Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Museum of Bad Art

I am fortunate to live reasonably near the Museum of Bad Art, which is in the basement of a movie theatre (art house, of course) in Dedham, Massachusetts. I love that it exists, that it raises questions, that it is humorous and quirky and never fails to make me smile.

The art comes from thrift stores, yard sales, donations (sometimes by the artist) and other such places. It's sometimes funny, sometimes creepy, generally weird. There is also something serious and dear about it.

"The pieces in the MOBA collection range from the work of talented artists that have gone awry to works of exuberant, although crude, execution by artists barely in control of the brush. What they all have in common is a special quality that sets them apart in one way or another from the merely incompetent."  (from the MOBA website).

Yup, weird.

The comments posted with each picture are amusing. Some are written by the person who donated it, some by the MOBA curators. For the above: "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." (Doesn't that look more like a monkey-dog than a chipmunk?)

Of course the term bad art raises eyebrows. There's a New York Times article about MOBA that discusses that issue  (read it here). I love outsider art, which I could possibly distinguish from bad art, but am not going to go into parsing all of that here, now. It's not relevant.

For years I have toyed with the idea of creating something like the MOBA in the Catskills--I think it would be great fun and I see plenty of good bad art at the auctions I frequent. I even emailed MOBA to see if they'd be interested in having a Catskills outpost. Alas, I have not yet heard from them. Of course I can go ahead and do something on my own. Maybe make a little space in the store for quirky art?

All pictures from the MOBA collection

Monday, September 26, 2011

flowers in the house

a gathering of this and that from my garden

I rarely go to parties, in life or in blogs, but I enjoy Small but Charming's  Flowers in the Housebecause it's, well, small but charming, which is the way parties should be (at least the ones I attend), and is all about flowers, which are one of my favorite things, and filled with interesting people.

hydrangeas on the mantle

Sunday, September 25, 2011

carry on?

I'm considering keeping the store open. I have been touched by how many people--especially other business owners--have reached out to me.  I would probably close for a time after the holidays for renovations and restructuring, and maybe just be open Saturdays for the lean months. I have some ideas that I think can reduce my travel burnout. The store's been open almost a year now, and in that time I've become part of the community in a way I wasn't when I was just a weekend resident.

The effects of the floods will continue for quite some time. I was in Margaretville last weekend, three weeks after the storm, and there was nowhere to get a sandwich or cup of coffee, in a town that a month ago had three luncheonette/diner type establishments, a pizzeria, and three restaurants. Of those seven businesses only one of the restaurants was partially open. There are normally three ways to get to Main Street. Two were closed because of flood damage. The third was closed for several hours last weekend because of a fire--arson--a desperate owner who didn't have flood insurance, allegedly set fire to his own building. EDIT: Oct 5: Authorities said it was a clothes dryer that caused the fire, not arson. It was very depressing. However, many of those businesses will reopen sooner or later, and the town will rebuild.

It seems like a particularly selfish time to give up my business. I can just walk away, but so many other people can't. If my little store provides a flicker of light in the dark time this community is in, maybe I should make the effort to keep it going. Perhaps business will get better and perhaps I will become a better person and member of the community in the process.

(if those photos look familiar, yes I have used them before here ...)

Friday, September 23, 2011

the auction gremlin

Cleaning out--the garage, odd corners and under beds where I've stashed things to sell. What to take to the store? Sell in the Etsy shop? Give away?

I've come across a few things I forgot about. Like this head-scratching, what was I thinking of, auction purchase of three heavy wood, brightly painted, semi-marionettish, what? They don't look like they belong in a country house do they? They aren't to my taste at all.

In the throes of auction fever I bid on them. They have price tags on them, so once upon a time they were in a store somewhere. Little sticker tags with big prices. 
Does that say 295.99? Yes it does. And that's just for one. Maybe it's lire or pesos or drachmas, not dollars. I have no idea if they have any intrinsic value or if they are something that can be bought for cheap in their country of origin (Indonesia? Thailand?) and some gift store was pulling a con.

They are made of solid wood and are pretty big--about 20" tall.

The paint looks new, the fabric is new. There are strings you pull to make their arms move.

As I bid, one voice in my head said, they won't fit in your store or house. And another voice, the auction gremlin, hissed you can always give them away, and put her hand up and paid forty dollars for the three of them.

Right now they are wedged in a space between the guest bed and the wall. Which isn't fair to them at all. I have absolutely no idea what to do with them, but they need to go live somewhere else. Have you ever seen anything like them? Do you know someone who would like to adopt them?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

yellow house, green shutters, morning glories

My oldest son recently moved to Albany, the capital of New York state. 
His apartment is in an 1860's row house. It has 14-foot ceilings and a roof garden. In his living room is a walk-in vault, now converted to a closet, but with the heavy old vault door still on it. The original owners must have had some treasures, or perhaps didn't believe in banks.

There are many wonderful old houses from that era in Albany.

 Most are built from brick and stone.

I especially love the old wooden ones. There aren't many left. They are from the 1840's or earlier--after that they stopped building them, because the risk of fire was too great.

This one is my favorite. I love the creamy yellow wood shingles with the green shutters.

The roof is copper.

These morning glories cover a chain link fence that surrounds a parking lot.
Don't the words morning and glory look beautiful together?
And don't those flowers deserve such a gorgeous name?

What do you suppose an edible art gallery is? 

Monday, September 19, 2011

wanted: summer shack

I like the way the topmost impatien appears to be looking out of my kitchen window. I'm starting to say goodbye to summer, as the word frost came up in yesterday's weather forecast.

Word's getting around that I'm closing the store at the end of the year, and I had quite a few visits this weekend from people who were sad about it. Some customers, but a surprising amount of other store owners. Lots of commiserating and brainstorming. I've figured out a few things.

