Poems about art and artists by Gary Lehmann
I’m looking at Irving Penn’s London photograph
of T.S. Eliot, done for Vogue magazine in 1950.
Penn was 33, Eliot nearly twice his age.
Eliot stares at me in bromide black and white,
I stare back at him in full living color,
but his passionate intensity turns me away.
All congested in his tweed suit and striped shirt,
his hands drawn back to emphasize his gauntness,
he jumps over the barrier of death to instruct me.
Helplessly displayed on this wall against his will,
he projects a defiant glare past me into the room,
as if to dismiss my insolent untimely intrusion.
Out of nowhere I come to worship at his shrine,
meeting uninvited with my blinking and evasive
his immutable, fixed, and powerful eyes.
To this gallery I come to look him over casually,
take his measure, invade his enforced solitude.
He looks back harshly -- telling me to leave.
The man who wasn’t there
Duncan Fyfe, greatest of all New York’s cabinetmakers,
left no image of himself for us to visualize him. Nothing.
No photo, no painting, no drawing, no diary, no letters.
How do you live 84 years leaving nothing personal behind?
And to further obscure his image, there’s nothing left of his
personal possessions – except maybe -- a pair of spectacles.
150 craftsmen worked in his furniture shop for over 30 years
and yet we can’t say for sure that he personally made anything.
Even his so-called tool chest may have been mere promotion.
None of the tools show the signs of real continual wear.
His shop on Fulton Street bustled with activity. He gained
the reputation of being America’s most famous cabinetmaker.
Yet, he remains invisible. All that we have today of a personal
nature are a few lines written about him by his relatives.
They say he was a “very plain man, always working and
always smoking a short pipe.” That’s about it.
For a man who was supposedly so industrious, working
away his whole life, all we have left of him is a blur in a
doorway on Fulton Street and a nation full of his furniture.
Who else in history is so prominent -- and yet so invisible?
A Genuine Picasso
A man once showed a Picasso to Picasso.
He said, “It’s a fake.”
Then, he showed Picasso another painting.
“Fake!” the artist declared.
The man revealed a third Picasso
and the artist again denied it.
“But Pablo,” the man explained,
“I watched you paint that with my own eyes.”
“I can paint false Picassos as well as anybody.”
Against the Wall
In 1904, Pablo Picasso went to Paris for the first time
to set the Paris art world on edge with his new ideas,
but when he arrived, he found he was far behind.
André Derain was already developing cubism,
and Henri Matisse was already employing
primitivism and a bright color palate.
Picasso was enraged with jealousy and envy.
He needed to prove himself the best painter in Paris.
His talent and intellect would not be denied.
In spring of 1907, he locked himself in his basement
studio and started making drawings, hundreds of them.
The subject would be raw and angry, a confrontation.
He painted the blatant sexual poses of prostitutes, their
faces based on African tribal masks seen at a museum.
The result he originally called The Brothel of Avignon.
Proudly, he revealed his new work to his fellow artists
but their reaction was shock and outrage. No one had
thought to take the new movement so far so fast.
The painting puzzled them and left them somehow angry.
Piqued, he turned his painting to the wall, where
it largely remained unattended for the next 9 years.
The Moment of Truth
Just moments before being assassinated, Gandhi was talking with the French
photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson and looking at some of his pictures.
Gandhi was particularly attracted to one black and white image
of a funeral wagon carrying a coffin draped in heavy black fabric.
The horses are resting after pulling their load up a cobbled street.
In the foreground, an old man with a cane turns to look at the coffin.
You sense death, Cartier-Bresson said, but it isn’t sad.
It has a finality, doesn’t it? Gandhi broke off the conversation.
Death, death, death, he said. Then he walked outside to greet his followers.
Hidden amongst them was a deranged young man with a gun.
The Retort Absolute
During the First World War and
then on through the Second,
Picasso worked in his Paris studio
as the war raged on around him.
Unexpectedly, Nazis broke in
looking for some excuse to arrest him.
An officer paced around the room
poking at things and examining images.
Finally, he found a postcard of Guernica
which depicts the horrors of aerial bombardment.
Did you do this, he demanded with a sneer.
No, Picasso responded, You did.
It goes pop when it spins
In 1960 the Swiss artist Jean Tinguely created a
monumental sculpture called Homage to New York
for the Museum of Modern Art.
It contained bicycle wheels, motors, fabric,
metal chunks, plastic bits, a piano, an addressograph,
a go-cart and a bath tub.
