January 06, 2013

starving artist

At some point in my minds creation of brilliant (to me) ideas, I thought it would be genius to start an art collection. Not just any art collection. A terrible art collection. The goal is to have a representation of all the classic categories of terrible art. A black velvet painting. A hobo clown. Animals playing cards and/or billiards. Thomas Kinkade. Wildlife on a saw. I think you get the idea.

Now, you have probably seen or heard of the Starving Artists. I don't mean the kind that were starving in their lifetime, but now hang in museums worldwide. Nor do I mean those (some of whom I am friends with) who sacrifice to make their only living through their art. I mean the sales that have ads akin to those for monster truck rallies, only classier. Or so they seem.

These ads proclaim paintings, real, original oil paintings will be for sale for insanely low prices! They show an array of large, framed paintings of landscapes, famous cities, still lifes, all of the bland, non-offensive art categories guaranteed to match your sofa. Currently they shout that sofa sized paintings start at $19! The paintings in general start at seven dollars!! No painting is over $69! It's madness! These are original oil paintings, people!

I've been watching these ads since I was a child. At first, it seemed romantic. Hard up artists just trying to eke by, selling their beloved paintings at these sales. I was clued in early. It was just the name of the company. Much more romantic sounding than "Mass-produced in a factory" art sale. Don't get me wrong. These paintings are painted by people. They are original to someone. However, it's not a guy with a pencil mustache in a beret and a smock, his palette resting on his arm., easel in front of him, letting the muse flow through and onto the canvas. It's a random assortment of people, usually working on rolls of canvas. In some cases, everyone is assigned an element of the painting and an amount of time to paint that element. One will be in charge of the grass below the horizon. One will be in charge of clouds. One has to paint that happy little tree. So on and so on. Say in five minutes. So, the row of folks will each paint their item, and the canvas will scroll through at the appointed time and someone at the end gets to cut the finished works off and eventually they get stapled to frames and packed up to make their rounds in hotel ballrooms. In other cases, each person has a painting type and an allotted time to crank one out. They paint as many of their painting as they can. Their seascape with the lone light house. Their jazz saxophone player with the preternaturally long fingers. Their Eiffel tower. Over and over, canvas getting cut and assembled and shipped, just like the others. If they went to art school, they are surely questioning their life choices. If they didn't, well, there are worse things. I suppose. I just don't know what they are.

So, all these paintings showed up in hotel ballrooms in my area this weekend! This was my chance to officially begin my terrible art collection. Preferably with one of those seven dollar paintings. I figured it would be approximately the size of a three cent postage stamp, but surely it would be tacky. I spent the week building my excitement. Every time an ad came on, I would tell my husband we would soon be the owners of some starving art! Every time, he would take a deep breath and shake his head. I still can't understand why he wasn't excited. Maybe he didn't hear the part about them being ORIGINAL OIL PAINTINGS! Or maybe that NO PAINTING OVER $69! I mean, at least if he heard the last part, he would have at least giggled, right??

The day was Sunday. Eleven in the morning to four in the afternoon. I wanted to get there early. I didn't want the good stuff to be swiped up by a shady motel owner or subdivision builder. So, alarms were set. Breakfast plans made. This was happening. Now, there were a couple of hitches to the plan. The getting going was a little slow, and our chosen breakfast spot was more popular than we expected. Though, we were there, so of course it was happening! Visions of terrible art at rock bottom prices were dancing in my head. I could hardly eat! Okay, so I could eat, but my breakfast was so huge that it looked like I hardly ate. We were rested, we were fed, we were in an art buying mood. In fact, the hubs was sighing and shaking his head a little less, and I think his eyes stopped rolling by the time we were in the hotel parking lot. We were definitely in the right place. People were walking out of that hotel with armloads of art. There was a family of four, dad with his sofa sized painting, mom with her stack of smaller-than-sofa-sized paintings. I couldn't see the stack, but dad's painting was, um, special. We got out of the car and saw a young couple with a floral painting that was substantially hideous. "That's a good one," I said to G. He wasn't done with the sighing and shaking his head just yet.

