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THE MUSEUM OF BAD ART
By MICHAEL FRANK LOUISE REILLY SACCO
TEN SPEED PRESS
Copyright © 2008
Museum of Bad Art
All right reserved.
Chapter One The Art
CHARLIE AND SHEBA Anonymous 18" x 24", oil on canvas Purchased at a Boston thrift store MOBA catalog #392
No longer able to tolerate the incessant barking, Charlie the Chipmunk uses a Band-Aid to tape Sheba the Sheepdog's mouth shut before posing with her on the picnic table.
One Woman, One Artist?
ASHEN WOMAN RISING Anonymous 15" x 12", oil on canvas Purchased in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts MOBA catalog #264
Rising from the murky depths like Nessie, this mysterious beauty from the underworld haunts the viewer with her piercing blue-eyed/brown-eyed gaze.
SCRAP WOMAN Anonymous (attributed to the creator of Ashen Woman Rising) 15" x 15", paper and cardboard collage Purchased in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts MOBA catalog #230
Attributed to the same anonymous artist who painted Ashen Woman Rising, Scrap Woman also exhibits a prominent forehead, thin eyebrows, and a penetrating stare at something behind our left shoulder-one subject, two approaches.
INVASION OF THE OFFICE ZOMBIES Jenna Cathyla 24" x 30", oil on canvas Left anonymously at MOBA MOBA catalog #253
This haunting scene draws us in with subtle hints of capitalist morals. Notice the Cleveland bill gracing the crooked floor. Does it foreshadow a new denomination that drives us all to the broken jail-cell window to throw our disembodied heads to the street?
THE BETTER TO SEE YOU WITH, MY DEAR Anonymous 20" x 16", oil on canvas Acquired through barter with bARTer Sauce MOBA catalog #416
Attempting to combat the pervasive sense of isolation rampant in modern society, the artist presents a bold postcubist image that compels the viewer to make direct eye contact.
SADNESS Bill Scott 26" x 18", acrylic on canvas Left anonymously at MOBA MOBA catalog #295
Oblivious to the serpents that slither all over him, he hangs his head and wonders what else could possibly go wrong on his tropical vacation.
ANGURIA IN UN GONDOLA A VENEZIA R. Mercer 33" x 26", oil on canvas Donated by Mary Fadel MOBA catalog #274
The delicate elegance of Venetian architecture is rendered carelessly. In particular, the building at the right has pillars that don't quite line up, with one of them blocking the steps. The arches on the left vary in shape. The painter has even altered the traditional narrow Venetian gondola to make it appear more angurial.
"Venetians have always loved anguria or watermelon as a refreshment. Thin slices were served in the noblest parlours-in the absence of any more robust food-as several Grand Tourists observed disapprovingly. But Thomas Coryate, the irrepressible seventeenth-century visitor, was an enthusiast: 'it hath the most refridgerating vertue of all the fruites of Italy.' However he warned travellers to beware of consuming too many of other melons: 'For the sweetnesse of them is such as hath allured many men to eate so immoderately of them, that they have therewith hastened their untimely death.'"
-Michelle Lovric, from "A Piece of Cake"
RONAN THE PUG Erin Rothgeb 24" x 18", acrylic on canvas board Purchased at a Boston thrift store MOBA catalog #333
The artist's affection for her dog far outstrips her artistic skill. Paint is slapped on the canvas with random brushstrokes, creating matted, impossible fur. Done in such a hurry that the canine anatomy was not even considered, the artist still captures Ronan's playful sweetness. Or perhaps the pup has just lapped up all the spilled eggnog at a holiday party and is ready to attempt a clear tenor rendition of "Danny Boy."
Why Should Enhancements Be Limited to Humans?
HOLLYWOOD LIPS Anonymous 15" x 12", oil on cardboard Purchased at a Boston thrift store MOBA catalog #343
In Hollywood, even the palm trees have work done.
