Among the art pieces in one of the rooms of Nellieville, at Nervous Nellie’s Jams & Jellies, are two doll heads on a table. I suppose you could admire the craftsmanship of the dolls’ creators, or consider the different artistic messages that might be conveyed by making doll heads part of the composition — but not me.
Doll heads give me the creeps, and I’m not sure exactly why. Is it the wide, staring, unblinking eyes? Is it the fact that they’ve been dismembered? Is it the placid, vacant, painted-on expression?
I’m not sure, exactly, but I know that the presence of doll heads interferes with my full appreciation of art.
Yesterday we took the New Grandparents to Nervous Nellie’s Jams and Jellies, to show off the uniques sculptures displayed there. The sculptures are the work of Peter Beerits, who has mastered the process of turning ordinary old stuff — some might say “junk” — into interesting artwork. An old metal object, a few prices of wood for legs and a head, and a curlicue metal tail, for example, and you’ve got a pretty convincing pig.
Beerits has used the flotsam and jetsam of America from days gone by to construct Nellieville, a town that combines elements of the Old West, the early 20th century, and rural scenes and random animals. Banjo players, Wild Bill Hickok, outhouse users, lawyers, and barkeepers exist cheek by jowl in structures that are packed with all kinds of interesting old stuff. The rest is a bizarre and fascinating vision where there is a surprise around every corner.
Oh, yeah — Nervous Nellie’s jams and jellies are very good, too.
When you walk to work, moving to and from the office at a deliberate pace, you notice things that speeding drivers simply don’t see — like this curious, colorful monkey head that has recently appeared on the Third Street bridge over I-70. It looks to be made of carefully painted clay, and it is affixed directly to the concrete on walkway side of the bridge overpass.
What’s the significance of the purple monkey head? I freely admit that I gave that issue some thought as I walked by, but my analysis hasn’t gotten very far. The head has the telltale xs on its eyes that have long been a cartoon artists’ way of indicating death, drunkenness, or unconsciousness, but other than that, I found nothing to tell me the backstory of the monkey head, or why it was placed on the bridge. Google searches for drunken monkey, dead monkey, and unconscious monkey didn’t turn up anything particularly helpful, either — although the searches did cause me to become aware of the scientific theory that the human taste for alcohol has deep evolutionary roots that go all the way back to our primate ancestors consuming overripe, fermented fruit as a primary food source and the fact that the Caribbean island of St. Kitts is also known as the Island of Drunk Monkeys because of the alcoholic likings of the green vervets that were brought to the island in the 1700s. Alas, there doesn’t seem to be any connection between these stories and the purple monkey head on Columbus’ Third Street bridge.
Perhaps the monkey head is the start of some artist’s project, a la Christo, or some clever marketing campaign, where similar heads have been positioned in other parts of town and, after some kind of buzz is generated by curious people like me, we’ll learn that the monkey heads are advertising the introduction of some new restaurant or bar or rock band in the Columbus area? Or maybe the monkey head is a tribute to someone who met his maker on the bridge.
Whatever the backstory is, I’m intrigued by the monkey head on the Third Street bridge. I’d be interested in any theories about what the monkey head means, and why it is there.
Our snowfall yesterday has blanketed our tiny back yard in white — and incidentally given a new perspective to the abstract sculpture that Russell made for us. The snow has softened the edges. When I look at the sculpture now, I see a human face where I didn’t see one before.
On our way back from Boston we made a stop in Portland, Maine to pick up some supplies. Portland has a pretty cool and pedestrian-friendly downtown filled with interesting buildings, and businesses. Our destination was a quirky art supply shop across from the Maine College of Art.
I’ve always liked neon signs. There’s something kitschy about them, of course, but also something classically American — bold, consciously attempting to be memorable and attract passersby, naked in their capitalistic purpose, and often dosed with fantasy or humor. Plus, neon really looks cool at night.
Downtown Boston has come up with a great way to celebrate — and preserve — some of these neon relics of a.past America. On one of the small strips of land between the downtown area and the waterfront, called the Greenway, neon signs have been positioned around the perimeter. The signs draw visitors like moths to light. Two of my favorites were the Siesta Motel, with its cactus and sombrero theme, and the Flying Yankee Restaurant, with its rocket ship and flaming trail. The Siesta Motel, which dates from 1950, was located in Saugus, Massachusetts — where its southwestern-themed sign must have stood out like a sore thumb — and the Flying Yankee Restaurant, which dates from 1953, long before rocket ships were commonplace, was located in Auburn, Massachusetts.
Don’t you wish you’d had a chance to see these signs on the great American road during the ’50s, and perhaps stop at the Flying Yankee for a cup of coffee and a piece of pie?
I continue to marvel at the weird art choices some hotels make for guest rooms. These pieces were placed directly over the bed, so the last thing you would see before bedtime are a creepy, bare-chested, mascara-wearing guy who seems to be wrestling with an ugly scarf, and a clearly troubled woman — no doubt because she’s positioned next to a disturbing guy who might well be the Boston Strangler.
Sleep tight, and don’t let Scarfface bother you!