Art Country

I recently watched a beer commercial during a break in a hockey game.  It showed a horse running down country roads, streets in small towns, children raising the Stars and Stripes, a firehouse, men shaking hands.  It ended with a father and son standing on a porch.  The sun had begun to set, and one handed a beer to the other.  They smiled reluctantly as if too shy to fully acknowledge the love they felt for each other.  They sipped their beer and looked out over their land.  The horse ran by…

I thought that it might be interesting to see if a sales formula leaning hard on nostalgia, patriotism, and old fashioned hokum could be applied to another American product.  I tried Painting, and failed of course.  But failure can be funny:

 

This is the story of paintings made in the heart of America, in a community where a gallery contract is a bond for the artist (but not so much for the dealer). 

thomas hart benton reaping

Thomas Hart Benton

These are the paintings made for those who took on the challenge of defeating ennui, who found an opportunity to defray the tax costs of inherited wealth, who forged a new hope for a cleverly invested future.

 

jack levine woman fan Jack Levine

 

These paintings were made for a generation willing to sip wine, speculate over risky masters (the ones who stubbornly outlive their most valuable periods), to remember a time when it was easier to choose a bankable artist from amongst the desperate, paint-spattered rabble.

 

Daumier

 

This is a story bigger than painting…This is the story of ART COUNTRY.

 

Roy De ForestRoy DeForest

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Happy Hitler Puppy Song

I’ve recently been reading Sri Aurobindo.  He teaches that in the supracosmic state there are no binary oppositions, no contradictions.  Right and wrong, love and hate, truth and falsehood no longer stand in contrast to each other, no longer mutually define their qualities in antithetical tandems.  I decided to experiment with that thought, given that we are being told that we live in a “post fact” world, and combined images of innocence and evil into a charcoal drawing entitled, “Happy Hitler Puppy Song”.

happy-hitler-puppy-song

The song below accompanies the picture.  Its tune is bright and bouncy like a kid’s toy ad  from the mid 60s.

Happy Hitler Puppy Song, sing it when all things go wrong. 

Your dreams are dead, your future’s gone. 

Happy Hitler Puppy Song.

 

It started up in Queens in a small genetics lab.

They sang it to a beagle, a Schnauzer and a Lab.

It really started growing in a Dachshund culture tube.

Now he’s got a will of iron and he’ll wag his tail for you, wag his tail for you.

 

Happy Hitler Puppy Song, sing loud, sing it strong.

We’re so far right we can’t be wrong.

Happy Hitler Puppy Song.

 

You’ve got to have this puppy, no matter what your views (Arftung!).

Your life is really crappy, and you’ve nothing left to lose.

He sometimes snarls and lunges, and barks and bites and chews,

but he’s always sweet and cheerful when Brite Bark’s yipping news, Brite Bark’s yipping news.

 

Happy Hitler Puppy Song, sing it when all things go wrong.

Your dreams are dead, your future’s gone.

Happy Hitler Puppy Song, Happy Hitler Puppy Song.

 

Have a supracosmic day (if you can).

Dysfunction: One Thing Leads to Another

A few months ago I drew a charcoal drawing entitled, “She Spurned His Advances”.  It showed an gawky looking monster hovering near a woman who was not thrilled by his amorous attention.  I used a Surrealist technique to develop the suitor, and based his lady on a 19th century daguerreotype.

She Spurned

After I finished this piece I got the idea to show a couple responding to a man’s unfortunate tendency to spontaneously eject his internal organs at inappropriate moments.  (I know what you’re thinking:  when is there an appropriate moment for involuntary self-evisceration?)  This idea evolved into “Eruptile Dysfunction”, an oil painting of a man responding to his wife’s sexual overtures by suffering a volcanic eruption to explode out of the top of his head.

dsc_0015  Eruptile Dysfunction, Oil on Canvas

I decided to satirize the erectile dysfunction pharmaceutical ad campaign (the commercials annoy me), and I played around with puns.  I first came up with “T-Rextile Dysfunction.”  I envisioned a T-Rex couple in bed having unsatisfactory relations, but this idea seemed too cartoonish.  I found some illustrations of T-Rex running, and one of them showed a dinosaur looking back over one shoulder.  I wondered what could possibly make a giant predator look behind itself with apprehension, and I remembered a documentary about aviation disasters.  Judy and I watched an old report about airliners losing tail sections and wings in mid flight when their metal under structures failed from repeated stress. I got the idea that the T-Rex’s tail, elevated off the ground as the monster ran, might break off.

dsc_0034T-Rextile Dysfunction, Acrylic on Board

I’m brewing up a few ideas for more paintings in this series.  “Electile Dysfunction” could feature a prominent player in our current presidential race.  An angry couple could break up in a vivid way in “Rejectile Dysfunction”.  “Ejectile Dysfunction” could illustrate a faulty ejection seat in a jet fighter.  An architect might stand by the collapsed ruins of an unfinished building in “Erectile Dysfunction”.