It covered a space 23 feet wide by 27 feet long
and was almost 15 feet high, all painted white.
On March 18, before a big crowd, it was set in motion.
A meteorological balloon inflated and burst,
colored smoke was discharged, paintings were made
and destroyed and bottles crashed to the ground.
A player piano droned on while drums rolled.
A radio broadcast music and a recorder played a tape
of the artist trying to explain it all while being attacked
by a woman with a very shrill voice who argued with
the artist’s interpretation. The machine went faster and faster
until it started to self-destruct in a cloud of smoke.
At this point, the New York Fire Department
stepped in and demanded an end to the show.
The museum salvaged the remains to put on exhibit.
In 1913 I had the happy idea to fasten a
bicycle wheel to a kitchen stool and watch it turn.
When Marcel Duchamp combined a footstool with an upturned bicycle wheel
in his Paris studio, he had no idea that he was creating a whole new kind of art.
It just amused him to spin the wheel and watch the movement.
He felt like it was a suitable substitute for the fireplace he didn’t have.
When he left Paris in 1915, the original was lost, but in New York
the next year he reproduced it. Now he had come to think of it as art, a readymade.
It is said to be the first piece of kinetic sculpture because it moved, came out of
everyday life, and yet was an object of no particular use except to inspire admiration.
You can’t sit on it. You can’t ride it, and yet it seems like a natural combination.
There’s nothing as great as a fresh new idea that just appears from nowhere.
Let’s hear it for the money
In 1988, when Andy Warhol’s executors examined the contents of his 66th Street townhouse, they discovered some 10,000 objects of pop culture which Andy had carefully collected over many years to feed his aesthetic development.
Sotheby’s conducted the 10-day auction at their east-side auction house, but they were not prepared for the lines of people from all over the world who jammed the sidewalk all the way around the corner. Sotheby’s officials called in crowd-control agents and issued remote bidding forms to curb fears of unruly behavior when it became clear that not everyone could get inside.
Of all the Bakelite bangles and cellulite Kewpie dolls in his collection, the mob had somehow conceived a special mania for Andy Warhol’s cookie jars. The buzz went up and down the line. To Andy Warhol, cookie jars somehow epitomized the all-too American desire to grab onto something vaguely forbidden and chomp down on it with relish. Aunt Jemima cookie jars, McCoy banana cookie jars, Puss n’ Boots cookie jars. There was no end to the interest in them, but there was a definite end to the number of cookie jars in the sale.
Early examples sold for outrageous prices. When one lot brought in ten times its estimated value, the auctioneer led the applause. Let’s hear it for the money, he cried out in jubilation. Word arced across the network of New York dealers. The frenzy that started on 66th St. generated a minor shockwave in the cultural ether. Dealers from outside New York started grabbing cookie jars off their shelves and driving like crazy to see if those who were denied bidding on one would buy one off the curb. Overnight, Flea Markets and regional showcases marked up their prices four fold. The hysteria for cookie jars spread like peanut butter over hot toast.
But then, in a few days, the whole craze evaporated. All that was left were a lot of overpriced jars and some empty wallets. The sale raised $25 million, which isn’t bad for a big load of gaudy kitsch, but the whole exercise would have made Andy laugh sardonically in that certain way he had. “Oh, isn’t that strange.”
Stepping out of History
Frederic Bazille could have been one of the Impressionist painters whose
name you would recognize today had he not stepped out of history in 1870.
It happened during the Franco-Prussian War. Bazille did not want to ask
others to defend his country for him, so he joined the Zouaves.
After his officer was injured in battle, Bazille took command and led his troops
through a forest of hardwoods blanketed with high ferns that obscured his view.
When the ferns parted, he suddenly found himself confronted at
short range by a troop of Prussian soldiers with guns raised.
There was a fleeting moment when the French could have surrendered,
but instead Bazille took one step more and, at 28, walked out of this world.
The sunlight dappled the tops of the broad fern leaves creating a
shimmering patch work blanket of light over the scene.
As he was dying from two bullet wounds, it surely must have occurred
to him that this is the kind of scene he would rather have painted.
The thing about El Greco that interests me
is that he styled himself as Greek, El Greco,
but he was actually born in Crete and
lived in Venice and Spain most of his life.
Perhaps as a foreigner, he appeared exotic,
easier to understand as Greek.
I suppose El Greco sounded better in
polite society than ex-Cretion.
Gertrude Stein was furious when she found out that
Picasso had given up painting for writing poetry.