1. Close the store when the waterfall turns to icicles.

Bearing in mind that it is a labor of love (meaning I'm not doing it to make money, but can't lose money) and that my weekday life is 240 miles away, if I reopen, I want it to be seasonal--May or June to November or December. 

2. Consider focusing almost exclusively on vintage art--my favorite thing to find, buy, and sell. 

3. I need to be enthusiastic and inspired. I'm not going to force this. Close the store at the end of the year. Go to auctions and pick up fun, inexpensive art and other things that make my heart flutter. Maybe reopen next summer if I can find a cheap summer shack with plenty of wall space. 

What do you think of this picture? It's a photograph of what looks to be a porcelain doll. Her expression is so poignant and lovely. She looks like a ballerina. I'm not a doll person, but find this picture moving. It's large--the frame is 23" x 30", which gives it power. She's semi-neglected, leaning against a wall in my foyer, auction sticker still on. Moved to the chair for me to take the picture, then back to the floor. Haven't taken her to the store because she doesn't quite fit. Or maybe I don't want to give her up?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

refreshments, ping-pong, billiards, hostesses

I made a collage using ephemera from the World War II era. Painted a canvas with blended blue and black paint, scuffed it up a bit. (Click on pictures to enlarge.)

I have a suitcase full of letters, pictures and all kinds of memorabilia from the family of Arthur Salve, from the 1940's and 50's. I built the piece around an Enlisted Man's Temporary Pass to visit NY City, made out to Arthur.

From that collection I included a letter written by Arthur's mother about the family farm stand, a typed recipe for peach butter, and a family photo (that may be the Salve's).

I added a map of Europe from an old encyclopedia, a NY City postcard, a ticket to a dance for service men, a lingerie ad and a clipping from a 1943 issue of Life Magazine. I didn't shellac the paper--I wanted it to have a rough feel, like a bulletin board. I have a lot of ephemera from this era and couldn't figure out what to do with it. I like the idea of creating vignettes with these bits of history, and am considering doing a series of them.

I'm heading to the Catskills tomorrow... Enjoy your weekend!


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

beach therapy

Before last night's auction I took a walk on the beach in Hull.

 The weather was glorious 

and even at four o'clock plenty of people were out.

I hadn't realized how tense I was, until I took off my shoes and started walking.

My shoulders, neck, and jaw were tight,

but loosened up as I went along---water, sun and sand working their miracles.

Sky too.

This is the only shell I picked up--I like the way it looks with the barnacles on it. I could turn the shell and barnacles into a metaphor, but I will spare you.

I only bought one thing at the auction--the butcher block for my friends. 
It was a great price and they are happy, which makes me happy.

My son found a table on his own, and I didn't feel like buying anything for the store, since it's full, and I'm going to be closing in a few months.

I love the way these buoys look and that they on the beach for everyone to enjoy--a lovely convergence of utility and nature, that for me becomes art.

closing time

Pretty sure I'm going to close the store at the end of the year. The distance between here and there is too great and I can't be there enough. It was a lark, an escape from grief, and most certainly a labor of love. A lot of labor, a lot of love.

editing to add (since the question is coming up)
I'm planning to keep the Etsy store going and maybe take a space in an antiques cooperative. I may reopen in the Catskills in the future, if I can find a reasonable space in one of the summer towns, for the summer and fall. I'll be writing more about this of course, and will still have a store to write about for a few months. And if you listen to the song and look at the pictures, they are more melancholy than I feel. My feelings are mixed. Yes sad. Yes relieved. Bittersweet is the word of the day.

Monday, September 12, 2011

getting ready for auction

Way back in March I wrote Auction 101, part 1, about how to find an auction, and promised more posts on the nuts and bolts of auctions. So here's part 2---how I prepare. I've only been to the auction house I'm going to tonight once before. It's small and content varies a lot but tonight looks good. Also it just happens to be close to Hull, one of my favorite beach towns, so I am going to sneak out early and go for a walk on the beach.

The beach at Hull. In fact the very first post I ever wrote was about Hull, and I have a feeling I'll be writing another one later this week.

All auctions have previews, a time when you can go and view the merchandise. Sometimes it's an hour, sometimes a full day or even two. If you are serious about buying, previewing is essential and will save you mistakes and money. Tonight, I am previewing not just for myself, but for my son and a friend. My son moved into a new apartment and needs a table for dining and working. There are a couple of drop leaf tables I have my eye on. And the friend had been looking for a big old butcher block and there's one up tonight. I can't figure out how to post individual pictures, but here is the link to the pictures from tonight's auction. I like the fall front desk, green bench, and all the cupboards, especially the green one. (You know me and green.) Also the canoe sign, yellow ware and wooden bowls. And what's the deal with the 2-door oak church archway with stained glass at top??? Not that it would fit in my car. Which brings me to my next point.

This well-worn diagram and measurements of the inside of my car is very important. I take it (and a tape measure) and consult it every time I go to an auction. During the auction I sketch out different configurations of how to fit what I want to buy into my car. Renting a van is always an option, but not cost-effective. Auction houses will usually hold items for a few days, and I have occasionally made a second trip when I couldn't fit everything in my car, but since most auction houses I frequent are an hour or more from where I live, and then I have to take everything from Massachusetts to the Catskills, so I've only done that a couple times.

When I get to the auction I take one of my beloved Field Notes notebooks and a pen or pencil and make notes of what I want to buy. Sometimes I use stars and question marks. I usually mark the maximum I am willing to pay and sometimes what I think I can sell it for. And sometimes random stuff.

I'll let you know how tonight's auction goes.