Let sleeping cats lie ~

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Despite the recent elevation of Norman Rockwell’s reputation in the art world, he’s still not my cup of tea, and I still see him more as an illustrator (albeit a superb one). But there are definitely things to admire about his art. For example, in his painting “Facts of Life,” which shows a father telling his embarrassed son about the birds and the bees, he has included a sleeping cat (shown above) under the father’s chair, and kittens playing on the boy’s chair. It’s subtext par excellence: a sly way of directly depicting the very topic—sex and reproduction—that is being so earnestly discussed in the abstract. It also cleverly pairs the adults (man and cat) and the young’uns (boy and kittens): experience on one side of the painting; innocence on the other. The boy might well envy the kittens for not having to endure an explanation of what’s eventually coming (pun intended).

This work is in the collection of the University of Kansas’s Spencer Museum of Art. See the full version at https://www.wikiart.org/en/norman-rockwell/facts-of-life.

The hand that holds the handkerchief holds the power ~

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This is a small detail of another painting in the collection of the Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas. The painting, done sometime between 1610 and 1628, is a portrait of Maria Maddalena, Grand Duchess of Tuscany and Archduchess of Austria. The duchess and her mother-in-law ruled Tuscany as co-regents for several years after the death of Cosimo II de Medici. In this detail I especially like the exquisite depiction of the lace bordering the handkerchief.

Crawfish, I guess ~

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I’m going to return to museums for a few posts now. This is a small detail of a large painting by Cristoforo Monari (1667-1720) titled “Still-Life with Dog and Fruit.” Given the scale of various objects in the painting, I’m assuming these are some kind of crawfish rather than lobsters. (Someone more familiar with crustaceans will undoubtedly be able to set me right.) I must say, the one in the front looks rather fearsome. The work is in the collection of the University of Kansas’s Spencer Museum of Art.

Mri Pilar, Mosaic Detail no. 1 ~

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Artist Mri Pilar created the extensive mosaics that cover the restroom walls at Bowl Plaza in the tiny town of Lucas, Kansas. Bowl refers to, yes, a toilet bowl. (There’s a ceramic bowl outside with various strange ceramic objects being “flushed,” as well as a giant cement roll of toilet paper on the lawn, as well as another mosaic by Pilar and mosaics by community members.) It all sounds, and is, very strange and wonderful. Bowl Plaza is just down the street from the Lucas Grassroots Art Museum, which features outsider art and which I wrote about last year. It’s also a few blocks from the “Garden of Eden,” a very large, classic assemblage of Bible-related outsider art created on and around a home in Lucas.

Bowl Plaza was closed last year for repairs, so when I drove through Kansas a few weeks ago I had to make a return trip. I haven’t yet seen Pilar’s own “Garden of Isis” in Lucas, so I need to return a third time. Her website (above) shows Bowl Plaza in progress. Here’s a detail from one of Pilar’s mosaics in the women’s restroom at Bowl Plaza. iPhone photograph.