Writing belongs to me, she told him.
Picasso defended himself by saying,
But you told me I was extraordinary
and I think an extraordinary person
should be able to do anything.
She was stumped at first but then replied,
What is extraordinary is that a person
who can do one thing well should drop it
for something he can’t do at all.
Blank walls and empty halls
They’ve closed the art school and the graffiti is gone.
No more torn t-shirts and ragged paint pants in class.
Nobody crosses campus in flip flops in a snow storm.
No one throws popcorn at the screen in the free movies
or interrupts school meetings with inarticulate tirades.
All those torn posters have blown away in the wind.
And the dorm halls are strangely quiet after 3 AM.
The art school has been shut down, it’s totally gone,
and the whole place has turned a sickly shade of gray.
The Resurrection by Piero della Francesca
has been described by Aldous Huxley
as the greatest painting in the world,
but in the 18th cen. the fresco was painted over
with a heavy coat of white wash plaster.
Over the years, it smoldered on the wall
in righteous indignation, and then slowly
sloughed off its covering thus resurrecting itself
so that by 1855 it reappeared as if by magic –
virtually forcing the world to appreciate it once again.
Taming the Devil Within
Franz Xaver Messerschmidt enjoyed a distinguished career
as an artist with many royal commissions and
a prestigious post at the Vienna Fine Arts Academy
until in his late 30’s when he had what we today would
describe as a total mental breakdown.
Suddenly, his personality changed radically.
He had hallucinations and thought everyone was out to get him.
He lost his post at the Academy and went into exile in Hungary.
In his isolation, he began to make sculptures of distorted faces,
modeled on his own contorted expressions.
He produced 49 of these character heads before his death in 1783.
He said they gave him protection from the evil spirits
which tormented his fragile psyche and disturbed his sleep.
Looking at his pinched and disturbed exterior in the mirror,
he took the devil inside by the tail and yanked it hard.
Under Josiah’s Hand
In October 1838, the newly-weds, Josiah and Eliza Goddard,
had their pictures painted by a local artist – just in case
they never returned from their missionary journey to China.
Their images look Stoic and Christian, not at all scared.
At 22, their lives were truly predestined -- just as they believed.
Two months later, aboard the freighter Apthorpe of Boston,
Eliza got seasick, and she stayed seasick for the entire journey.
In her journal, Eliza recorded that the Chinese streets were crowded.
No one particularly welcomed them. Drinking water and clean food
were scarce and the heat was oppressive to a Christian soul.
The savageness of the people was overshadowed by smallpox,
typhoons, and flooding. In this world, Eliza bore four children.
An opium eater, evidently brought to despair by a lack of God,
committed suicide on her doorstep. It was a deeply un-Christian land.
And she was rapidly losing hold of her life and her sanity.
Josiah mastered the local dialect but contracted tuberculosis.
A move inland to Nang-po did not improve his health. He soon died.
Eliza had to return home. She never returned to missionary work,
but her son, educated at Brown, returned to China where he was born,
prospered, preached the Word, and raised his own family.
In 1944, the portraits of Eliza and Josiah Goddard were gifted to Brown.
Years of grime was cleaned away by experts revealing under Josiah’s hand,
an inscription: Now no one could for a moment contemplate the spirit of
Christ without [being] convinced that It was a spirit of love ... but
also a willingness to make [the] greatest conceivable sacrifices.
The last Confederate veteran
When the painter Larry Rivers saw the photo
of the deathbed of the last Confederate war veteran
in the May 11, 1959 issue of LIFE, he was deeply affected.
The scene, though obviously staged, was deeply moving.
Walter Williams, almost dead, surrounded by the Rebel Flag,
his old torn uniform and a hand-wrought memorial quilt.
The drama of the moment was captured perfectly.
The end of an era. The turning of a great page in history.
The picture captured it all. The scene cried out to be painted.
Rivers ran to his studio and executed a whole series
commemorating the solemn occasion on canvas.
Only trouble – it was all fake. A total put-up.
Walter was just 8 years old when the war ended.
There are no records of his military service, and
absolutely nothing connects him to the war at all.
As for the photo, it was the melodramatic product
of a relative’s overactive imagination and a lust for fame.
In these parsley days, even a deathbed is suspect.
Picasso’s famous painting entitled Three Musicians is
actually more than a representation of Picasso’s friends.
One is Guillaume Apollinaire, who died in the war.
Another depicts a friend who joined a monastery.
The third is Picasso himself, the artist,
the harlequin in the middle, strumming his guitar.
