Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Good Art Doesn't Match Your Sofa.

I like a good short story.  An anecdote.  An amusing recounting of events among friends  Here's a quick one.

Several years ago we received an invitation to a local Albert County art gallery called Joie de Vivre which was having a seasonal grand opening featuring several Maritime artists.

At the time, I didn't have many acquaintances in the area and not wanting to go to the intimate event alone, I was happy to be accompanied by a woman who was visiting her family in the area on holiday.  She's since divorced, but at the time, she was married to John, the son of our good friend, Dick Squiri from Waterside.  Doree and John lived in the United States, and were spending a few days visiting Dick at their long-time family summer home.  We'd often been invited over for suppers or cocktails, and met most of the extended Squiri family over time.

After one especially lively lobster chowder supper, John and I were in the kitchen finishing up the dishes and cleaning the counters and pots and pans.  After all the dishes were done and the sink drained, I asked John where to put the drain's garbage and he showed me the switch for the garbage disposal, which I promptly pretended to activate with one hand while my other hand was clearly still in the drain and made the motions and frightening sounds of someone whose hand was being macerated.

John was not amused and stopped fast, met my eyes, and said, "That's not funny at all, don't ever do that again."  Humbled, I stopped, withdrew my hand, and flatly said, "okay, I'll never do it again."  We finished the last of the kitchen chores in chilled silence.  I felt very small.

Doree, however, seemed more easily amused, and told me not to worry about it--explaining that John sometimes takes himself too seriously.  I don't think anyone should take themselves too seriously.  When she called later and suggested we go together to the opening, I was pleased to be asked.  She drove her luxury car and we chatted amiably on the 25 minute trip.  A nice getaway on a clear Fall day.

The Gallery was very nicely appointed with high-end artwork of every variety: pottery, metal-smith jewelery, sculptures, photography, and artwork in several mediums.  Several of the artists were local, and all of them talented.  Joie de Vivre was a small gallery, but tastefully arranged to keenly feature each artist's creations in the historic building.

Throughout our quiet tour, we both made polite comments about the different works of art, sometimes we would separate momentarily if we lingered over a specific piece and then meander back together, raise our eyebrows about prices; some high, others very high, and cluck our tongues at pieces or works that we just didn't like or understand.

On the newly renovated second floor, one unframed painting immediately caught my eye.  It was titled Two Drowned Rats, and was just that.  A pale, unfocused background, featuring two very dead rats --on their backs, eyes closed, paws in the air, long tails extended-- in realistic detail in the foreground.  It was simple, to the point, matter of fact.  I liked it.

I remarked to Doree, "Gee, wouldn't that be great in the baby's nursery?" and to my relief, she saw that I was joking, and we shared a laugh.

But the more I looked at it, the more I liked the painting and was compelled to ask the gallery owner about the artist and if there was a story behind it.

It, too, was simple.  The artist had passed her garden rain barrel which was full after seasonal storms, and saw the two rats, dead-- but afloat.  She removed them by their tails and laid them nearby on a barn board, stiff and wet.  And then she began to paint.  Easy as that.

So, overall, the event was lovely; I had a nice outing with a new acquaintance, enjoyed some finger sandwiches and punch and had a laugh with someone who shared my sense of humor--few do.  A good day.

I told my folks about our day, the artwork on display, and my keen interest on the very expensive but compelling painting on the second floor.

The next day, Dad bought me the painting and eventually Stephen made me a frame out of re-claimed barn board so we could hang it in pride of place in our living room.  Over the years, it has caught the eye of several guests and served as a conversation piece on different occasions.  The scene is neither gruesome nor pitiful; it's just a fact of life.  Sometimes, I think we should look at a lot in life with that approach, hopefully finding peace in the end.

I suppose that's easy to say when it's about rats.


  1. That would look great next to an Ansel Adams print.

  2. A fella came into the bookshoppe this weekend wearing a t-shirt reading the same as the title of this blog entry. I wonder what's hanging on his living room wall...