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.