But under and behind these gay figures is a dog
whose head is hidden behind the legs of the musicians.
His claws and tail appear in black shadow ominously
counterbalancing the image of festive gaiety.
Object of Desire
The artist Man Ray fell in love with his model,
but was devastated when she dumped him.
To get over her, he did a pen and ink sketch of her eye
and attached it to the pendulum of a metronome with a paper clip.
He called it -- Object to be Destroyed.
25 years later, anarchists broke into an art exhibit and,
seeing the title, Object to be Destroyed, destroyed it.
When Man Ray was asked to make a reproduction,
he agreed, only this time he insisted
on calling it -- Indestructible Object.
Doing What Comes Naturally
When Man Ray hired the same artist’s model as Andre Derain, he was surprised
when she took off all her clothes and jumped into his lap in the nude.
What’s this all about? protested a startled Man Ray who drew
his models from a distance. The young thing looked perplexed.
I’m just doing what Monsieur Derain requires of me, but come to think of it
I don’t know why he is a painter when he seems to like sculpture so much.
At the Roxy
Every city in the world has at least one museum dedicated to the best of art,
MOBA is the only museum dedicated entirely to collecting and showing the worst.
The Museum of Bad Art in suburban Boston celebrates the enthusiastic work
of artists with limited talent, abysmal judgment, and little sense of color.
It’s a sort of touchstone or foil for every other art museum in the world.
We’re here to celebrate the right to fail, explains the permanent interim director.
The collection is hung in the basement outside the Men’s Room.
The smell adds a certain something which is not inconsistent with the art.
The MOBA has a firm policy of not paying more than $6.50 for a new acquisition,
though noteworthy exceptions have been made for particularly squalid attempts.
One painting in the permanent collection has a big knife slash through it.
We like to think this represents a moment of epiphany on the part of the artist.
We are more or less forced to rotate our exhibits, the director explains
apologetically. Take a look around. The public can only stand so much.
The Poor Guggenheim
With a yearly allowance of just $80,000, Peggy Guggenheim considered
herself to be the poor Guggenheim. Peggy felt she needed to be frugal.
In her famous salons, she sometimes served nothing but crackers and whiskey,
but even so, people in the elite art crowd coveted an invitation to her parties.
For many years, her first husband complained, they lived in apartments furnished
with little more than orange crates so Peggy could spend lavishly on modern art.
She negotiated hard with her chosen starving artists, driving them to the brink.
Even when she didn’t particularly like an artist, she paid for quality work.
She was a harsh critic. She might just walk into your studio, look around,
and walk right back out without saying a thing. She was notorious like that.
You can say that rich people like Peggy Guggenheim don’t influence anything,
but you’d be wrong. Money talks and money coupled with taste leads the way.
Angel of the Citadel
In 1949, when Peggy Guggenheim took over the unfinished
Palace of the Venier de Leoni on the Grand Canal in Venice,
she resolved to make her garden into public sculpture space,
a place of joy and beauty for the entire community.
Amongst her Arps, Brancusis and Calders, she mounted a piece
by Marino Marini of Milan which featured a horse and rider.
The rider sat holding his arms aloft as a signal of victory
and to add to his ascendancy, he sported a large erect penis.
The sculptor struggled to include this appendage in
the original casting, so he made it unscrewable.
Peggy regularly unscrewed the appurtenance out of deference
to the nuns who passed her house on a scheduled basis.
This habit lent the bronze penis a well-worn look
which gave rise to quite unfounded rumors.
Rodin tries to catch the wind
In 1851, the sculptor Auguste Rodin accepted a commission
from a Parisian writers’ group to produce a sculpture
of the famous French author Honore de Balzac,
but things did not go well in Rodin’s drafty studio.
Cold weather froze his brain and the real Balzac evaded him.
Balzac was self-conscious. Few images were taken of him in life.
Besides, he died 40 years earlier. Few remembered exact details.
Of his personality, they remembered plenty.
He was physically large and overbearing in his mannerisms.
In his opinions, he was powerful, controversial, sexy.
How to convey all these contradictions in bronze?
The metal seemed harder than ever to manipulate.
Rodin tried a nude Balzac, but the corpulent Balzac looked flabby.
The statue failed to convey Balzac’s immense sexual power.
Only the face reflected his strong will and powerful beliefs.
So, Rodin tried an athletic Balzac, much slimmer
than he appeared in life, his hands only partially concealing
a half erect penis. The public reacted with shock.