SILICONE CLOUDS Anonymous 36" x 36", oil on canvas Left anonymously at MOBA MOBA catalog #419
Perky Rubenesque clouds float in a cerulean sky.
DISAPPOINTMENT Anonymous 24" x 32", oil on canvas Donated by Doug Shive (purchased by Kurt Beers of Wilmington, Delaware, at the New Castle County, Maryland, farmers' market) MOBA catalog #301
Their sunburns and the empty champagne bottle help explain the man's regrettable inability to stay awake on the first night of his honeymoon. His new wife gazes blankly, wondering, "Is that all there is?"
Note: This painting is featured as CD cover art for Subs, Shells, Spirits by Tube Dutch, Mr. Shive's band.
BLUE-EYED SISTAH Anonymous 26" x 20", acrylic on canvas Purchased at a Boston thrift store MOBA catalog #317
A daring artist challenges our ideas about race, age, fashion, and anatomy.
GILDED NUDE Anonymous 18" x 12" inches, oil on canvas Donated by Ian Michelson from New Zealand MOBA catalog #344
The viewer is struck immediately by the youthful female subject's oversized arm.
The MOBA staff has long been intrigued by portraits in which the subjects are depicted with bright blue skin. The Blue Fugates of Trouble Creek are a close-knit family from the hills of eastern Kentucky who, after generations of inbreeding, include many cousins with blue skin resulting from a rare hereditary disease known as methemoglobinemia. The Tuareg people of the eastern Sahara Desert, known as the nomadic "blue men of the desert," wear indigo-dyed robes that have been known to bleed color onto their skin. Neither group, however, seems to be the subject of any of the works reproduced here.
When an artist friend exhibited a painting featuring a detailed portrayal of a blue woman (a painting Mr. Frank covets but has so far been unable to secure for the MOBA collection), the artist noted that blue paint is substantially less expensive than traditional skin tone-colored paint. Similarly, some art historians speculate that limited financial resources, in addition to his depression following the suicide of Carlos Casagemas, contributed to young Pablo Picasso's Blue Period (1901-04). We find this explanation for the plethora of bad blue art considerably more mundane than anticipated, but probably as plausible as any.
COULDA BEEN MARILYN TODAY Roger Hanson (2003) 20" x 16", acrylic on canvas Donated by the artist MOBA catalog #196
A little old to have hair so blond and lips so red. The darkness rises and threatens to overwhelm. Are those fading dreams around her?
DOG BITES MAN Vladimir Cher, Sweden 8" x 12", tempera on cardboard Donated by the artist MOBA catalog #360
The artist employs a no-holds-barred approach to graphically depict the archetypical news non-event. Painting on the inside cover of a Konstnären (Artists) magazine, Cher allows the underlying red graphic to bleed through his paint, helping express the psychic pain driving the animal to resort to such violent behavior.
PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A BLUE MAN Anonymous 12" x 71/2", paint on pine Purchased at a Boston thrift store MOBA catalog #266
A famous author is depicted in a realistic, if slightly hydrocephalic, manner against a psychedelic background. His bow tie appears to be an afterthought.
... TILL I WAS BLUE IN THE FACE! Anonymous 14" x 11", acrylic on canvas Acquired through barter with bARTer Sauce MOBA catalog #322
And you thought you were having a bad day!
NICE BLUEISH BOY Anonymous 4' x 3', oil on canvas Purchased at a Brookline, Massachusetts, yard sale MOBA catalog #199
This painting depicts the ancient parable in which a blueish mother gave her son a green shirt and a yellow shirt for his birthday. When he next visited his mother, the nice blueish boy wore the green shirt, only to hear his mother cry, "What's the matter, you didn't like the yellow one?"
WORRIED GUY Anonymous 48" x 37", oil on canvas with wire, staples, and paper Acquired through barter with bARTer Sauce MOBA catalog #427
Rosalie Gale rescued this enormous painting from the trash in Seattle, Washington. She is the proprietrix of bARTerSauce.com, a website through which she trades unusual objects. In her account of finding Worried Guy, she writes, "We drove up to Capitol Hill where my friend Roberta Minor had seen the painting. It was huge ... and scary. He has metal wire hair and fingernails and staple eyebrows.... I decided that since the guy looks so worried, I would write down all the stuff that I worry about all the time and stick them to his wire hair. Then I'd just let him worry about them."
