If you read my first travel blog post yesterday, you might know that Bill and I went into Wiesbaden. We were on a special mission to have some newly acquired paintings professionally framed. This may not seem like the most exciting thing to be doing on a Saturday. I know that for many years, I would have preferred to have done almost anything besides visiting an art gallery with picture framing services. For most of my life, I found most anything involving picture framing unbearably dull. Why? Because I literally grew up in the business.
In 1980, my parents moved from Fairfax, Virginia to Gloucester, Virginia. For so many reasons, that move rocked my world. My dad had retired from the Air Force in 1978, when I was about to turn six. We moved from England, which was the only place I remembered living, to suburban Fairfax, where we lived down the street from my Aunt Doris and her family. Now, we were in very rural Gloucester County, where my father was going to be running his own custom picture framing business called The Corner Cottage.
The Corner Cottage was the name my parents gave the business, which was literally run out of our house. Prior to that, the framing business was called Ellis Smith Enterprises. That was the name of the tacky guy who had owned the house before my parents bought it. He really was pretty tacky– I remember he had put a mirror over the bed in one of the bedrooms. I guess he liked watching himself with his wife. I remember the bathroom in that room had a plastic, brown, padded seat and ugly mirrors all over it. My parents promptly redecorated that room, starting with taking down the mirror over the bed!
My parents’ decision to move to Gloucester and buy Ellis Smith Enterprises changed everything for me. My dad went from being an Air Force officer, to a salesman for the Solite Corporation (he sold gravel and concrete and such), to a self-employed picture framer who also sold art. I hated Gloucester when we first moved there. I still didn’t like it when I permanently moved away from there in 1999. It’s only recently that I’ve started appreciating the county where I grew up and can see why people love it. Of course, Gloucester has changed a lot since 1980, although a lot of the same people (or their descendents) live there.
As a kid, I had no interest in art, other than enjoying elementary art classes at school. I truly thought my parents’ business was really boring. Making matters worse was the way my dad would make me do things like clean behind the chopper, where he would cut moulding into precise pieces. I had to vacuum the shop and dust the pictures. All the while, he’d be watching CBS day TV, especially The Young and the Restless, which was his favorite soap. Or worse, he’d be listening to WFOG, the local easy listening station, which played absolutely cringey Muzak, which he’d sing along to. I’d watch him when he was on the phone, using his left hand to doodle mindlessly while he talked. I was reminded this morning of the many doodles my dad made over the years. He probably had a gift for drawing that he never explored.
For most of the years he ran his custom picture framing business, Dad had a woman working with him. For the first few years, it was our neighbor, Joanne, whose daughter was a year older than me. Joanne later opened her own framing business, which failed. Then he hired Deborah, who was a much better fit on many levels. In some ways, she was kind of an angel. She was, and still is, a tremendously talented artist in her own right, and she didn’t/doesn’t have a drinking problem. When my parents retired, Deborah eventually bought their house and the business. She still runs it today.
As I got older, the framing business sometimes came in handy. I never had to buy posterboard, because my dad had the vastly superior matboard available. He also had professional grade window cleaner, which I wish I could get ahold of now. Sometimes, he’d do fun things with products from his business. One time, he made me a periscope out of matboard, mirrors, and tape. That was cool.
My mom was also part of the business. She had her own shop, where she sold knitting, candlewicking, needlepoint, cross-stitch, and other art related supplies. My mom is super talented with a needle, among other things. In her 85 years of life, she has made many beautiful things with a needle and thread or yarn, as the case might be. And her business survived, even when Walmart came to town, because she offered high quality products, professional services, and had incredible talent for turning a canvas into a masterpiece. My mom’s business also occasionally came in handy for me, too. I grew up showing my horse, Rusty, and I never wanted for yarn for braiding his mane and tail. I never learned to knit or cross-stitch, though. I had no interest.
My mom taught many people– mostly local women– the secrets of her craft. I wasn’t among her students because I also found her business boring. I don’t have a gift for creating things with needles and threads. I don’t have the patience or diligence to stitch beautiful designs into cloth. Although I appreciate colors, I have a hard time deciding on color schemes. Consequently, a lot of my own artistic creations are a mess. My sister has artistic talent, no doubt taken from both parents. Me? My gift from them is music… but when I was growing up, I wasn’t interested in doing that, either. It wasn’t until I was an adult that making music captured my heart.
As a middle-aged adult, I’ve discovered that I like art, too. I like to buy art more than make it, because although I do like to draw, I’m not particularly good at drawing. I don’t come up with cool visual concepts like artists do. When I think of something I’d like to draw, something else intrudes and it turns into something too busy and messy. When I was growing up, I liked art class… until I had a teacher who asked me to draw only what I could see. I found it very difficult, even though being asked to do that was kind of revolutionary. It was at that point that I stopped taking art classes. I simply don’t have the knack.