It didn’t even look like Balzac. The pose was lewd.
The failure was a great humiliation, but Rodin did not give up.
Finally, Rodin settled on an expressive face
with the rest of the body covered in a flowing dramatic cape
meant to convey his potency and brooding romanticism.
The public ridiculed this version as well. They called it,
Balzac’s head stuck on a tree trunk.
Exhausted after years of effort, Rodin retired from the field,
sent the commission back to his patrons and reclaimed his work.
Even in defeat, the modern world reveres his failed sculptures,
as a testament to the futile effort to capture real life in bronze,
the hopeless quivering toil of every artist to capture the wind.
Dog Bites Man
The painter J.H. Sharp had a simple system to sort
out the buyers from the lookers at his Taos art studio.
He had a little dog. When the dog lifted one ear,
it was a buyer knocking. Let him in!
When the other ear appeared, keep him out.
Both dog and artist were very well fed.
Then, one day John D. Rockefeller,
on an art buying tour, was sent away.
He bought his paintings from the guy next door.
Both dog and artist ate dry bread for a week.
A valuable painting of a young girl
was stolen from a Los Angeles residence
where it had been stored in a locked safe.
According to Police, the thief or thieves,
broke into the house and stole the painting
by removing the entire safe with a crow bar.
The owner has offered a $20,000 reward
for the return of the painting.
He says the thieves can keep the safe.
The Eyes of Gustav Klimt
The remarkable thing about Gustav Klimt’s drawings is that they are quite unremarkable.
Focus on the drawings only, and you find they are merely academic, even ordinary.
They’re good -- as you’d expect from an artist as practiced and talented as Klimt – but
the reason we look at his work today with such rapture is not that he could draw faces.
No, what makes his paintings so spectacular is the dreasmscape he places around his faces.
He encrusted his works with metal objects, thick gold paint, patches of fabric, and eyes.
Klimt’s paintings are studded with eyes. Eyes and more eyes. They stare out at you.
Cat eyes, Egyptian eyes, square eyes, hooded eyes, round eyes, golden eyes, wiggly eyes.
At the turn of the century, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was at its very height.
They didn’t yet know it, but the Hapsburg dynasty was dying. Its glory was past.
Only the Secessionists remained, the last sparks of the comet that once flashed
so brightly across the eastern European sky, like the eyes in a Klimt painting.
An unknown person,
probably his appointment secretary, is seen in this photo
with Norman Rockwell's dented, blackened brass bucket.
It was used as a receptacle for turpentine-soaked rags.
The rags often would catch fire, explained our tour guide.
Then someone -- maybe Rockwell, maybe his assistant,
would calmly throw the bucket out the door of the studio
to extinguish the flames. That's how it got dinged so badly.
Are you now...
In 1953, painter and designer Rockwell Kent,
a leftist and a socialist, but not a Communist,
was called before Senator Joseph McCarthy’s
Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
Kent appeared a small man before so powerful a committee.
He began his defense by talking about his life and beliefs, but
when he started winning over some of the committee members,
the domineering Senator from Wisconsin broke in and said,
“I’ll not hear a lecture from you, Mr. Kent.” Kent instantly replied,
“You certainly won’t. I get paid for my lectures.”
One day after dinner, Thomas Gainsborough tried something new.
Just for fun, and because he was having trouble getting clouds right,
he attached a small rag to the end of a stick.
In several dishes, he mixed up a set of very light multi-colored washes.
Dipping his stick from one dish to the next, he swept the rag over the paper.
Then he walked each wet sheet across the room to dry by the fire.
Anxious to get back to wetting more, he called in the maid to take over.
There were the clouds that had evaded him, emerging as if from no where.
He noticed that the darker colors created valleys and mountains just as easily.
With the simple addition of a few people, animals and trees,
he suddenly created a new landscape, a house set into the hillside, a dream.
It was magical, like discovering Alice in Wonderland inside a simple pencil.
Caught in Time
In 1941, the great photographer Yousef Karsh arranged to take
a photographic portrait of Winston Churchill in a backroom of
the Canadian Parliament, but Churchill arrived several hours late.
Both men were in foul moods. Karsh quickly arranged back lighting
against the paneled wall where Churchill stood smoking a huge cigar.
Stepping forward, Karsh plucked the cigar from the lips of the supreme leader.
Churchill snapped his mouth shut with all the grace of a master sergeant.
Hurrying now, Karsh took one last light meter reading just to be sure.
Churchill braced himself, leaning on his cane and grasping his hip.
