Monday, December 31, 2012

Painter Gottfried Helnwein: In Your Face

All paintings oil and mixed media on canvas. Click on any image for larger view.

Click on any image for larger view.

(Above) Painter Gottfried Helnwein at work.

(Above) Painter Gottfried Helnwein in front of a canvas.
(Above) Gottfried Helnwein at work.(Above) The artist’s palette.

AUSTRIAN-BORN ARTIST GOTTFRIED HELNWEIN paints pictures about childhood pain, and horrors seen or imagined. Large and powerful, intimate and disarming, Helnwein can twist reality to the fantastic or the painful, the sad or the horrible. The size of his paintings present something you cannot look away from, like the traffic accident on the highway. You don’t want to stare but you can’t help it. You want to touch, but you shouldn’t. Gottfried Helnwein mixes innocence with life, and he does it better and bigger than most.

See more here.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Watercolor With Life

Click image for much larger view.

Click image for much larger view.

Click image for much larger view.

I FIRST FELL IN LOVE WITH WATERCOLOR IN HIGH SCHOOL. I had one of those black metal flip open Prang watercolor sets, with the little ovals of pigment—just waiting to come alive with the addition of water. Watercolor allowed me to find translucency of color, spontaneity of application and a freedom I had never known. It was in college that I saw watercolor reemerge in the masterful hands of Edward Reep, our artist-in-residence at East Carolina University. Reep was an artist during the Second World War, and a damn good one. Check out my earlier post on Ed Reep on this blog here.

I recently discovered the work of Alvaro Castagnet, a watercolor painter from Montevideo, Uruguay who I delivers watercolor to white paper in a way I have not seen in quite some time. This man is a painter! He chooses watercolor because he innately understands the fact that only watercolor can deliver the kind of light one sees everyday. Using wet-on-wet and even a dry brush across dry paper—Castagnet has the amazing ability of interpretation. By that, I mean he is able to look at a crazy busy marketplace or city street (at night or day) and find the soul of the place. Castagnet is not interested in fussy details—things we do not see or remember anyway. He delivers the place—the moment—the essence.

See more about Alvaro Castagnet here.

With his talent, his strength, I wonder what his interpretation of say, the war in Afghanistan would be like? I wouldn’t blame him for not wanting to go there, because he would be putting his beautiful life on the line for a cause that is not his. Still, with his ability—I can see that this man could deliver to the world a view of that country—and the hell of the war—in a way that has not been seen.

It does make me wonder—where have the American war artist’s gone? Are the Ed Reep’s of the world not valued any more?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

An Early Collectible

(Click on images for larger view)

A FRIEND OF MINE SHARED WITH ME a collection of authentic Park Drive Cigarette cards, a small illustrated card given away with a purchase of a pack of cigarettes in the 1930s. This series of cards was called “Champions,” cards illustrating British sports champions (including dogs!). Park Drive cigarettes was a brand from the Gallaher LTD. tobacco company based in Great Britain.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Convinced of Spirits

(Click on image for larger view)

(Click on image for larger view)(Click on image for larger view)(Click on image for larger view)
(Above) Click on image for larger viewAn original glass lantern slide photograph, the same image reproduced in Ghosts in Photographs by Fred Gettings, plate 55, with the caption “Photographic Testimonial of Mr. & Mrs. Gibson with spirit image of their deceased child, taken by the Crewe Circle.” Slide size: 3.25” x 3.25”
(Above) Click on image for larger viewAn original 1930 spirit photo by the Falconer brothers of London. Image size: 2.5” x 2”

(Above) Click on image for larger view
An original circa 1900 photo by Robert Boursnell (1832 -1909) with a spirit resembling Jesus. Image size: 3.75” x 5”

(Above) Click on image for larger viewA glass lantern slide (with a diagonal crack) of a sand sediment face inscribed: “This face was formed in the sediment of sand water, after it had been stirred by a finger of the late Mrs. L. Lanchard of New Ulm Minnesota USA (died in 1873 after evaporation of water).” Slide size: 3.25” x 3.25”

GRIEF AND DESPAIR OVER THE LOST OF A LOVED ONE HAS BEEN AN ENTRY POINT for many an unscrupulous person to take advantage of another. Whether by “automatic spirit-driven” drawings, Ouija boards, tapping, voices, noises, bells, sounds and a host of other things, communicating with the dead continues to fool people and take their money even today.

In England, during the late 19th century, everyday people who had lost loved ones were easily fooled simply by not understanding the new medium of photography. They would sit for a photo in a seance-type setting, being told that if spirits were there they could often be seen by a special film. All you had to do was pay for the seance and the photo—come back the next day and Holy Mother of Mary! look who showed up!

The modern spiritualism movement actually began in March 1848 in Hydesville, NY with the Fox sisters who claimed they could communicate with a spirit inhabiting their house by tapping on the floor. Eventually, news of this made it to the great showman P.T. Barnum, who took the sisters on the road and made their “tapping with the dead” a stage act.

Others got into the act, including the Falconer brothers, a gentleman by the name of Robert Boursnell, and numerous others.

