As we continue our series of a virtual view of art from around the world, our next stop is indeed one of intrigue and mystery, taking us to places most probably would not have ventured, let alone dared to think art would exist – at least not at first, nor in the literal sense – and certainly not in a pile of refuse. Thus, even knowing that “one man’s trash can sometimes be another man’s treasure” – could that apply in the art world? And, knowing that art thrived on diversity and splendor, could art, even at its worst, ever be considered a bad thing? My mind reeled with questions; I wondered so many things when first stumbling upon the Museum of Bad Art in Boston, Massachusetts – with one particularly haunting, “What, exactly, defines “bad” art?”
Could it be that the art world defined behind a society made to expose only the art of the best quality – so as to expose only the best from each artist? This theory would then leave a hole in progression, with the skills and experience of the artist never truly known. Perhaps much like fine wine and even true love – both in need of time to progress – one needing time, or air, in order to breathe; the other needing time in order to grow. Could there be something missing behind the exposure of only the best? Was then only a face value enhanced? Never seeing the progression over time, at least not from outside the lines of the artist’s best work – what then, defines “good” and “bad” art?
Whatever the reason these paintings donned the walls of MOBA – some with creator names of “unknown” – my artistic interests indeed had been peeked; especially finding in the art world a great deal of good and bad for so many years. Knowing the exploration not at all complicated; knowing very well the question likely an answer to forever be held “in the eyes of the beholder” – I began my quest for the story behind art-gone-bad.
Starting with the first on the “Museum of Bad Art’s” list, a painting by Michelle Clay, “You’re a Mule Dear” where she said it was not only a painting she that been donated to MOBA by her landlord, it was done so after being rescued from the refuse.
Clay said she had been contacted by a friend who said they recognized the painting stating that it looked a lot like hers; she had no idea that it was on display at the museum until after a recent visit there; she was quite surprised to find her piece on display although thrilled that it was if for anything that it didn’t end up in somewhere in the landfill to harm the environment.
The museum displayed Clay’s piece with a description of:
“You’re a Mule Dear” by Michelle Clay: Donated by Ashley Brent and Joe DiMaria, 36” x 48” crayon on composition board; acquired curbside from the public refuse system in Norwood, MA. – The tension between inner struggle and outward appearance is given a visible manifestation in this interesting study. Perhaps anticipating the growth of interest in ancient Greek culture as a result of the Summer Olympics in Athens, we see that glory always comes with a difficult price tag attached, and is rarely found on sale. (Text written by MOBA Volunteer Interpreter, Jeffrey Makala.)
Although the text very well written by Makala, the artist, Clay, said that her story is a simple one: Being an artist since very young, she had taken an art class years ago, painting what she thought was a pretty bad piece of art; so she threw it in the trash thinking it was “just something she could do better – and something she would never see again.” Apparently her landlord had found it in the trash and donated it to MOBA, and from there, she said, “the rest is history.”
Clay immensely joys being an artist as well as a mother, finding both equally challenging but also equally rewarding. Clay said the book she’s working on is an original story in verse involving dragons and piles of trash they are hoarding, in the mistaken impression that the trash is treasure. Which according to Clay is, “Quite by accident, also a retelling of Plato's Allegory of the Cave.” For more on Clay’s preliminary artwork and picture book from her blog site.
Second on our list at MOBA is artist John Gedraitis who not only had been unaware that his artwork hung among others on the walls of shame at MOBA, he said it must have been about 20 years before he became aware. In fact, the painting Gedraitis has on display at MOBA, “Sunday On The Pot With George,” was one he did in an art class back in 1983 – and he may not have even discovered its presence at all if it hadn’t been for a friend of his on Facebook who jokingly made a statement that maybe her artwork ought to be hung at MOBA. His reply also jokingly that his already might be – having no idea that indeed it was. She encouraged him to check further, since one never knows; and sure enough – he found an old piece from art school, “Sunday On The Pot With George.”
The way the museum displays Gedraitis’ painting is as follows:
“Sunday On The Pot With George” 37” x 22” acrylic on canvas, donated by Jim Schulman – Can the swirling steam melt away the huge weight of George’s corporate responsibilities? This pointillist piece is curious for meticulous attention to fine detail, such as the stitching around the edge of the towel, in contrast to the almost careless disregard for the subject’s feet.