We entered the side door where people with art were heading out. We quickly saw the 8 1/2 x 11 copies pointing to the art sale and followed them to the ballroom. Aisles had been set up, formed with tables. On and in front of the tables were chairs facing out, acting as easels. Sad, sad easels. Just stretched canvases arranged by size, stacked and propped on chairs. There were some immediately bad things that stood out, but we made our way to the far side of the room to work our way back. I didn't want to miss anything. Empty frames were arranged much like the paintings. Here's the first place they get you. Those prices in the ads? They do not include the frames shown. The frames are about the same price as the paintings. All of them are wide and gaudy. If you are looking for something tasteful, the best you can hope for is an elaborately carved frame that's been painted black. I process that to do this thing right, we'll be shelling out for a frame and a painting. Fine. I should have suspected as much. It's like the first painting sold by Dali to the folks that wound up starting the Dali Museum in Florida. The gallery sold the painting. Dali's wife, Gala, didn't think the price was high enough. So, Gala sent the couple an invoice for the price for the painting. She then added for the lovely frame the painting was shown in. I suspect the people running this ballroom art show didn't know that story, however. They were probably hip to the masses looking for art that matches their sofa, and that these people would think they were getting a steal. Clearly they were right. There were scads of sane-looking people with armfuls of art, snapping up frames like they were free. Clearly, G and I were the only ones in on the joke.

We spotted a black and white paintings of Dolphins with some coral that looked akin to something I might see on a Dala horse. It was definitely sofa sized. What would the odds be that it was one of the "starting at $19" paintings? I looked at the back. $69. Really? Really. It was then we saw the 8 1/2 x 11 copies posted with the price list. They were a flat price by size, as are the frames. If we wanted a seven dollar painting, it would be 8x10 and on a board. Those $19 paintings? Those would be the 8 x 10s on canvas. I quickly ruled out anything larger than 8x10. It was too bad, because there was some seriously, seriously bad art up in there. The black and white Dala Dolphins were just the tip of the tacky iceberg. We maneuvered around the art lovers and their paintings to find the rock bottom priced paintings. There was a decent assortment of canvas, but for the really sweet deal, I wanted one of those board paintings. Passing by some ladies oohing and aahing over some trees with technicolor leaves, we found the board paintings. All two of them. That's right. Two. They were disappointing. A canvas it would be. This is an investment, after all. There was another dolphin painting, this time in color. A definite maybe. Some technicolor trees with texture. Perhaps. Then, we saw what I can only describe as a moonscape. As painted from the moon, in the future when it is colonized. Black and white. We debated. But, the moonscape won out. Then, we had to choose a frame. I learned that when you have a tacky painting, you can try to put the least tacky frame on it. It won't work. While the frame is tacky by any standard, it just doesn't meet the height of the painting. We had to go gilded. We took our gilded frame and moonscape (painted by Craig) to one of the tables for framing. Normally I wouldn't be the sucker buying the frame from the tacky painting sale, but let's look at the options. I could get it framed at a shop. Shyeah, right. That shit's expensive. Especially if you want something hideous. I could bide my time and check the local thrift store circuit for an ideal frame awaiting separation from it's current painting. That would be an investment of time that I just don't have. So, I was the sucker buying the frame from the tacky painting sale. We approached, and there were lines at each table. People really thinking about their art and frame choices. G and I just stared at each other, wide-eyed. These people could not be for real. No one could possibly be taking this seriously, right? I placed our painting and frame on the table, where a worker with a "Hello my name is" tag carefully clipped it into place. I thought for sure she was judging my choices. However, a quick look around assured me that our choice was the least disturbing one being made today.

We then went to the check out to wait in another line. At that point, what the hell? Sure I'll take your hanging kit for a dollar. May as well go balls out. Our painting, frame, and hanging kit (which even included the nail!) were added up. $39.62. That's right, ladies and gentlemen. We spent near $40 for a terrible painting in a crappy frame. As we were about to hit the door, a real gem jumped out at us. It was in the $69 category, and if we had the funds, we would have been required to purchase it. It was a street scene. Like a Parisian street cafe. As envisioned by a drunk with poor literacy skills. The side of one building read "BESTAU RANT." Yup. Two words. On two separate lines. Next to that was something called, "LARAPIER." Yes. All one word. We opened and closed our mouths like fish. There were no words.

Our painting is still wrapped. I want the hubs to be home with me so we can hang it together and admire our foray into the bad art world. Now that he's on board with this, I can surely start my taxidermied squirrel chess set.

starving art.jpg

Posted by raven at January 6, 2013 10:57 PM
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