Friday, December 30, 2011

Oversize wood parade masks from Nebraska

These masks are from a Nebraska carnival that closed in the 1950s. A collector in Lincoln, Neb., bought them at auction in the 1970s and kept them until recently. Each face is made of early plywood and about 2 feet high and 16 inches wide, so much bigger than a real face. Including the stakes, they're roughly 4 feet tall. I would guess the age to be 1920s. I like the primitive, outsider look. Kids must have been frightened.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Eyes closed

Two eyes-closed photos recently on eBay. Love them for different reasons. The well-dressed woman stands at attention in an odd setting, behind a chicken fence with a chicken near her feet. The sitting man blends into the background and miraculously does not break the dark line.

Monday, December 26, 2011

I got a goat

I got a goat for Christmas. Sort of. My wife, Moni Basu, purchased the animal in my honor through Heifer International so villagers somewhere in the world can enjoy milk, cheese, butter and yogurt, and fertilize their gardens with goat manure. Goats also produce two to three kids a year, allowing small dairies to flourish. Thanks Moni and Heifer International.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Our Glorious Banner

A painted wood plaque honoring Florence Earle Payne, president in 1905 of the Gouverneur, N.Y., chapter of the Woman's Relief Corps, an organization established in 1883 whose mission is to "perpetuate the memory of the Grand Army of the Republic." Edward John Noble, the co-founder of Life Savers who bought the formula for the candy in 1913, also was from Gouverneur, in case you didn't know. In 1906, Mrs. Payne wrote to the New York State Senate: "When the last veteran has unbuckled his knapsack and laid down to rest beneath the bright stars and broad stripes of our glorious emblem of freedom, then the Woman's Relief Corps will mark his resting place with fragrant garlands and carry on the work of patriotic education so well founded by the Grand Army." In February, Antiques Roadshow aired an appraisal of a circa 1910 quilt made up of about 100 W.R.C. convention ribbons. It was valued at $1,000-$1,500. The W.R.C. still exists. The current national president is Cindy Norton of Wellington, Ohio. The plaque honoring Mrs. Payne is dated Nov. 18, 1905. In 1917, Mrs. Payne wrote the 16-page historical treatise "Souvenir of Black Lake: A story of the past and present."  Black Lake is a remote area in upstate New York near the St. Lawrence River and Canada.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mysterious portrait posts

Seven figural soft wood posts, circa 1900, around 16 inches tall, that sold earlier this year at a Skinner auction. They depict men and women and each one has a black painted boot bottom. Their purpose, if they had one other than to look cool, is unknown to me. The pre-auction estimate, $400-$600, turned out to be a bit off. They sold for $2,450.
* I have subsequently learned that these might be 19th century bowling pins.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sitting on Santa's lap

Our friends make reservations so their children can get lap time with Santa at the mall. Old photos attest to the fact that I sat on Santa's lap, too, although truth be told I don't remember it. Maybe that's for the best. Looks like Santa here indulged in some eggnog. That's not me in the photo. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

This could be an interesting hour

Next Thursday, Dec. 22, Independent Lense will show The Woodmans, the story of a family of artists that suffered the death of perhaps its most gifted member, the 22-year-old photographer Francesca Woodman. Over a period of about eight years, Francesca shot thousands of black and white photos, many showing herself and other women. In January 1981, three months shy of her 23rd birthday, she ended her life by jumping out of a building in Manhattan. Francesca's parents are George and Betty Woodman. Her brother, Charles Woodman, is an electronics artist. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is showing Francesca's photographs until Feb. 20. The Marian Goodman Gallery in New York sells her work. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Personality difference

A photo c. 1960 that makes abundantly clear who the ham is in the family. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

North Carolina farm mailboxes

Steel mailboxes that for years stood along a rural road in central North Carolina. Howard Sheffield and Claudia L. McLeod opened and closed these boxes countless times. Howard's box seems to be the deluxe version; it contains an attached metal box for stamps.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Carnival knockdown

