's psychological horror but to me his work is just horrible. Sorry.
Friday, July 10, 2009
This assemblage from north Florida includes a preserved vegetable and a print of Christ covered with scribblings, such as "crafty harlot." It got my attention. The writing is reminiscent of Prophet Royal Robertson's outsider art.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
When words are taken out of their comfort zone, blown up, thrown against a bus, forced on the public -- that can be pretty exciting. A furniture store owner, now deceased, painted this bus between Selma and Montgomery. Apparently, furniture wasn't his only interest.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
After returning from vacation we made a scary discovery: A pond nearly devoid of fish. About 15 koi and goldfish were swimming in our front-yard pond when we departed, but only two fish appeared when I threw in food the morning after our return. Clearly, something terrible happened there. We suspect a blue heron. The Chattahoochee River, which runs through Atlanta, is a heron magnet. And the big birds have discovered homeowner ponds, of which there are many. My next door neighbor, the owner of a PR firm, lost all her fish. A couple weeks ago my wife and I stopped on our walk to watch a blue heron swallowing fish and maybe tadpoles in a runoff pond at an intown apartment and condo complex. Before that, I stared in amazement out our back window one afternoon as a heron sat in our neighbor's tree. We hope our missing fish are just really good at hiding and not some urban wader's lucky find.
Just returned from Cooperstown, N.Y., where my parents have spent their summers for the past 23 years, and once again much of the conversation is about how baseball commercialism is destroying the village. A woman who grew up in Cooperstown but now lives in Boston wrote an op-ed piece in the local paper expressing shock over the demise of shops that catered to locals. To which my parents said, right on. I used to look forward to visiting a gallery on Main Street that sold Lavern Kelley carvings (http://americanart.si.edu/collections/search/artwork/?id=31991). I could never afford one because even then -- 20 years ago -- they were $1,000 or more. (But I did get to visit Kelley at his decrepit home in Oneonta, where silent men sat in broken chairs, cats roamed and the ground was visible through the wood floor.) Today the former gallery space sells bats. A retailer who operated a variety store where my father bought his newspapers tried desperately to sell to someone who would continue to operate it as a variety store. No luck. Now it's a shop with some connection to Pete Rose, who sells his autographs.