Monday, June 22, 2009

Portrait of the Artist of an Old Man

George Viener, Director of the Outsider Folk Art Gallery, left a message the other day with exciting news: two of my wood carvings, Father of His Country and Eve of Liberty, have sold and I will be a featured artist in the gallery during July and August.

The gallery, which is based in Reading, PA, specializes in outsider and folk art. Both are the work of self-taught artists. So,what is the difference? The proprietor of a Manhattan folk art gallery has this to say on his web site: “Outsiders live on the margins of American life. Folk artists live in the mainstream. Outsiders are often troubled people living their lives in isolation or, frequently, they find themselves institutionalized because of emotional or mental instabilities or incarcerated because of criminal conduct. Folk artists are everyday Americans, with families and friends, and homes, and mortgages, and pets, and soccer games, and tuition, and church, and bills, and debt, often with full-time jobs.”

Clearly, he takes a dim view of outsider artists, but manages to make folk artists sound like Republicans. Based on his character description, it could go either way for me. Maybe because I haven’t been institutionalized yet, most people, if they consider my work art at all, consider it folk art. I don’t think much about such things. As I say on my bio on the gallery web site:” I do what I do, and it is what it is.” (Note: the use of two clich├ęs in one sentence, though a crime, is not enough to get me categorized as an outsider artist.)

George took an interest in my work after I had bombarded him with emails urging him to visit my blog site, Several months ago, at his invitation, I took some of my carvings out there. He liked them, but was not sure where they would fit in the gallery at that time. We agreed that he would keep them and try to sell them on the gallery web site.

His phone message was followed by several days of missed calls and intense fantasizing on my part. As befits a borderline outsider artist, I am bi-polar in my wool gathering.

In my manic mode, I convince myself that the American Folk Art Museum is the buyer of the pieces and that I can now quadruple my price. I am picturing my grandson taking his children there and saying: “The American art treasures encased over there were carved by your great grandfather. You come from a proud legacy, my dears.”

In my depressive mode, I am sure they will break in transit and the buyers will demand their money back. Or worse yet, one of their children will poke his eye out on George Washington’s sword and they will sue me for every dime I have.

Anyway, I am relieved to hear from George Viener. The buyers are collectors from Louisiana and really like my work. I will be a featured artist at the Outsider Folk Art Gallery for July and August.

I am very pleased. This is a highly regarded gallery in this niche of the art world, and I never in the world expected to sell anything. When I told my daughter the good news she said: “Well, you topped Van Gogh. He never sold anything in his lifetime.” At least I have cleared that hurdle. In case you are wondering, Vincent Van Gogh, although he meets most aspects of the aforementioned expert’s description of an outsider artist, ironically, would not be considered one since he received extensive art training.

But now I worry that perhaps these Louisiana buyers live on the Gulf coast and my art might be lost to history in a catastrophic flood like what happened to that potter in Mississippi or Alabama whose name I don’t remember who would never sell any of his work only to have all his pots broken in a gigundus hurricane. Well, as the philosopher once said: nothing breeds anxiety like success.

I will enjoy the moment, though, and not let it go to my head. Speaking of which, I wonder how I would look in a beret?

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Navigator

I purchased a Garman.

This is a little GPS gizmo that gives you real time driving directions in a firm, but friendly, female voice. I think they chose a female voice because most men are married, or have significant others, and are used to taking orders from women (“Dear, if I follow your directions can we make whoopee tonight?). Women on the other hand are probably more comfortable with some sisterly advice than with the ravings of a bullying male. (“What the hell is wrong with you? You missed our damn turn!”).

I am liking the little thing so far, since I have absolutely no sense of direction. Whichever way I am heading feels like up, or north, to me. I have to turn the map with the direction I am supposed to be heading pointed up to determine if my next turn is a right or left. The whole sun thing doesn’t work for me either, because I can never remember if it rises in the east and sets in the west or the other way around. Aside: I wonder if people who have a sense of direction feel like they are going down, or falling, when they are heading south?