Among the worries she let him assume were:
"Large bodies of water"
"Having too much stuff"
"Staying home from work"
Everyone at MOBA hopes Ms. Gale is enjoying her carefree existence and has not found more things about which to worry.
YIKES M. Starbuck 23" x 12", tissue-paper collage Purchased at a Boston thrift store MOBA catalog #406
Stick-straight arms and muscled legs; dark body and light face; realistic, stylized feet and star-shaped hands-this energetic portrait is full of contradictions. Is she a suburban club kid, wearing the latest, briefest skirt and top with bangle bracelets?
PROSTHETIC CLAW William F. Murphy 12" x 20", oil on canvas Donated by Karen McHugh (purchased at a thrift store in Winston-Salem, North Carolina) MOBA catalog #426
Inspired by the film Jurassic Park, many have speculated about the possibility of using traces of fossilized dinosaur DNA to produce a living Tyrannosaurus rex. Advances in cell-engineering techniques have led others to speculate about the possibility of using stem cells to grow human tissue. One scientist, Dr. Jose Cibelli, went so far as to secretly clone his own DNA inside a cow egg.
Prosthetic Claw portrays the unexpected results in this ethical boundary-stretching field of interspecies cloning. The central figure's immaculate white shoe contrasts with the grotesquely poor grooming of the hand, which is depicted in a universally understood gesture. The artist seems to be saying that these experiments will result in a giant "goose egg." The heavy-handed image is marred by a clumsily executed background of straight-from-the-tube oil paint colors that have become all too familiar to the MOBA curatorial staff.
THE ACTOR William E. Judge (1974) 24" diameter, oil on canvas Left anonymously at MOBA MOBA catalog #246
Highlighted hair (or very complex lighting) draws attention away from the actor's receding hairline and piercing white eyes. His dejected gaze seems to reflect the realization that he is no longer suited to the leading man roles to which he once aspired.
Apocalyptic Post-Global Warming Images
WINTER MONOLITH KDR (August 1997) 18" x 24", oil on canvas Purchased at a Boston thrift store MOBA catalog #284
A strange monolith casts a glowing shadow on the tundra in this icy landscape. Even the trees shrink from the symbolic industrial structure in their midst. What else will be revealed as global warming causes the glacier to recede farther?
DRILLING FOR EGGS William F. Murphy 30" x 30", oil on canvas Donated by Karen McHugh (purchased at a thrift store in Winston-Salem, North Carolina) MOBA catalog #428
Green alligator flames dominate the foreground and a bright pink sky provides the backdrop for this disquieting depiction of a color-altered future in which eggs, a renewable resource, have replaced traditional hydrocarbon fuels. The artist is saying, in no uncertain terms, that unless we learn to conserve our priceless resources, the yolk will be on us.
THE SCIENTIST Anonymous 28" x 36", mixed media Left anonymously at MOBA MOBA catalog #382
Latex gloves and bodily fluids add color to this piece, which depicts a laboratory experiment gone horribly awry.
AIM 2 Lloyd Graham (Australia, 2006) 24" x 18", oil on canvas Donated by the artist MOBA catalog #372
"[This is m]y partner, Lyn, losing the battle with the middle objective of her research grant proposal (something to do with cross-talk between insulin-like growth factor binding proteins and retinoid-X receptor heterodimerization, since you asked)." -Text by the artist
As found objects to incorporate into art, keys are full of meaning-versatile, ubiquitous, inexpensive, and shiny.
KEY MAN Anonymous 18" x 14", oil, keys, and found objects on canvas board Left anonymously at MOBA MOBA catalog # 256
A resident of Key West, Florida.