I’m not sure if I will actually make these paintings, but it amuses me to think about them.

Born To Be Mild

Go to church on Sunday, drive fifty on the highway.  Lookin’ for my dentures, no they didn’t walk away.  Hey Mommy gonna make it happen!  Take my wife in a love embrace!  Chug some suds just once and play kissy face!

Like a true suburban child, I was born, born to me mild!  I can fly so low, stick with status quo!

Born to be mi-i-uld.  Born to be mi-i-uld…

I have an unfortunate habit.  I take the lyrics of a song and rewrite them.  Springsteen’s “hidin’ on the back streets” becomes “ridin’ on the bed springs”.  Simon and Garfunkel’s “I’d rather be a hammer than a nail” becomes “I’d rather be a hammer than Dan Quayle”.  When my daughter Annie was a toddler she learned all about the dawning of the “age of asparagus.”

Sometimes Annie would pipe out a line from one of my versions when we had guests over for dinner, and they would look at me with amusement while assuming that the little scamp had gotten the words wrong.  I would sing to them the full lyrics from my alternate version with a smile on my face, but they often scowled back at me.  They thought that my intention was to mislead a child, when in fact I was teaching my daughter a healthy skepticism about the importance of popular song.

I grew up in the sixties and seventies and actually met folks who based their personal philosophy on rock lyrics.  A girlfriend once told me that punk music and the latest Who album had given her a creed to follow for the rest of her life.  I didn’t want that fate for my daughter.  And someone had to punch a hole in all that sanctimony.

Irreverence runs in my family.  My brother sometimes joined me to sing a punk version of “Close to You” by the Carpenters.  We didn’t change the lyrics, but would howl and scream in agony as we sang “awwwwwwwwarrggh, close to you.”  Tony also specialized in swallowing air so he could belch at climactic moments during a dramatic movie.  “Gone With the Wind” was aired for the first time in decades in the late seventies.  My family crowded around the TV set and watched the Civil War classic starring Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable.  At the very end of the movie Scarlett O’Hara asked, “Where shall I go?  What shall I do?”   And we heard Rhett Butler reply, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a (BELCH).”  I laughed at the brilliance of Tony’s timing, but my mother tried to smack him.

Folks occasionally get a little outraged when they hear an altered version of a favorite tune.  My wife, especially when we first got married and she hadn’t yet become accustomed to my eccentricities, would react badly when I sang a franker and more direct version of “You Are Sixteen” from the musical “The Sound of Music”.  “I’m a Nazi, you’re my tw**zi”  would send her over the edge for some inexplicable and vaguely feminist reason.  I gradually wore her down over the next few decades, and now she barely blinks an eye when she hears “Born to be Mild”, “Let the Onions In”, and “A Horse with No Brains”.  (I’ve been through a river on a horse with no brains, it felt good to get out of the Seine. In the Louvre pictures are hanging in frames, but the guards won’t let you come back again.”)

My grown up daughter, however, still bears a bit of a grudge.  I neglected to inform Annie as she got older that I had taught her mangled versions of some popular songs.  When she hears the original version on an oldies station she sometimes turns to me with a wild look in her eyes and points a long finger of accusation.  A few years ago former vice president Dan Quayle was trotted out before the cameras on a nightly news segment and was asked his opinion about recent events.  Annie exclaimed, “So that’s who Dan Quayle is!”  I believe that I taught her a bit about American politics at an early age, but she apparently thinks that my motives were less noble.  But I may be wearing her down.  Last night we listened to Linda Ronstadt while driving to a concert, and I told Annie that “love is a nose and you better not pick it.”  She merely sighed in response.

 

 

Published: The Call of the Qu’Chihua Qu’hua

I published a short, satirical book on Amazon as a Kindle e-book.  The Call of the Qu’chihua Qu’ hua is a spoof of the Lovecraft Cthulu stories. Daniel J. is an archaeologist who steals a folder from his Uncle Bob’s files, and uses the information to discover an ancient tomb in South America. The graven image of an evil beast, one that looks like the combined  features of a dog and a bat, is carved into the doorway of the tomb’s entrance. Next to it is a hieroglyph that stands for an unknown word of power. He is called back home to his uncle’s deathbed before he can fully investigate his find, and is bequeathed a sketchbook and two houses in Central Florida. When he arrives in Orlando to claim his inheritance he finds further clues about the mysterious tomb and the word of power, and begins to suspect that there is a modern day cult dedicated to the worship of the Bat Dog god. He races to complete his researches but is harassed by a real estate agent, prostitutes and an owner of an illegal dog breeding operation. Even as he begins to piece together the full significance of his discoveries he fears that he will go mad–or worse: that he will become one of Them.

The link is below:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00T6QL4T0