Monday, August 31, 2009

Treasure-Hunter or -Hunted?

A friend who collects art dropped by yesterday and somehow we started talking about our earliest memories of discovering something, whether by accident or as a result of searching. At the age of six, he found a quartz crystal on a dirt road named Diamond Road and, being a smart kid, was sure he had found a huge diamond. I enjoyed discovery so much that I once buried a toy plastic telephone in the back yard and a few days later dug it up and triumphantly "found" the treasure.

It's funny how little moments like those loom larger in retrospect as part of the trail of bread crumbs that mark the road traveled by treasure-hunters. Still, I suspect that sometimes, instead of being discovered, the treasure discovers US.

I grew up in a home with very few pictures on display, but we did have books, and as a boy I saw a black and white reproduction of "Tornado Over Kansas," a painting by John Steuart Curry. I don't know why that image made such an impression, but it was powerful. I remembered it well enough to recognize it when I saw it again at college. I really liked Curry's work and felt especially connected to it because of my early discovery.

A couple of decades went by, and one day a fellow brought me several boxes of art books he had purchased at the estate sale of a local artist. The artist's name was Josephine, and she had a very nice library with lots of choice books I wanted for myself. So I bought them all, and later went through them separating the keepers from the chaff. There I found a little chapbook about John Steuart Curry, small, thin and with inferior reproductions of the work. But before discarding it, because it was about Curry, I opened it and took a longer look. And there on the inside front page was this handwritten inscription:

"To sweet Josephine, with a heart full of love, John Steuart Curry."

I still think that that book found me.

This is my 100th post on this blog. Thanks to all my readers and responders.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Good For What Ails You

It seems as if most modern medications have dreamy names created by marketing departments, carefully designed to mean nothing, but suggestive of leading-edge therapeutics. You know what I'm talking about if you watch the ads on network news.

I call for a return to naming medicines like this one, Mullen's Hornet's Nest Liniment. None of the modern doctor's namby-pamby "this may sting a little" palaver. This stuff is gonna hurt like hell, and it's gonna work! After all, if you don't feel better after taking something with 66 percent alcohol, chloroform and tincture of opium in it, there's not much we can do.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Found this old Coca-Cola tin sign recently, and was struck by how the design graphics anticipate Pop Art imagery, with the stacked and repeated bottles. That green shadow on the right just makes the whole thing. I've seen thousands of Coke ads in my time, but I can't recall seeing this one. My guess is that it was made at least a couple of decades before the Sixties.

And so that gives me an excuse to put up a picture of the most awesome Pop sign, ever, this one for Campbell's Soup.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Red and Yellow, Black and White

When I saw this building while driving through south Alabama some years ago, I had to stop and take a picture. Several things about the scene attracted me: the bright red and yellow two-tone design, the weathered-into-nothingness of the sign above that identified it, the fact that it's an old railroad car with the wheels removed...I just liked it. I also liked all the angles and linear elements. The two windows with awnings - was it a fast-food place? The No Smoking sign and the colors - a fireworks stand?

While I was scanning the picture, I wondered what it would look like as a black and white scene. And I liked the results of that, too.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Marble Raceway

Vintage handmade wooden marble race way.

Huge, about 40 inches high.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hand Wash

In the category of found industrial sculpture, this is as good as I've seen. It's a dasher from an early washing machine. The hands have text on them: "Hand Gentleness" and "Machine Speed."

I can't believe I sold this thing. If any of you ever see another, please, get in touch.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

See the USA

Road trip!! This early motor home or RV, as they're now called, was on a mission to travel from Garden Spot, Pennsylvania to Garden Spot, California. The family printed a number of these real photo postcards to send to friends as they traveled. This one was sent from Indianapolis on the return journey. See the note at the top: "We have to make so many detours, and sometimes get lost for a while."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Green Cars

Have you driven a Foliage lately?

Real Photo Postcard

Monday, August 17, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

American Gothic - Vinyl Pillow

I'm unsure why someone would choose to preserve their family photo portrait on a vinyl pillow. Or why she had her hair done and he donned his Sunday suit, then were lighted as subtly as in an interrogation cell for the picture. But they did.

Unsigned, unfortunately.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Talking Head

Ventriloquist's Dummy Head

Early 20th Century

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Killer Watts

Surprising images: 1) a cake celebrating Operation Crossroads, a series of U.S. nuclear weapons tests conducted in 1946 at Bikini Atoll. 2) a Soviet light bulb with Stalin and Lenin's glowing heads

Some surprising news: Highly enriched uranium from more than 14,700 Russian nuclear weapons has been converted to fuel for use in American nuclear power plants, according to the National Nuclear Security Administration at the Department of Energy. The effort, called the NNSA’s Highly Enriched Uranium Transparency Program, expects to eliminate the equivalent of 20,000 nuclear weapons by 2013. The resulting uranium provides fuel for commercial U.S. reactors, totaling 10 percent of all electricity, according to the NNSA. (Source: Lori Johnston,

Friends, I post this using electricity generated from dismantled nuclear warheads.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sunday, August 2, 2009


I found an interesting-looking cocoon while working the yard today. Since I'd found and kept another earlier this year, now that I have two I guess I've started a collection. Best guess is that the one with the elongated opening belongs to a polyphemus moth, the big ones with eye spots on their wings. Who knew they're named for Cyclops Polyphemus, the one-eyed giant of Greek mythology. You can see why. The other, with the small hole, I'm not sure about. Whatever made it just wrapped a leaf into it. Both were on the ground at the base of different oak trees. I hung them in my tomato plant to take these pictures, just so there'd be some green.