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


  1. oh i love these. how about a bad art blog! there is something about the earnestness of some of these that makes me want to see more.

  2. Chasing Lightning Bugs--I love the word "ernest" applied here. I kept thinking of it in terms of the artist's intent coming through, that they are not just frivolous, but ernest expresses it better.

  3. Sadly, or happily, I can't say I care much for these works, and it always strikes me as funny when these sorts of things are called folk art. I like folk art a lot but a line should be drawn somewhere and as always it is in the eye of the beholder. Some people think Thomas Kinkade is an artist; well...
    And when I look at Basquiat, I love him. Who decides what's what?

  4. The dog next to the monkey-dog is so much alike my dog, daisy, despite of the difference of colour. For the artists they( we) are the same creatures and seem to have a lot of things to speak out.

  5. Thankyou, Jen, this is hilarious - I've had an excellent laugh!

  6. Hello Jen:
    Alternative Art, how we love the idea and can just see a small section of your store devoted to the same. The principle we think is a good one in that one is not highlighting the incompetent, but rather the artist with something to say but whose technique is, perhaps, less than perfect or less fully developed. Go for it!

  7. great idea to just have a quirky art area in your place...If you need any bad art, let me know. I never throw anything away, thinking I can fix it or reuse it...I have loads of weird failures in my basement ... hiding from everyone !

    - KAT -

  8. Ah Jen,
    aren't they just fantastic!!!

    I smiled reading this post!

    Have a great weekend.

    x Fiona

  9. This is so weird! I have heard of it though.

  10. Yes, yes, yes. Grandma in the flower field such an iconic image. Oh dear, i'm enjoying these paintings way too much....

  11. Amazing and you know there is something quite clever / endearing about the paintings you have featured. Definetly a place to visit sometime in the future.