FLASH! In that moment, Churchill had his complete game face on.
Far from being caught off –guard, he was more fully himself than ever.
His resolute, stern face promoted exactly the Winnie he wanted to project.
It was perfect. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France,
we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence
and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be.
Mountains and Sea 
On October 26 in New York City, Helen Frankenthaler
tacked a large canvas to her studio floor.
Then she climbed a ladder to gain a global overview.
The 7 by 10 foot untreated cotton canvas stretched out
like a blank landscape, crying out for Mountains and Sea.
She mixed her colors, highly thinned oil paints, in coffee cans.
Then she poured pools of color directly onto the raw canvas.
She used some long-handled brushes to spread the blue, purple,
orange/red, yellow, and green into translucent washes.
Unlike Jackson Pollock, her painting did not convey
deeply moody alcoholic patches of emotion, but
light, pastel fields, like a watercolor landscape.
She added some random splatters to highlight the staining,
allowing the diluted colors to dig into the unseasoned cotton,
like a giant napkin soaking up gently filtered light.
By late afternoon, it was time to take another look.
Back on the ladder, she thought for a long while.
Then descending, she added a few black lines to train the eye.
She thought for a time, then mixed orange/red with green/yellow
to make a rustic brown which she dabbed on a central field.
Remounting the ladder, she instantly declared, It’s right.
The Light Coming out of all Living Beings
In his famous paintings of The Peaceable Kingdom,
Quaker painter Edward Hicks portrayed
the Lion lying down with the Lamb
– all the animals living in harmony –
in order to encourage his fellow Pennsylvanians
to create a world of peace and tranquility.
In the background, he depicted William Penn
concluding an honorable treaty with the Indians.
Quaker Light shone from all the living creatures.
In modern times, the kingdom is not so peaceable.
Earlier this year, collector Ralph Esmerian snatched
the painting on permanent loan back from the
American Folk Art Museum to pay off his mounting debts.
He sold it at Sotheby’s for $9.6 million dollars,
but now the buyer, Halsey Minor of California, having
financial troubles of his own, is being sued for non-payment
of principle and interest -- plus additional penalties.
A Sotheby’s spokesman said We do not like to sue our clients,
but unfortunately Mr. Minor left us with no choice.
Picasso & Gertrude Stein
When Picasso decided to paint a portrait of his friend,
Gertrude Stein, he selected his colors very carefully.
Gertrude can only be painted in shades of brown, he said,
set against patches of black, all somber and intellectual.
Her body was large, corpulent, and heavy set,
but her mind had to be portrayed for its lightness and agility.
The problem emerged when he began depicting her face.
He couldn’t get anything right. It looked too big.
Then it looked too small. 99 times she sat for him.
Very patient she was, but it just wasn’t working.
Finally, Picasso despaired. He feared he was about to fail.
So, he picked up a brush and started painting from memory.
He sat down when Gertrude Stein wasn’t there
and portrayed the her he knew to be always there.
Her present absence was made up for by her constant presence.
He drew the essence of her face in the shape of an African mask.
She was blunt. I don’t like that she told him upon first seeing it.
You will, he replied smugly. You will, ... and she did.
At Home with the Family
Somewhere in the wilds of upstate New York,
Joel Kopp lives with his children,
the Radiator Kid, Scrapasaurus and
Iron Minnie, the Queen of the Junkyard.
Tractor and mower parts combine with shovels
and radiators to create fantasy creations.
What else is there to do with broken axes
and shovel blades, kettles, rakes and hoes?
In his private moments, Joel talks with his animals
and let’s them play in the yard.
I come across something, Joel explains,
and I can see it as the beginning of a certain creature.
It grows from there. Just like that!
The Arbus Twins, Big Face, Shelly the snail.
There’s whimsy in his fancy,
a mischievous twinkle in his eye.
Half the fun is in naming each one.
Joel is one happy man.
When Winslow Homer attended the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893,
he saw for the first time a night scene of fountains and massive stone buildings
illuminated by artificial lights courtesy of Mr.Westinghouse. It was simply magic!
Like all artists, Homer painted light and here was an entirely new kind of light.
He set up his easel and canvas and painted in black and gray the image of a fountain
and a gondola floating in a field of this strange new air-born substance.
It was like the most generous moonlight ever seen, like voltage-modulated lightning.
He needed to know nothing of the two-phase induction motor that made it all possible
or the double-stoppered lightbulb that circumvented Edison’s patent. It was pure magic!