At the top of the post, you’ll see old newspaper and gazette articles from England actually attesting to the believability of these charlatans. It is quite revealing, and I hope that they enlarge well enough for you to read. I guess, even back then, these fakes had a good PR firm.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Adam Beane

WHEN MY SON LUKE WAS A KID, HE LOVED HIS ACTION HERO TOY FIGURES—X-MEN, WWF FIGURES, G.I. JOE’S, YOU NAME IT. In fact, tucked away in a back corner of our basement is a box, containing every toy figure he ever played with. One day, he discovered girls, or sports, or both—and that was it. I put them all in a box and took them away. He never gave it a second thought. One day, he’ll discover them, just as I left them. Old friends.

Most figures I bought for Luke were made of plastic or rubber, and when I think back about it, most all of them were well done. Realistic. Proportioned well. I never really gave much thought to who made the original—but maybe here’s an answer: Adam Beane.

Beane is an amazing sculptor who works with art directors of toy companies to create the original model from which mulitples are made for market. Beane uses a material that he calls CX5, a tremendously versatile material which molds like clay when warm but dries hard as plastic when cooled. I am impressed with his realism, attention to detail and the subtle nuances he is able to pull from the material.

Adam is also available for lectures and workshops.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Rare and Beautiful Find

(Above) Americana and folk art dealer Tim Chambers stands next to his booth at the 2009 Queeny Park Antiques Show in St. Louis, Missouri. Click on image for larger view.

(Above) This 100-year old architectural gable caught my eye immediately. I had to learn more, and Tim Chambers obliged not only with an oral history, but a 100-year old photograph of the house it came from just outside of Rochester, Minnesota. Click on image for larger view.

(Above) Detail. Click on image for larger view.
(Above) Tim Chambers believes strongly that what you see of paint on this gable is the original paint and it was painted at the turn of the 20th century. Click on image for larger view.
(Above) Look at this beautiful detail, showing the tree of life at the center, with the rays of the sun extending from each side. Click on image for larger view.

(Above) This photo, dated 1906, is the holy grail of the architectural piece. If you click on the image, you can see the gable, right at the peak of the roof. This is a great photo, the Dee family, (Frank, John and Katharine and their Collie dog) standing proudly in front of their Minnesota homestead—a personification of the American dream. Definitely, click on this image!

WHENEVER I AM FORTUNATE TO SEE FOLK ART DEALER TIM CHAMBERS, you can bet he’ll have some great objects for sale. Tim is not only a great guy, he’s an expert in early American folk art game boards, and his book The Art of the Game is widely considered one of the finest books ever published on the subject. You can order it here (while it lasts!)

Now let me tell you about the find of the day. The architectural Victorian-styled gable from a Rochester, MN farmhouse was just outstanding. The piece is hand made and measures about 10’ long and 5’ tall overall. Gabled ends such as this were considered the crown jewel of these otherwise simple dwellings. This example is in a near perfect state of preservation. The design elements include the expected stick and ball as well a a center “tree of life” with sun bursts on either side. This beauty has survived well over one hundred freezing Minnesota winters and summers—so imagine the stories it could tell.

The house today is, unfortunately, near ruin. Tim says that some farm animals have been housed there—and hay is stored in the house as well. It is really a blessing that this particular architectural remnant could be saved, as the house is about to be torn down.

The piece is sold, but you can go to his Web site, Missouri Plain Folk here.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Brilliant Flying Bug

MikroKopter - HexaKopter from Holger Buss on Vimeo.

OK, I’LL BE HONEST WITH YOU. THIS VIDEO IS 12 MINUTES LONG. I KNOW—BUT TRUST ME HERE. I WATCHED EVERY MINUTE OF IT, fascinated by the brilliance of this home-made flying machine. If flight fascinates you— if “garage-built” ingenuity is something you find interesting, then you’ll like this video.

I’m a prankster at heart, and could really have some fun with this machine. Just imagine! :-)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Marked On and Altered Photograph

(Above) Retouched press photo, c. 1920s. Click on image for larger view.

(Above) Penciled in eyebrows, painted lips by Ethel. c.1920s. Click on image for larger view.

(Above) Retouched press photo, c. 1940s. Click on image for larger view.

(Above) What do you do when the faces don’t turn out? Draw them in with a pen. c. 1930s. Click on image for larger view.

(Above) I call this image my “Cy Twombly Snapshot.” Click on image for larger view.

THESE IMAGES, FROM MY COLLECTION OF SNAPSHOTS, WERE SELECTED because they have all been altered by the human hand, in one way or the other. The image just above, the one I call “Cy Twombly” was altered on the negative, hence the white lines. It’s one of the more unusual, abstract images in the Accidental Mysteries collection.

Press photos that have been retouched (like images number 1 and 3 above) and readied for print is a lost art. With the digital age—you won’t see images like these anymore. Re-examined and re-contextualized by our eyes today, they look a bit like contemporary art. Word and image, it’s all the rage!

And you’ve got to love the 4th image, the one of the group of people. Early photoshop!

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