KEYS TO THE CITY Anonymous 30" x 50", paint, plaster, keys, and cloth on plywood Purchased at a Boston thrift store MOBA catalog #283
Once a sleepy backwater, Key West is threatened with overdevelopment since becoming a popular destination for sailing enthusiasts.
THE WEIGHT LIFTER Tom W. 19" high, fabric strips, plaster of Paris, and paint Salvaged from a curbside trash pile in Boston MOBA catalog #155
The artist celebrates the winning can-do spirit of athletes who, eschewing the advice of coaches, trainers, and chiropractors, accomplish tremendous physical feats using unbelievably poor technique.
PLAYING WILLIAM TELL Anonymous 20" x 20", oil on canvas Left anonymously at MOBA MOBA catalog #356
This is a chilling portrayal of an incident involving Beat writer William S. Burroughs and his common-law wife, Joan Vollmer. On September 7, 1951, Burroughs and Vollmer were drunk at a party in Mexico City when he told her, "It's time for our William Tell act." Joan placed a glass of water on her head. Bill took out his gun, aimed, and accidentally, fatally, shot her in the head.
This portrayal of the incident is set against black, as befits a Beat poet. Joan's anguished expression and pale visage eclipse her cheerful polka dots and foretell the tragic outcome of the stunt. But she is incidental to him, in whose slightly feminine face we see the glazed expression of a drug-addicted, heavy-drinking misanthrope with a heart-shaped ear. Burroughs went on to write Naked Lunch, Junkie, The Soft Machine, and many other books not for the fainthearted.
QUEEN OF THE CHOCOLATE CHIP Christian 22" x 15", watercolor on paper Acquired from a Hyde Park, Massachusetts, yard sale MOBA catalog #180
The piece comments on the incongruity of royalism at the close of the second millennium. The formality of the pose contrasts with the laissez-faire attitude of Her Majesty, caught midchew and sporting a jaunty beret, which she clearly prefers to her emerald-encrusted crown. We are, in fact, amused.
SENSITIVE Anonymous 20" x 16", marker on cloth with paper Purchased at a Boston thrift store MOBA catalog #414
There may have been an argument that ended with the artist yelling, "Sensitive? You want sensitive? I'll show you sensitive." The outraged splashes of dark color, the scribbled words, and even the angry stick figures are callous, thick-skinned, and indurate-no matter how insistent the word "sensitive" becomes.
BONE-JUGGLING DOG IN A HULA SKIRT Mari Newman 40" x 16", tempera and acrylic on canvas Donated by the artist MOBA catalog #214
This is a delightful example of labor-intensive pointlessism. The MOBA interpretative staff scratched our heads in wonder as we tried to imagine what would possess an artist to portray a dog juggling bones while wearing a hula skirt. When the curator-in-chief asked artist Mari Newman directly, she responded, "Having no money while taking art classes in college, I helped myself to used canvases left behind by other students. This canvas was long and narrow. I couldn't think of an idea for a ragged canvas that shape until I saw a cartoon of a wiener dog standing upright. I painted a dog on the used canvas but was not happy with it. After seeing hula girls in a magazine, I put a hula skirt on the dog on a lark. After I saw a jar of colorful dog bones in a pet store, I added them to my painting. I continued to work on the picture, but almost threw it out until I heard of MOBA. After many years of slashing rejected work, now I wish I had saved them all for you."
Mari Newman is a prolific artist living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Everyone at MOBA is grateful that she understands that Bone-Juggling Dog in a Hula Skirt, and many of her other works (including paintings, drawings, and three-dimensional collages featuring Barbie dolls, hot water bottles, and found objects) belong in the MOBA permanent collection. Ms. Newman's "outsider art" is represented in many other museums, including the Pensacola Museum of Art, the Tampa Museum of Art, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the Columbus Museum of Art (Ohio).
Excerpted from THE MUSEUM OF BAD ART by MICHAEL FRANK LOUISE REILLY SACCO Copyright © 2008 by Museum of Bad Art. Excerpted by permission.
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