This is a ball toss target once owned by the pioneering folk art collectors Isobel and Harvey Kahn. Mr. Kahn was on the American Folk Art Museum collections committee and was a founding member of the American Folk Art Society. The Kahns displayed their collection in the Hessian House in Millburn, N.J., built in the 1730s. The month after I acquired this sculpture, Mr. Kahn died at age 86. You can read his obit here.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


A painting signed Susan Tucker, 1947. It shows the corner of Hampton and Winterton streets in the northeast Pittsburgh neighborhood of Highland Park. Today, if you look at a Google satellite photo of that intersection, it's concealed under heavy tree canopy. As we slide toward Christmas and the new year, the name Winterton will seem spot on.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Deathly white tintype portrait

Full plate painted tintype, 8.6 inches by 6.6 inches, found in a multidealer shop in rural Florida. Good chance she's a northern transplant.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Strawberry harvest

While driving near Plant City, Fla., this past weekend I came upon a group of migrant workers picking strawberries. All day long they are bent over as they pluck the berries and put them in plastic trays. By day's end, their backs must be pretty sore. Without these workers who travel great distances the fruit would rot in the fields and I wouldn't have easy pickings at the supermarket. But in my home state, Georgia, and in neighboring Alabama, elected officials have passed strict anti-immigration laws that could be devastating to agriculture, the green industry (landscaping), and Atlanta's convention business, which pumps millions of dollars into the local economy. The ugly truth is the folks who passed these laws are not a diverse group; they're white and mostly male. If the field workers were caucasians from Canada rather than brown Mexicans, none of those politicians would care. A federal court will decide next year whether portions of both states' laws are legal. Let's hope the court recognizes the discrimination that's scaring away these valuable workers and hurting our country, and strikes parts of those laws.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Shriners parade

A UPI press photo from 1954 showing people watching a Shriners parade where the marchers are wearing lights. Because of the camera's time exposure, the marchers themselves are invisible and the viewers look like they just rose from the dead. This strangely beautiful photo sold for more than $200 on eBay (soxphotos).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Nelson Mandela in sawdust

Two years ago this month, the U.N. honored Nelson Mandela by designating July 18 as Nelson Mandela International Day. I don't know if the artist Archie Byron (d. 2005) ever met Mandela, but he was certainly inspired by him. Nineteen years before the U.N. bestowed its honor, Byron made this sawdust portrait of the great South African leader, now 93. The year was 1990 when Mandela's 27 years of imprisonment came to an end. Byron owned a gun shop and was a local leader, serving on the Atlanta City Council. But it turns out his greatest gift to the public is what he did with the gunstock waste on the floor of his shop. A brief YouTube video shows the artist at work.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bird dogs

These fluffy guys are for sale on eBay (audee17), and I suspect they will fetch quite a bit of money.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Hurry, closes Saturday

White Columns gallery in New York is showing the work of Prophet Royal Robertson, who lived in Louisiana and made wildly emotional, othewordly posters, many of which attack his former wife, Adell. The show, called No Proud Bastards, closes Saturday. The New York Times published a short review. I'm fortunate to own the Royal Robertson pictured here.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Big doughboy cookie cutter

Doughboys were American soldiers who fought in World War I. In WWII they were G.I.'s. This cookie cutter, slightly taller than 16 inches, obviously plays with the word. The dough this soldier cut made a cookie big enough to feed more than one doughboy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Broad shouldered man

Tintype showing a man whose smallish head and biggish torso don't seem to go together.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

Bisque doll in her old dress

This doll is tiny, just 2.6 inches tall. Its arms move. The dress is pretty drab, but I wonder if at one time it had some color.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


I'll bet these outfits have remained in storage for as long as the couple has been married, maybe longer. A snapshot that recently sold on eBay (reeneeq).

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Outsider erotic totems

The story I was told is that these strange, stylized carvings came out of a lodge or club in Pennsylvania. Some club. The taller one (12 inches) has brads for nipples.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cartoony molds

The second one looks to me like it might be a gorilla or an angry dog. They're from a New York factory.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sunday, October 30, 2011