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Strange Gallery

September 15, 2010

A byproduct of any kind of de-cluttering, re-jiggering or clearing-out on my part, is coming across an obsession from an earlier time. Manifested usually by a collection of some sort, the obsession can be pretty big. While clearing out the garage for its ongoing conversion into a painting studio, I was confronted with my collection of thrift store/flea market/junk shop paintings. And, there were a lot of paintings to confront, too. My original idea when faced with these stacks of now-dusty canvases was to just pitch them (my usual first response when de-cluttering). But, when I began looking through, then dusting, then cleaning, the paintings, I began to feel the old love for them I felt when I first bought them. **sigh** This is the other thing that always happens, although I eventually I snap out of it. My idea now is to use some of the paintings for DIY projects to run in the paper, sell others, and give some away. I’m still getting rid of them, but more interestingly. However, before doing any of these things I’ve decided to share some of my faves with you. Pour yourself a plastic cup of wine, pretend you’re in a gallery full of people with purposefully bad haircuts and more tattoos than sense, and I’m sure you’ll agree, this is some OOAK magic!

Note: The majority of these pieces was inexpensive and, except for a couple, were painted by unknown artistes.


Painted by a mentally-challenged inmate, this Medusa is a grinning, wide-eyed, snake-coiffed charmer … wearing a cushion-y collar made of a pair of disappointed lips. Miss M’s intense stare is evenly matched by the garish color palette. I love art that’s intensely intense like this.

Moonlight moon

Blue-mooning — swaying facelessly in the night — to music only they can hear, these nudist ballerinas seem both serene and creepy. I bought this piece with the surface damage and over time it’s gotten worse. Er, better. I imagine this was painted by an older lady in an art club in a rural town in Iowa.

Market monkey

This artist, Naedja, I actually met: a gorgeous Brazilian, with lush, long curly mane, and ‘Girl from Ipanema accent. I never found out why she was compelled to depict this monkey doing KP duty with both tubers and ‘love apples’, but I loved his simian style as well as the naive lettering. I’m a sucker for paintings with words.

"You don't say"

With eyes the cold blue of an icy pond, this lady is a natural born skeptic. You could try, but you would certainly fail to pull one on this gal — she wasn’t born yesterday after all, y’know. Nope, the turnip truck left a loooong time ago. Part of a group of family portraits I bought at the Long Beach Flea Market, I don’t think she was anyone’s favorite aunt.


We’ve just entered Swivelandia. Nobody stands still here — it’s too red, too hot, and too twisty. This little painting really makes me happy. It’s like a red-with-black-piping vinyl booth in a really dark bar … and, all the drinks are on the house. Oh, and there are bongos! Who painted this, and why, is anyone’s guess. I’m just glad they did.

By the numbers

Talk about happy? This plump polka-dot-wearing Bozo is the buck-toothed owner of a prized piglet … He’s on top of the paint-by-numbers world and no one can take that from him! I remember receiving paint-by-numbers sets for Christmas as a kid and they were fun at first. Ultimately, following the rules provided by the color key would make me insane. Now I know it was because they weren’t art projects so much as jobs.


Why wouldn’t someone stuck in an impasto-ed, post-apocalyptic landscape have the blues? This dour dude is crouched and waiting for something he no longer believes will come. Another eye-popping study in color intensity, I wish I could see it hanging in the interior it was intended for. Somehow I think a shag rake was involved.

Home planet

I’d like to think the artist who painted this was painting it from memory … memories of a home planet where octopuses float through the air while ghostly birds fly over the sun, and protoplasmic blobs compete for airspace with fiery explosions and squiggly swimmers. More likely a middle school art project by a precocious Dalí, it’s intergalactic fun.

Hmmm ...

When cubism collides clumsily with at least two fleshy ladies, the result is more funny than thought-provoking. Teeth, tubular limbs, stacked eyes and other, um, parts on full display, this artist was really pulling out all the stops. Mostly, though, they’ve exposed is a questionable taste level. I guess in some ways, I’ve done the same.

I'm sorry.

Much more accomplished, as well as far more moody, this piece is not only signed but there’s a newspaper clipping about the artist attached on the reverse (he was from Arizona). I love a melancholic painting; I wonder if she’s pining for a lost love or waiting for squealing sirens, knowing that the authorities will soon discover her Little Darling in the basement.