I waited to get one because they have been expensive and Kathie and I had a bad experience with one on a rental car in Florida. The directions said that tapping the home prompt would route us to the Budget Rental desk at the Tampa/St. Pete airport. Instead, it took us to an alligator infested swamp in what we assumed was the Everglades. This being Florida, an airport or Wal-Mart will appear there soon, but we couldn’t wait.

It has been useful in my job with the Census. I was recently sent to Trenton, a city with which I am totally unfamiliar, to do some address canvassing. My little Garman got me to my start point with no problem. After a tiring day of walking the streets, dodging free-range pit bulls, and a near fatal encounter with a kielbasa and kraut on rye, it was nice to not have to worry about finding my way home when I returned to my car. When the screen prompted “Where to?, I just tapped home and off I went smooth as pie.

I think the Garman folks are missing the boat though. They should come with a device that helps us navigate the highways and byways of human intercourse. Such a device would eliminate panicky name groping (“The male approaching from your left is Steve Donnelly, your neighbor. Be sure to inquire about his prostate.”); or skillfully reroute us when we have wandered astray on the Rue de Faux Pas (BEEP, BEEP, ROUTE CORRECTION: “Oh, it must be that stunning, loose fitting frock you are wearing that led me to inquire if you are pregnant. Where DID you get it?").
For someone like me who spends so much time on the Rue de Faux Pas that he is considering buying a pied-a-terre there, such a device would be very useful indeed.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Well, my job with the Census Bureau has come to an end….at least for now.

The next phase will start in August and we are told that we have a good chance of being called back because we have experience. I doubt this will happen. I think the Government way is to re-invent the wheel, dismantle this temporary bureaucracy, and replace it with another with all new employees.

We were told the job would last ten weeks and it barely made it to five.

So what next? Clearly there is no income to be derived from blogging. I read in the Times yesterday (“Blogs Falling in an Empty Forest”) bloggers are abandoning their little corners of the internet in record numbers. According to a survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million of the 133 million blogs the company tracks have been updated in the past 120 days. “That translates to 95 per cent of blogs being essentially abandoned,” the article reports, “left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream-or at least an ambition-unfulfilled.”

Of course, the major reason for this is failure to attract readers and, even if readers are attracted, the inability to translate that into income. Book deals are few and far between.

Oh well, there is always pooper scooping. Another article in the Times reports that this is a real growth industry with franchises sprouting up that do millions a year in business. The premise is that armed with a pooper scooper you hire yourself out for $12-$15 a week to pick up Fido’s deposits in people’s yards. Apparently, even in these hard times, people are unwilling to pick up their own pet’s crap.

There is even a trade association for these folks: The Association of Professional Animal Waste Specialists. Companies in the field have clever names like DoodyCalls and Poop Patrol and slogans like “we are number one in the number two business.”

It is claimed that an independent poop professional with 20 or so clients can generate an income of $30,000 a year.

I may take a shot at this. First, I need a name. Doodie Howser, Canine Crapologist, has a classy ring to it. Or how about Dr. Doo-Little? Or The Feces Fanatic? Actually, I am kind of partial to Scat-Man-Doo. If you, dear reader, have any suggestions feel free to unburden yourself, so to speak.

Even though most of the franchises have cute little uniforms (not brown, I hope) for their workers, I would prefer to be incognito. However, I think it is absolutely necessary to have specialized footwear. I have designed shoes that have bald, Teflon coated soles. Take it from someone who has been there, there is nothing worse than trying to dig fresh dog poop out of sneaker treads with a toothpick.

AHA!!! I have just had a Eureka moment. With all of that abandoned bullshit fouling up the internet, there might be a market for a blog pooper scooper. For a low fee, I will wander hosting service sites tidying up the “public remnants” of abandoned dreams. And no special footwear is required!