Friday, March 21, 2014

I have willed these paintings to the Museum of Bad Art

Well...actually not yet. I haven’t put these fabulous bad art paintings in my will just yet, because I haven't written my will. But when I do, I hope I’m enough of sound mind to remember that it is in a museum that these paintings belong.

If you’re wondering about the Museum of Bad Art, here’s a story that ran on CBS Sunday Morning, March 16, 2014:

The video may take a moment or two to boot up. Also, if you just get a black screen and nothing ever comes up then it was removed by CBS, not by me.

I found these earnest but awful paintings at a thrift store years ago for $1.00 each, and I practically wept with joy. To me they are beautiful in their awfulness. Bad perspective, bad drawing, bad everything. The only thing redeemable about the paintings is the foliage is done in an impasto technique, where the paint is built up, almost 3-D in its effect.

“The Pink House” (my title) is built on a hill, with a driveway that apparently goes straight where? We can’t see. Within the walls of the Pink House, also unseen by us, is a master gardener who has lavished much time on the flowerbeds. Based on the mailbox flag being up, the resident has also left a letter for the mail carrier to pick up. A happy, bucolic, spring scene: pretty flowers and blossoming trees.

“Monster Children on the Lawn” (again, my title), are playing with what look like canes, and have something resembling a ball they are probably using the canes to hit. It looks more like a pumpkin, but like “The Pink House” this picture looks very springlike, so I assume it’s a ball.

What is interesting to me is the children have no faces, as shown in this detail.
The children may not have faces, but the ball appears to have a face. More likely just random brush strokes by the painter, but this detail reminds me of Georges Mèliés’ Voyage to the Moon.

 Fantastique! Fabuleux! as our French friends might say.

I think you will agree that these paintings belong in a museum, especially the Museum of Bad Art.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Rare air in Utah: healthy bodies, unhealthy minds

Utah has a split personality when it comes to personal health. An article in the February 16, 2014 Salt Lake Tribune claims Utah is one of the states with the healthiest residents. That’s no great surprise. We are like the lyric from an Adam Ant song, “Don't drink, don’t smoke, what do you do?” On the other hand, we have high rates of mental disorders.

According to the copyrighted article, written by Kristen Moulton:
“While both trends have been apparent for years, there’s still no definitive research into why Utahns suffer the highest rate of mental illness while also enjoying relatively good health and well-being.

There are plenty of theories, though, many having to do with cultural influences of the predominant faith [Latter-day Saints/Mormons], a dearth of psychiatrists and inadequate health insurance even while healthy living is prized, and the fact that statistics can be interpreted in differing ways.”
Whenever I read anything about the mental health of my fellow Utahns it always comes out that more people in Utah are treated for depression.  And that could be that more people in the state recognize the symptoms and seek help. Depression, as I once heard it described, is the “common cold of mental illnesses.” The large number of residents treated for that condition could be skewing the results toward higher rates of mental illness. .

Nationwide I’ve found there is still a dearth of public knowledge about what mental illness is, and many still view it as being a defect in character rather than a brain disorder with an organic cause.

The Tribune article goes on to give at least one other hypothesis for higher-than-average rates of mental illness:
“But one idea continues to gain ground in mental health circles: Mental illness might sometimes be linked to altitude.

The theory places Utah in the wider context of Rocky Mountain states, which generally see the same pattern: high mental illness and suicide but otherwise healthy residents. The region is sometimes called the suicide belt.”
Suicide belt! I hadn’t heard that before. It wouldn’t fit in with the state’s tourism advertising for our national parks and skiing to mention we are also in the suicide belt. And I don’t doubt that living in rarified air could have a consequences for the brain. It would also explain why I feel better and have more energy when I go to sea level. My brain can breathe!

I’ve never been embarrassed to admit I take an anti-depressant, and have for almost twenty years. I trace my major depressive episodes back to six-years-old, and have sometimes thought of my life up until my mid-forties as being at least one serious depressive episode a year. It got worse over the years, when the episodes started coming more frequently. Even though I have clinical depression I don’t think of it as a mental illness. But the health profession, and the folks who provide my medical insurance classify me as a mental case. I see myself as someone with a medical problem, not unlike having diabetes or any number of organic diseases that have to be managed if they cannot be cured. I wish the rest of the public saw it the same way.

Monday, March 10, 2014

P.T. Barnum’s London Scrapbook

Phineas Taylor Barnum was born in an agriculture rich area of Connecticut. A good student and later an astute businessman, he had the gift of making money. He opened Barnum’s American Museum in New York City, the city’s most popular attraction for 23 years from 1842 until 1865. After going into the circus business — at age 61 — he joined forces with James Bailey and his Traveling London Circus for a combined operation as “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

Barnum died in 1891. He was a 19th century man, having lived and died exclusively in that century. In his time he established the template for self-promotion, showmanship, publicity, flamboyance and hucksterism still followed by his spiritual descendants today.

In this article from the December 1961 issue of American Heritage, artifacts and ephemera that Barnum saved for his daughter in a scrapbook are shown, celebrating his triumphant series of shows in London in 1889.

For all of his humbugs, fakes, exaggerations and outright lies, Barnum is now renowned as a master showman and public manipulator. It is also interesting that the most famous saying attributed to him, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” was never said by Barnum, but by a man suing him. I guess that pithy remark has been sealed to him because it sounds like something he might say. It is “just so P.T. Barnum.”

Copyright © 1961 American Heritage

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Fish stories in heaven

There were a couple of obituaries on the same page of the Salt Lake Tribune this morning. The obit pictures show each as fishermen holding catches they are proud of.

I’m no connoisseur of fish, but both look pretty good-sized to me, which is why these men are holding their trophies up for a photo. After all, when fishermen swap stories, the legend is they always exaggerate the “one that got away,” so Sam and Jackie are making sure their fish are documented.

Big fish.

Really big fish.

If there is a heaven and Jackie and Sam are there now, maybe they are swapping fish stories. Heaven to them would be a boat on a placid lake, and no limit to how many they can catch.

If the families of either of these gentlemen happen across this blog, I want them to know I sympathize with what they are going through. My best friend’s father died this week, and my mind is on those who are grieving.

Anne Hathaway, time traveler?

T. N. Thompson was an assistant to pin-up artist Earl MacPherson. When MacPherson contracted polio in 1950 Thompson came into his own as a calendar artist.

These are some examples of his art from a 1957 calendar. I did a doubletake when I saw them, recognizing a face.

Actress Anne Hathaway has the face I recognized.

So what happened? Did Hathaway, who was born in 1982, dip back into the past to pose for Thompson and his 1957 calendar? Not very likely, but there is a striking resemblance to the modern actress and the beautiful model Thompson used to pose for these paintings.