There Is an Art to Bad Art Museum Reviews



Currently my favorite vademecum is this funny little website called Bad Art Museum Reviews. I’ve linked it, so you can go right to it when you’re finished reading my pearls of wisdom.

Somebody was actually complaining that Andy Warhol wasn’t much of an artist, since he had someone else do his silkscreens and really only wanted to hang out with famous people. I mean, this person had just found this out and was actually whinging about it!  (Personally I always admired Andy for this, and I think the same accusation can be made against many big names of today. The photographer Nan Goldin for example. She did some good work way back in the 80s, but that was about it. Cindy Sherman too. But I digress.)

That Warhol thing was inadvertently funny, since the writer was so full of himself. But sometimes the reviews are meant to be nothing but rude fun. In particular, check out the remarks about the museum in San Jose, which seems to be about the worst excuse for an art museum. Okay, you can go click on that link now. I’m done.

New Test Post for You and Yours


The story is told about a little child who was so tiny he was no bigger than the end of your little finger. Hence he was named Little Pinky-end. His parents were poor CPAs and couldn’t support their teeming brood, so they sold them to the wolves.

Charlie Krafft’s Lovecraft Award Is a Hit


As some people on Twitter have noticed, an organization called Counter-Currents Publishing has launched an “H. P. Lovecraft Prize for Literature.” The accolade is, in part, a rebuttal to the World Fantasy Awards’ recent decision to stop using a sculpted likeness of the author for their trophy — because although he’s now a canonized writer of horror fiction, Lovecraft was also an explicit racist. The Counter-Currents prize in his honor will be “awarded to literary artists of the highest caliber who transgress the boundaries of political correctness.” And it will consist of — what else? — a bust of Lovecraft, sculpted by none other than Charles Krafft.

Read rest here.

Jon Gnagy, Master of Simple Shapes, Dies at 119


The first “g” … was silent.

Jon Gnagy, the TV drawing teacher who showed millions how to turn a simple triangle into a cocker spaniel, died yesterday in his home in Westport, Connecticut. He was 119 years old.

Burial will be next week in the Old Moldovian Cemetery, Ridgefield CT.

CORRECTION: The above obituary misstated the burial place of popular TV art instructor Jon Gnagy. The actual name of the cemetery the Old Moravian Cemetery, and it is in Trumbull, CT, not Ridgefield as stated. In addition, the Gnagy family decided to have the deceased member cremated at the Milford Crematorium (formerly the Milford Jai-Alai Fronton) because “burial is just too damn much trouble.”

CORRECTION: The above obituary misstated the death year of TV art instructor Jon Gnagy. Mr. Gnagy actually passed away in 1981.

Stalking the Wild Jackson Whites


My friend Sallie writes,


Zoom Zoom Zoom
For everyone who feels inclined, A kiddie show we hope to find…

Does anyone remember Zoom? It was a kiddie show in the 1970s. Kids in bare feet and striped jerseys, improvising the program as they went along. It was invented by an English TV producer named Chris Sarsen, who really pulled the wool over the eyes of the producers at WGBH in Boston, the educational-tv channel. But whatever its initial hokum, it got momentum and a life of its own and lasted through the seventies.

You didn’t need much cultural heft to make it in the Boston TV market in the 1970s, I’ll grant you. That old warhorse Rex Trailer, a kiddie-show host who began his career in Philadelphia right after WW2, had what amounted to a permanent sinecure on the Boston educational channel. He had something called Earth Lab, a version of  the Mr. Wizard science show, and there was a long-running thing called Boomtown, and at least a half-dozen other kiddie programs that Rex put on across the country. None of the Rex Trailer product was particularly good, but in the 70s no one was particularly critical. Boston was a strange tide-pool of media; it liked to think it was on the cutting-edge, because it had MIT and Harvard in abundance; but really it was a backwater, a New England college town with delusions of grandeur.

Somehow I fell in with this Mister Hornblower, about 30 years of age. He lived in a tiny, triangular-shaped studio apartment in Greenwich Village. He was a pederast, and appropriately enough the apartment was on Gay Street. He had feeble little jobs writing or editing TV scripts, which he worked on during those hours of the day when he was not entirely immersed in marijuana, vodka, or picking up 14-year-old boys on the dock at the end of Christopher Street.

I fell in with Hornblower because I was walking a neighbor’s dog out on the dock on one of those very sunny winter days when the sun is low in the sky and gets in your eyes. Would I like to be in his new educational-tv kiddie show? Oh sure, I said. I had no idea that I was the first female. Shortly afterwards Hornblower started riding me to get another female member of the kiddie-show cast.  So I brought in my best friend. She dropped out of high school dropped out of Hornblower, went out to Hollywood and became a big star, at least for a few years.

Somewhere along the line, Hornblower felt obliged to come up with “plot” or “theme” ideas for the kiddie shows. Someone brought him the story of the Jackson Whites in northern New Jersey. Hornblower thought it would be a good idea to go visit these Jackson Whites  and put them in his kiddie show. Wouldn’t everyone want to be in an afternoon kiddie show?

Apparently the Jackson Whites didn’t care for it. Hornblower stayed in a motel in the region, accompanied by two of his favorite teenage male companions. While he slept, someone torched his car. The car was a rental. Hornblower spent years sorting out the liability. He soon gave up the idea of regarding himself a kiddie-show producer.