According to Gedraitas, he said it just may be one of his worst paintings. Gedraitas, like most artists, loved art from a young age and majored in art in college. He started out drawing characters, some of teachers from school; he and a friend often swapping drawings and stories about life experiences that made each other laugh. His inspiration to be an artist, he said, coming from his father who although loved art worked as a factory worker in his career ended as a factory worker, and he retired a professional painter (painting senior citizens) at the age of 65.
Gedraitas said his father not only used to take him to the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, but he also used to sit the family around the table to do “still life” with his siblings. Although Gedraitas became an elementary art teacher for more than 25 years, he inspired so many other lives during his career, some that he remembers telling them how much he loved their art work and they went off to become artists. That, said Gedraitas, is what “makes it all worthwhile, to be able to inspire others to do something with their life they enjoy.”
Gedraitas is now a serious artist painting mostly landscapes, such as birch trees, textures; and artistic presence upon request, such as when his niece asked for a painting of her dog and he used creative artistic license. His goal is to do something artistic every day.
Gedraitis’ painting was also among a lucky set of artists selected to be included in a book published by the museum titled, “Museum of Bad Art: Art Too Bad to be Ignored” – with the museum stating at the time the artist was unknown as they didn’t have a name. It wasn’t until years later when Gedraitis took a trip to the museum to confirm the piece was indeed was his that the rest of the story became history – with the photo of him and his long lost “bad” art painting at MOBA to prove it.
It just goes to show that sometimes, notoriety for bad art does have its rewards after all. Gedraitis’s painting also appears online on the MOBA site, here The irony alone humorous; the inspiration being that good or bad, the beauty of art truly is “in the eye of the beholder” and that even if bad, the recognition is still invaluable.
So, whether just browsing the Internet and looking to check out bad art, or who knows, what may be considered as not-so-bad art; or if in the Massachusetts area, give the Museum of Bad Art a visit – you’ll be glad you did.
As for other artists, collections and exhibits on view at MOBA:
The cover of “Museum Of Bad Art: Masterworks” by Michael Frank and Louise Reilly Sacco.
“Mana Lisa,” Andrea Schmidt (Vancouver, Canada), 16” x 12” oil on canvas, donated by the artist. MOBA catalog #370 – This is a cross-gendered interpretation of the Leonardo daVinci classic “Mana Lisa’s” nose is critical to the composition, offsetting the dialogue between the foreground and profoundly varnished background. Taking a cue from the best-selling book The Da Vinci Code, anagrams offered by the work’s title can perhaps contribute to a deeper understanding of the work:
A SAIL MAN
AM A SNAIL
I AM NASAL
Other collections and pieces include:
MOBA/Somerville is hosting a new collection titled: “99 percent inspiration + 1 percent perspiration = No Sweat” The MOBA curatorial department is giving 110 percent, and they have the multimedia
If another person’s trash is indeed another person’s treasure – or in this case, another person’s art – then it’s no wonder MOBA does so well and has been such an inspiration – even if some of the art is really, really bad. Inspiration comes from all sorts of art, even bad art. Also keeping in mind that beauty truly is "in the eyes of the beholder."
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MOBA is located at: 580 High Street, Deadham Square in Boston, Massachusetts 1-781-444-6757. MOBA also has a new “Virtual Wing” available online. MOBA is free to visit.
Don’t miss the MOBA book: "Museum of Bad Art: Masterworks." Also, try the MOBA app on your computer or smart device:http://moba.toursphere.com. Check out MOBA online at their website or MOBA on Facebook.
MOBA was founded in 1994, with more than 600 pieces of “bad art” to share, although they can only showcase about 60 or 70 at a time due to space constraints. Visit MOBA online for more details about exhibits and upcoming events, their Facebook page which allows for interaction by the public who are invited to share their thoughts.
MOBA currently has three “bricks and motor” locations in the Boston, MA, area: Somerville Theatre, Brookline Access Television and Dedham Community Theatre (closed for renovations – not sure when /if will reopen).
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