Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Things

by Donald Hall

Published in The New Yorker, January 4, 2010 issue

When I walk in my house I see pictures,

bought long ago, framed and hanging

—de Kooning, Arp, Laurencin, Henry Moore—

that I’ve cherished and stared at for years,

yet my eyes keep returning to the masters

of the trivial: a white stone perfectly round,

tiny lead models of baseball players, a cowbell,

a broken great-grandmother’s rocker,

a dead dog’s toy—valueless, unforgettable

detritus that my children will throw away

as I did my mother’s souvenirs of trips

with my dead father, Kodaks of kittens,

and bundles of cards from her mother Kate.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

He Likes Them Big

The Russ Meyer of dahlias. And they're natural.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Recking the Building

Kevin over at the Candler Arts blog posted a fine drawing by one of the great Southern self-taught artists, Dilmus Hall of Athens, Georgia. It illustrates the Bible story of Samson destroying a huge temple, several thousand Philistines and himself in one great burst of vengeance. Seeing that version made me dig around and find another version of the same subject, titled Sampson Recking the Building. For some reason I remembered the title as "Rocking the Building." I like both. A lot of self-taught artists made variations on a theme, but you rarely get to see them side-by-side. I notice that in Kevin's version, Samson's face is showing, he is much more muscular, and is barefoot. In the one here, his face is hidden and he's wearing dress shoes. The radiant energy of Samson's strength is much the same in both.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Decoration Yard Show

Since we moved to the neighborhood five years ago, one house just up the street always has a compelling yard display at Christmastime. I always promise myself to get pictures, and finally this year I walked over with camera in hand. It just so happened that Mr. Williams was working on his display when I arrived, and graciously gave his permission to take some pictures. He utilizes nearly all the plants in his yard, whether evergreen or bare, to hang and support the decorative elements. As far as I'm concerned, Christmas yard decorations are an American folk art, and I appreciate the generosity of people who install them for the delight of others. So Merry Christmas from Mr. and Mrs. Williams, who have been doing this at their home for 45 years.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Private Indulgence

Happy Birthday, T!!!

Real photo postcard from Luc Sante's "Folk Photography: The American Real-Photo Postcard, 1905-1930." Get your copy!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

He's Very Bendy

Carved folk art pipe, about 4 inches high.

He's wearing a hunter's hat with a sporty feather and holds a flask and cup in his hands. The hat opens to reveal the bowl and control the burn. His feet are missing, and so is the stem.

Considering where the stem emerged, this probably both stimulated and stopped some conversations, depending on one's appreciation for the visuals.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Traveling Art Parlors

The cabinet card mount is labeled "Milam's Imperial Traveling Art Parlors." That's a pretty grandiose name for a railroad car with a skylight, a painted backdrop and a camera. Milam must have had more than one.

I'm intrigued by the tack holes in the upper corners, showing that the photo was pinned up at least twice.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Evidence (In Memoriam Larry Sultan)

I was saddened to see the notice of the death of Larry Sultan. He was the co-creator of an exhibition and book titled Evidence back in 1977. I bought the book and was among many who were influenced by it. Occasionally I find a photograph reminiscent of those he and Mike Mandel selected for their project, and I've posted here about it before. My discovery of that book at that time was one of those moments in life that looms even larger in retrospect. Thanks, Larry.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

WTH Series

? ? ? ? ?

1) Christmas card from a die-hard minimalist.

2) Morse Code for Merry Christmas.

3) Curve-mount stereoview used for vision screening tests.

Here's another from the same series. Maybe it was for psychiatric evaluation.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pearl Harbor: Scraps of Memory

With today being Pearl Harbor Day in remembrance of the Japanese attack there on December 7, 1941, here are two pieces of selected evidence. One is before the fact; the other immediately following. The first item is interesting because it foreshadows what is to come in an ironic way, and the second confirms the human practice of scavenging physical evidence as memory.

First is a scan of a news item from the Klondike Miner, the newspaper of Skagway, Alaska, published August 4, 1940. It reads, "The Japanese Government objected yesterday to the embargo recently announced by President Roosevelt against exportation of aviation gasoline to countries outside the Western Hemisphere."

Next is an image of a wing salvaged from one of the attacking aircraft that day, with the Rising Sun insignia having been cut away by souvenir keepers.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fish Lure Effigy

Folk Art Fish Lure
Purchased from a Black man at a catfish pond.
Central Georgia
c. 1985

This one was among 30 or so homemade lures in his tackle box. The maker utilized carved wood, feathers, the shaft of Bic pens, paint, beads - most anything at hand. Did they catch fish? I don't know, but it caught me.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ancient Objects, and Beautiful

If you enjoy ancient art as much as I do, you'll want to see this article and the accompanying slideshow in the New York Times. It concerns art from the Danube Valley of Europe, 5000 to 3500 B. C., predating the accomplishments of Greece, Rome and Egypt. I've borrowed a few of my favorites to show you here.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Painters for Hire.

Meticulous Neat Vigorous Workers.

We wear hats.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hungry Kitty

Homemade beanbag toss game

Plywood and paint

c. 1950

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dealing With It

Months ago I was given a photograph by a fellow who sells them. It was a tattered sample of what he promised was to come, and he knew I'd want to buy. But month after month, he apologized that he hadn't been able to get them from his source, a member of the subject's family. This past weekend, he found out why. His source is in prison. So it may be that this is the only one I'll be getting.

It's a picture of an athlete named Forest Maddox, a professional baseball player who had no left arm. He was known to his teammates and the public as "Wing" or "One-Wing." I doubt that bothered him much. In the late 19-teens and early 1920s, he played for the Atlanta Black Crackers, the Knoxville Giants, the Washington (DC) Braves, and the Birmingham Black Barons. A 1921 article in the Washington Post stated that "As an outfielder he amazes spectators by the dexterity with which he catches a ball with his one gloved hand, tosses it into the air, removes the glove and with lightning-like rapidity snatches the ball again and relays it to the infield." He was a pitcher, too. If you've ever read baseball cards, they specify which side a player bats and throws from. It amuses me a little that, for this one-armed player, his stats profile reads: Bats: Right, Throws: Right.

He later taught at his alma mater, Morehouse College, until his death in 1929 at the age of 31.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

American Cemetery, Normandy, France.