New Plasticene Hummel Kit with the D-I-Y Flavour


hummel-Figurine-Ts111611-7405Franz Liverwurst, copartner of W. Goebel Porzelanfabrik in Oeslau near Coburg discovered a book with Hummel motifs. It was love at first sight and led to a contract with the artist in 1934.

The sculptors Reinhold Unno (1880-1974) and Arthur Kelly (1886-1972) devoted all their energies to develop the three-dimensions models for the later Hummel figurines from doodles.

The very first GIs who came to Germany swapped cigarettes and cans of Spam for Hummel figurines. Since then they have risen in value. Former First Lady, Betty Flossenburg, owns a cabinet full of them. President Ronald Rivkin received a gift of the Quartet of Puppies on his visit to Bitburg.

Crime and Punishment at the Art Students League


Our very own Mr. Ian Stuart Dowdy of the Art Students League likes to tell the tale of how he was responsible for the death of an old lady he was supposed to be taking care of. Old Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr was often bedridden with a prolapsed colon and needed round-the-clock care. As no nurse or home-care-giver was available on a live-in basis (this was during the War), and the live-in maid did not wish to do this sort of work, Mrs. V-R had her attorney look for a young man or woman who could move into the spare bedroom down the hall. A day or two later our own Ian Stuart Dowdy appeared and you can guess the rest.

A willowy, good-hearted young bit of artsy flotsam, Dowdy was very much an urban “type” of the era. Too snooty to be ribbon clerks at Bonwit Teller, young fellows of this breed very frequently found sinecures as caretakers of enfeebled old ladies and gentlemen or even the odd congenital idiot with a monied family who did not wish to shut him up in an institution.

house09The Voorhees-Rohr mansion on West End Avenue, one of the original houses in the neighborhood, was in a parlous state. Electricity had not been “laid on” until the mid-1920s, and that had been done so quickly and amateurishly, by the son of an Italian cobbler (who has now inherited his father’s shoe-repair shop on Amsterdam Avenue), that the fuses blew whenever you tried to run more than two appliances at once. Our Mr. Dowdy learned this the hard way. He was bathing old Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr’s feet in the new electric footbath her sister had given her for Christmas 1933 (but which she had never opened), and thought some music might be pleasant. So he started up a Lawrence Tibbett recording on the plug-in Victrola, forgetting first to switch off the big Atwater-Kent radio because its volume had been turned down. Immediately the house was in darkness.

“The gas! The gas!” shouted old Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr. It took a while for Ian Stuart Dowdy to figure out that she meant the gaslight sconces that hung on the walls and still functioned, most of them. Soon the room was bathed in that soft, ethereal glow that only gas can provide; and Mr. Dowdy headed for the stairwell to find the fusebox.

This was nearly a weekly routine at the Voorhees-Rohr residence, and helps to explain why old Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr had never had the gas lighting removed. There was the ever-present danger that gas would leak from an unlit, broken fixture; and indeed, one could detect a bit of gassy smell in some parts of the mansion; but Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr had finessed that problem by leaving a window open in every room of the house. Mr. Dowdy did not understand this, and shut all the windows one cool night in October. Livid and hysterical the way only the old and disabled can be, Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr screamed at the top of her lungs that Dowdy was trying to kill her. People in the neighboring houses heard this and sent the police over to remonstrate with the confused and by now very frightened young caregiver.

Nevertheless, when Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr met her extremely timely end, it was not because of a gas leak. Mr. Dowdy was forbearing and meticulous, and taught himself to disconnect all electrical devices that were not being used. A full month went by without blowing a fuse. Then one day when Mr. Dowdy was briefly out of the room, Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr herself turned on the radio while running both the electric footbath and the plug-in Victrola. Patient as Job, Ian Stuart Dowdy headed on down to the under-stairs to check the fuses. While he did so, Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr helpfully attempted to disconnect the footbath, the radio, and the Victrola. But her grasp of the plugs was uncertain. Just as Dowdy was screwing in a new fuse, she electrocuted herself.

“She should never have had electricity put in in the first place,” was the opinion of old Mr. Burnington, the sexton from Blessed Sacrament Church on West 71st St. He had an old carriage house on the other side of Amsterdam that would remain the last non-electric holdout in the neighborhood until he passed on in 1959.

Regardless, most people believed that Ian Stuart Dowdy was somewhat to blame for Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr’s death. Neighbors rejoiced when it was reported in the Herald-Tribune that the dowager had left her caregiver absolutely nothing in her will.

It was 1950 before the Voorhees-Rohr heirs were able to evict Mr. Dowdy from the mansion with the help of a $10,000 bribe. By this time they were so sick of the old house that they decided to have it torn down and replaced with one of those ugly brick apartment buildings that were just coming into vogue. Mr. Dowdy meanwhile embellished his tale through many retellings, so that today he himself half-believes that he killed the old lady, and that it was a clear case of justifiable euthanasia.

A Common House Pet Becomes a Harbor Seal


Puijila_BWPuijila darwini resembles a common house pet, and could easily be mistaken for an otter or large stoat. However, it is actually the ancestor of the walrus, sea lion, harbor seal, and other popular members of the pinniped family. What happened was that it swam in freshwater lakes and streams and somehow got washed out to sea.