Kitsch Sells

ditch walk lion

I first became aware of photoshopping at an academic conference at Florida State a decade or so ago where a presenter shared the home page of her website, which featured a photoshopped image of a Van Gogh painting in which she had placed herself at a café table.

So I decided I’d learn Photoshop, which has become very handy when I’m illustrating posts for this blog.

On the side, I started creating what I call “fake art.”  One night on vacation somewhere, maybe Saluda, North Carolina, I noticed large canvases in a restaurant that didn’t seem quite right.  I asked the server if they were actually paintings, and she said, no, they were photographs that had “been filtered” to look like paintings.

Ta da, a new hobby was born.  I shipped a couple of my pieces to on-line companies that transferred my kitschy collages to canvases.  Most of my early works were Folly Beach bars that I funked up by pasting images from pulp novel covers into the scenes.

I took one to my favorite hangout, Chico Feo, and traded it for a $50 bar tab.  It now hangs in the bathroom of a suite that they rent out over the bar.  Some patrons approached the owner a couple of months back and asked if they could purchase it, and he put them in touch with me.  They bought five.

swim at your own risk 1.0 (original)

My first sale

Then last week at a house concert my wife Caroline and I hosted, a woman wanted to buy another one, and then the day before yesterday, another fellow wanted to buy a completely different one that also hangs at Chico Feo.

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The second piece sold

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The most recent sale

So here I am selling these jokey collages without even trying to, so it has occurred to me now that I’m on a fixed income, I should try to actually supplement my cash flow by marketing this shit, maybe even print postcards or something.  The last thing I am is a businessman, so I don’t know where to start, but I thought, I’d go ahead and post a few of them here for the hell of it.

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Jack of Cups

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Chico Feo Bachelor’s Party

The Old Masters

Frequent visitors to this blog (all three of you) have no doubt noted a predilection to illustrate my rants with paintings of Bosch and Brueghel, Juvenalian satirists of the highest order; however, when it comes to unflattering depictions of the human race, those two Old Masters share many a Flemish cousin who can also render grotesqueries and human folly with Chaucerian panache.

The Ugly Duchess

Take the above masterpiece, Quentin Massy’s (1466-1530) portrait of Margaret, Duchess of Carinthia, also known as Margaret Maultasch (“Satchel-mouth”), though best known as The Ugly Duchess.  

An exquisite warning to in-breeders everywhere, she, of course, is the great-great-great grandmother of the Duchess Alice encounters in Wonderland.

The Ugly Duchess’s famous issue also include the Cowardly Lion:

AKA Bert Lahr (pictured below in drag)

In Auden’s frequently anthologized poem “Musée des Beaux Arts,” he notes that 

About suffering they were never wrong,

The Old Masters; how well, they understood

Its human position; how it takes place

While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along [. . .]

He goes on to describe the suffering’s occurring “anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot” and cites Brueghel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus as an example.

icarusbreughel

In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away

Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may

Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,

But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone

As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green

Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen

Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,

Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

But it’s not only suffering that goes on in the untidy corners of the paintings of Flemish masters; plenty of hankypanky takes place there as well.

Take this example from the above-mentioned Massys, The Ill-Matched Lovers.

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Note while the lecher’s hand is copping a not-so-surreptitious feel,

Quentin-Massys-Ill-Matched-Lovers-Detail-thumb

the young woman’s transferring his purse to her companion,

Quentin-Massys-Ill-Matched-Lovers-Detail-purse

a literal Fool.

Quentin-Massys-Ill-Matched-Lovers-Detail-fool

Anyway, it’s not all tongue-clucking burlesque; these masters certainly could capture beauty when in the mood [not to mention pre-photographic perfection (check out the instruments at the bottom)].  

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Caesar van Everdingen, Pegasus and the Four Muses

Nevertheless, for whatever reason (an overabundance choleric humors, perhaps), I prefer the Old Masters’ satire to their high mindedness. 

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I leave you with these details from Bosch’s The Wayfarer.

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Oink, oink, say the piggies. Splash, splash goes the urine.