We've all seen the famous paintings and sculpture of such titans of the art world as Van Gogh, Picasso, Rodin, and da Vinci. If an auction house is lucky enough to acquire one of their works, it would command millions and millions of dollars. But those works are so well known, so over-analyzed, reproduced so often, they've lost their appeal for me.
I much prefer the less well-known works by the more obscure artists who tried to create masterpieces, but either couldn't interest anyone in buying them, or could only sell them for so low a price, that they undoubtedly lost all self-respect, belief in their talent, and will to live.
Now, that's art I can relate to. That's art I want in my home--something with a pathetic trail of frustration, anguish, sacrifice and heartache behind it. You want to buy art for me? Buy me art that cries--nay, sobs. Yes, I want art that hurts.
In fact, if I were to take you on a tour of the art in my home, you would see the following pieces, none of which cost more than fifteen dollars, tax included--but each of which has given me, through its history of pain, at least double that amount of pleasure over the years.
"You Call This A Falafel?" This was Egyptian artist Gamal Massoud's last painting before his untimely 1987 death in a Cairo camel crash. It depicts a set of Iraqi triplets attempting to return their falafels because they were served in hot dog buns rather than pita bread. Interestingly, the painting also features the first and only known use of hummous and tahini as applique.
"Still Life With Taco Bell Employee" Of all the American artists identified with the Realism movement, Vic Porterhouse is perhaps the least known, least appreciated, and least respected. Partly due to his dual career as artist/rodeo clown, Porterhouse's name elicits derision 'round the world. Nonetheless, this painting perfectly captures the angst of a fast food worker forced to pose with a bowl of fruit while his supervisor is screaming at him that the chimichangas are burning.
"Get Your Hands Off My Sausage" German artist Otto Shmeckler painted this, as well as all his other works, while waiting in line at his local Berlin supermarket, Heinrichs. Referred to as both a visionary and one of the world's biggest idiots, Shmeckler claimed he needed the energy and time restraints of a grocery store waiting line to create. His other works include, Hey, You've Got More Than 12 Items; Excuse Me--Your Child Won't Let Go Of My Strudel; and Portrait Of A Checkout Clerk Pretending She's Not Infatuated By Me.
"Self-Portrait In Barbecue Heaven" Dutch artist Pieter Johannes van Harmenszoon used the technique known as chiaroscuro, which features subtle gradations of light and shade for dramatic effect. While critics have argued that the technique did not help make the 350-pound artist's nude self-portrait, showing him snacking on greasy pork ribs, any less nauseating, few failed to admire the nerve of his decision to make campaign posters from the painting to promote his subsequent political aspirations.
"Mime Being Pistol-Whipped" When French sculptor Edith Quichelorraine happened upon this scene of a mime being mugged, she decided to use her artistic gifts to capture it on the spot. Unfortunately, the only material she had with her was a tin of goose liver pate. So successful was her rendering, however, that subsequent sculptures included, Kitten Stuck In Fax Machine, done in ground beef; My Entrails, Of Course, done in Cornish game hen; and My Third Husband, Francois, done in ham with filet mignon detailing. Shortly thereafter, Quichelorraine was committed to a mental institution, where she lives happily today, doing sculptures of the other inmates, in meatloaf.
"Man Far Too Hairy To Wear Tank Tops" When you think of Belgian Abstract Expressionistic artists with over 10 felony charges, just one name springs to mind--Rene Peter Paul Van Dyck. Okay, so it's 5 names, but it's just one man. And what a man. Van Dyck specialized in metal block etchings of men to whom nature had been unkind. In between prison sentences, his works included, Man Who Could Lose 100 Pounds And Still Be Obese, Man With A Goiter The Size Of Luxembourg, and Man Picking Nose In Traffic Thinking Nobody's Looking.
"Mona Lisa In Bondage" American artist Reginald Farkas, while perhaps not the most original artist in history, is nonetheless one of the most memorable. Farkas takes famous art works and alters them slightly to create something entirely new. While not spending time in court fighting copywrite lawsuits, Farkas turns out other masterpiece-inspired works, such as: Nude Descending An Escalator, The Simpsons Visit Guernica, and Fistfight At The Last Supper.
"I'm Sick Of Your Stupid Castanets, You Annoying Pig" When one thinks of the great Spanish surrealist painters, naturally Salvador Dali springs to mind. But there was another whose work even the great Dali said made him feel violently ill each time he saw it. That artist was Jose Gonzalez Rodriguez Esteban de Silva y Luciente--or, as his friends knew him, Arthur. In this seminal fresco, a man is seen yanking the castanets from his mother-in-law and tossing them into a microwave oven, much to her horror. In the background, a mural depicting the highlights of Spain's 30-year highway improvement program can be seen.
"If My Husband Comes Home Early, Pretend You're Fixing The TV" There's no telling how far Rachelle Beluga might have gone in the Russian art community, had not her stunning tapestries dealt with so narrow a subject area. Oh, sure, they were each slightly different, but you don't have to be a rocket scientist to detect the similarities in If My Husband Comes Home Early, Pretend You're Checking The Kitchen Drain; If My Husband Comes Home Early, Pretend Your Car Broke Down And You're Using The Phone; and If My Husband Comes Home Early, Pretend You're A Door-To-Door Encyclopedia Salesman. Rachelle has been divorced fourteen times and lives in Minsk.
"Hot Monkey Love" This wall-size 3-D mural of a monkey orgy has been done, despite its subject matter, with taste, restraint and grace. Its creator, Greek Romanticist Demetrius Dropadopoulous, specializes in taking subject areas on the borderline of good taste, and expressing them in such a refined manner that you could present them as a gift to your mother. His other notable works include: Trouser Journey; Thanks For The Spanking, Judge; and Guess What This Is.
"I Promised I'd Never Bury You, Papa, And I've Kept That Promise" Edvard Yordvic is probably not the only Norwegian artist working in colored chalk and obsessed with the idea of keeping loved ones in the house even after they die--but he is no doubt the best known. Considered a lovable eccentric in his Oslo hometown, Yordvic is ironically a man full of life, considering the fact that his house contains 4 corpses. His other chalk works include, Happy Birthday, Mama--Here's A New Air Freshener; I Think I'll Move You Over By Cousin Sven This Month, Grandpa; and Yes, It's A Quiet Family Reunion, But A Reunion Nonetheless.
"White Rectangle Surrounded By Purple For $13.49" American Minimalist artist Lucas Pither became quite well known throughout his Brooklyn street's yard sales, not only for including the price in the title of all his works, but also for his constantly telling people, "If the art thing doesn't work out, at least I have my job at Orange Julius to fall back on." His life tragically cut short by a knitting accident, Pither remains today a fond memory for all who cherish their art done in Crayola crayons on onion skin paper.