Hot plume

This painting, while very small in size, explodes with geyser-like energy. I think of this oil and pastel piece as showing the moment when a tranquil scene of water lillies on a pond is roiled by sudden geologic upheaval. Or, maybe Granny was painting her Mexican fountain grass while sitting on the porch. In a rocker. Who painted this? Who knows.

"Too much?"

Completely bypassing standard fashion wisdom that one should take off one accessory before leaving, this bedazzled party girl lays it on thick. Green eye shadow? Check. Random hair tints? Check. Pearl lapels, color-blocked top hat and feline-tinted contact lenses? Check, check and check! I imagine that this was painted by someone thought of as a wallflower and shrinking violet. And, that by painting this they enjoyed a tingling moment of sparkle.

Frug, baby!

From a time when disco was short for discotheque, and it was radical for soul sisters not to treat their hair like a deformity, this shimmying trio basks in the spotlight. All hip-sway and coolness, these moves could only exist in that twilight zone where dancing sets you free. I think this one has to have been created by someone who loved that sort of thing and wanted to relive the experience. I wanna go-go, too.


Okay, now this is just weird. It’s as if a zesty cousin of Shrek’s decided to put on a puppet show with his favorite wolverine while wearing his most dazzling cape. The amazing shade of lipstick, the insouciant wink, the huge hoop earrings, the overall decadent air of the piece, can only mean one thing. The librarian who painted this had a really awesome inner life!

** Sigh **

Only a teenager for a day, little Sally, ain’t feelin’ it. Lockers, gym class, those combination locks … nothing about junior high school is gonna work for her. Looking back to a simpler time — grammar school — Sal’s not happy. I love how the artist (probably a bachelor ‘uncle’) captured her mood by using such a chilly blue for a background color. The complete lack of color in Sally’s shift dress helps, too.

"Just hurry ... "

Now, ending a regal note, we have this one. Isn’t this just elegance personified? The perfect ‘flip’, the bolero jacket in what looks like heavy uphostery fabric, the claw-like fingernails and the pursed lips … this is the suffering the beautiful must endure. We crown them (with cartoon crowns) and all they can do is gaze back, and wonder: “Are you done yet?” I was told by the flea market vendor who sold it to me that it was painted by an artist who worked for Disney studios in the 60s/70s, which explains the glossiness.

As you’ve seen, art for me is not about perfection, training or importance. More than those things, it’s about obsession, desire and the need to create. I identify with all these pieces, and the ones I didn’t show you for propriety’s sake. I think art should be fun, too, and tickle as much as elevate. I’ll post a link when I have my thrift store/flea market/junk shop painting sale. Maybe you saw something you’d like?

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Mrs. Marriott permalink
    September 15, 2010 4:28 pm

    Man, that Shrek painting is something else, isn’t it? Who might have been the inspiration for that, and how can I get him to come to my next dinner party? I bet he never R.S.V.Ps.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      September 15, 2010 4:32 pm

      I’m sure you’re right, never RSVPs and shows up anyway, wolverine in tow … Part of the fun of collecting this type of art is coming up with a backstory!

  2. September 15, 2010 6:32 pm

    WOW…quite the collection. I LOVE the market monkey picture…I’d be tempted to try and buy it but I fear it might be the beginning of the end of my marriage if I did.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      September 15, 2010 6:49 pm

      Ha! Well, these were the most show-able examples … I’d be happy to bestow the KP chimp on you, just say the word!

  3. September 15, 2010 9:57 pm

    i’m tempted by the regal beauty past her prime. She looks like such a b*tch!!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      September 15, 2010 10:04 pm

      I’ll bring her by for your perusal

  4. September 16, 2010 2:22 pm

    Hey Reuben,

    These are great. I love Medusa. She for sale?

    • reubix1 permalink*
      September 17, 2010 3:47 pm

      Hey, Joey! I’ll email you with the info on Medusa; she is available.

  5. Elena permalink
    September 20, 2010 4:22 am

    I love swivelin’! it makes me smile. But I have no idea where I would put it…

    • reubix1 permalink*
      September 20, 2010 4:42 am

      I’ll bring it and you can test it out, Elena… it’s small

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