My own personal artistic expression comes in the form of music and writing, probably in that order. I’m much better known as a writer, but probably more appreciated as a singer… especially when I behave myself and sing nice songs. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you might know that sometimes I’m provocative. I like to cuss, and I’m not always nice or politically correct. I like to challenge people and make them think. And I won’t lie… sometimes I enjoy shocking people. But when I sing a pretty song written by someone else, people usually like it. They don’t always like what I write. Of course, if I start writing songs, all bets are off as to how that might turn out. I’ll keep working on learning guitar. Maybe sometime, I can experiment.
So what does this all have to do with yesterday’s outing? I’m getting there…
As I was talking to the guy who took our order, breathing in that familiar smell of art supplies, moulding, matboard, and window cleaner, I noticed a very weird sculpture on the top of a curio. It was a very provocative piece of art. I have a feeling it’s no accident that they put it where they did. It would be easy to miss it. And yet, it seemed to jump off the curio at me, as if it wanted me to take it home. I kept looking at the sculpture and even snuck a photo of it.
We didn’t buy the sculpture yesterday. We were too busy talking about what we wanted to do with the paintings. I had two kitschy dancing cat paintings we bought in Prague that I wanted to be framed. But I also had a gorgeous painting (see featured photo) that I found in Cesky Krumlov. Like the above sculpture, it had jumped off the wall at me… like a stray dog, begging me to take it home.
I remember walking into the gallery, noticing all the usual landscapes and modern depictions of people… and then I saw this fascinating painting of a bunch of different birds. I loved the colors. I enjoyed the weird paranoid mood of it, even if I’m not particularly interested in birds. It stopped me in my tracks and made me think, just like the weird sculpture above did. I found myself telling the proprietor I had to have it. She was delighted, especially when we threw in a pretty but somewhat less interesting painting of a snowy church in Cesky Krumlov.
The way I found myself saying “yes” to the painting is the same way I said “yes” to adopting Noyzi the Kosovar street dog. He was unlike any other dog I’ve ever had in my life. I worried that he’d turn our house upside down… and right now, he’s lying behind my chair, quiet and contented. I don’t regret bringing him home.
I also don’t regret bringing home any of the weird art in my house. And I do have a lot of weird art. I suspect it annoyed our former landlady that my taste in art is so strange and unconventional. I’m sure it helped convince her that I’m a terrible, peculiar, perverse person who deserved to be disrespected and cheated.
If that sculpture is still in the gallery when we go back to pick up our dancing cat paintings, there’s a very good chance I’ll buy it. I think it might be meant for me. I don’t know where I’ll put it. Maybe in the downstairs bathroom? I can’t stop talking about it, though. Just this morning, I was talking about how the way the artist depicted the hairy spots and the breasts… it reminds me of the face of panda bear. You see? I love that. I love art that makes me see other things and think about what else could be. I don’t care if it’s ugly, obnoxious, or weird… or depicts things like someone taking a shit, which is a universal part of life for every creature.
Some of the weird art in my office. Each piece has a story.
If the sculpture isn’t there when we go back to the gallery to pick up the art, I guess it wasn’t meant to be… We will be back at least twice, though. The painting in the featured photo has to be mounted and stretched before it can be framed. That will take time.
If the gallery does a good job on this, I may go back with more art that needs framing. We have a dinosaur painting that has great sentimental value to us. We bought it from a Russian artist named Korelov in Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad) in the Czech Republic, back in 2009. At that time, we couldn’t afford custom picture framing. Now that we can, maybe it’s time I had it done… You can see it below with the cool painting we bought in Greece in 2013 and had framed in North Carolina.
If you come to my house, it won’t look like my mom’s house. My mom has beautiful stuff everywhere, artfully arranged. She’s a very neat person, so clutter is minimal. My house is messier. Not everything matches or coordinates seamlessly. I have some stuff that is odd and even offensive. You might not like it. But I’ll bet some of it will make you stop and think. That’s my goal… Come to think of it, making people stop and think is also often my goal when I write blog posts.
Yeah… some of my art is like a stray dog, begging to come home with me, where it will be loved and appreciated. I know it’s crazy, but I kind of love that sculpture. I almost wish we still lived in our old house in Jettingen. I’d buy it and display it in a conspicuous place just to annoy our former landlady. 😀
I’m kind of petty that way… 😉
We’ll see if I am meant to buy that piece of art. If I am meant to give it a home, I may have to ask for opinions on where it should be displayed… Seriously, though… maybe I’d put it in the bathroom and remind myself that my body could always look worse than it does. At least my body doesn’t remind anyone of a panda bear.