Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mona Lisa Mannequin - the latest...

 I went to Heiner's after painting last Saturday. Keith tells me Heiner has re-assembled the mannequin we left at the end of his driveway near his bird feeder in the back yard. We can see it from his studio. I laugh. She is lying with her arms at her feet. Her torso caught in the branches. Her legs standing up a few feet from the torso. It's a mess.

Heiner says it's been fun to watch the horses and riders along the bridle trail - at the back of his property - freak out when the horses shy at the mannequin. But, he says, he's had enough of her. She needs to go. He is trying to conduct classes in his studio, and there's this naked woman in his back yard scaring horses. Keith and I pick her up. Her torso is buckled into the front seat of my car. It's funny. She looks like she hit the windshield. She is far uglier than I remember.

My friend Kim is delighted to hear the mannequin is available when I call her. Her buddy is anxious to have her. He wants to add her to his collection of crap at his self-made Tiki-Bar that overlooks the river. She's wondering why this plastic woman gets all the attention.

Kim can't pick her up until Monday. Okay, I say. I work at General Motors. The mannequin is buckled into my car's front seat. I joke with Kim that this plastic, naked woman in my car is going to cause a stir with Security. I will be called into GM's massive security checkpoint to explain the nude body in my car. My imagination is running wild, but when I return to the employee parking lot, everything is fine. Except that I offered to give a co-worker a ride home that evening.

He goes to get in the front seat, and there she is! He's startled, but I wrestle her into the back seat with where her legs and arms are stuffed. What the HELL are you doing with a nekkid woman in your car? It's a long story, I say. Surely, this will be the talk of the lunch-table tomorrow!

We pull up in front of his house, and his soon-to-be-wife is waiting for him. She peeps out the front window, and sees her beau is riding with TWO women, and one of them appears to be rather fleshy - scantily clad. I drop him off and leave. He texts me later and said he had a lot of explaining to do. So now I am the lesbian lover of the plastic girl in the back seat, just so he doesn't have to tell his soon-to-be-wife that I am actually a crazy artist with a broke-ass mannequin in her car. Sometimes fiction is better than truth.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Goose Poo Looks Like Burnt Umber

Mike is an awesome painter. He is also a great practical joker. Getting one-up on him isn't easy, either. As is typical for practical jokers, once you DO find a way to get even, it just opens the door for more.

His palette is holy. Sacred. He he he. Yeah.

I find bags of used paint rags on the front seat of my truck. A cememt Budda that I had sitting in the bed, on its way to my garden, became a hood ornament. A snowball in my hoodie. Like that.

We are painting near a boat launch. The rental row-boats are all stacked neatly, piles of life preservers at the ready, weathered oars. Some paddle boats. Lots of sailboats. A sunny Saturday. The light is playing with all these images.

Everyone is complaining about the goose shit. The piles are like gooshey Tootsie Rolls, scattered all over the grass and sidewalks like a sickening Easter Egg Hunt gone horribly awry. Finding a safe place to put an easel, without coating the bottoms of our shoes is almost impossible.

Like the troopers we are, we endure. It doesn't stop the whining, but we deal with it. Jokes are made. Recipes for goose dinners are discussed. How to dress a goose, if anyone would miss one, egg shaking, poisoning them with bad things, how nasty they are if you try to chase them, if snapping turtles really eat the goslings while they swim, what to do with the feathers, what part of the goose would have the softest down for our pillows.... Nothing remotely nostalgic about how, once upon a time, they were rare things to see. Mostly a lot of pondering about how if you were to kill, cook, and eat one in front of all their Canada Goose buddies, that perhaps it would serve as an example to the rest of them. Like that.

My painting is turning out good. Tammy does a loose portrait of  me with the last of her paints. I look like Michael Jackson. We are singing "Thriller" and doing the dance moves from the video. Mike says something Mike-ish. My favorite is when he looks at my painting and tells me: Don't Fuck It Up. This is a real compliment, I get excited that I'm on to something decent - a few more brush strokes! I'll be done.

I look at his painting while he's away from his easel. It looks beautiful. Mike's stuff is consistently awesome. I look down at the goose shit, and notice it looks like Burnt Umber. I notice the paint on Mike's palette is very organized. The colors have that toothpaste-tube look to it. Perfectly squeezed lines on a perfect palette, under a perfect painting. Looks like he's a little short on Burnt Umber.

It took Mike ten minutes to find out. It was such a perfect color match.

He he he.

Twelve Degrees and Two Feet of Snow...

Last winter, we met on a terrible snowy day. It was ten degrees that morning (we meet at eight in a nature center parking lot). Even the sun felt cold. The light was beautiful! About six of us were geared up and ready to go painting. The Polar Brush Club. Only the bravest nut jobs paint on the coldest mornings.

So, us collective nut jobs set up in a corner of the park we frequent. Slogging through the two feet of snow that had fallen. Stomp a clear spot, pack it down real good in a circle around yourself. Good enough to set up your easel and stand without your toes in the deep snow. Don't drop your brushes or tubes of paint! You'll have to dig to find them!

You either have to be committed to painting, or just plain be committed to an asylum to accomplish an oil painting in this weather. Those of us who haven't been commmitted, are at least committed to this challenge.

Mike is far off. Keith, Tammy, Jeannie, myself and I think Patrick are close to one another. I am smearing paint on my board. The paint is moving like butter fresh out of the fridge on a piece of Wonder Bread.

Yes, we are dressed for the weather. Hand warmers, boot warmers, lots of thin layers followed by bulky ones. Coveralls. Snow pants. Two pairs of gloves. Scarves, those neck warmers, hats of all kinds.

The world is completely still at 12 degreees. Even the birds are absent. I can hear every breath, squeak of boots, dabbing of brush against palette. I settle in to the routine. Large shapes first. Shadows. Point of interest. Background first...

I have to pee.

Nearby is the park bathroom. Is it open? And, more importantly, will I have to put my delicate parts on a toilet seat so cold I'll pee ice chips? Will I have to call for assistance to get my frozen ass off the seat? Why did I drink that McDonald's coffee? Why didn't I go before I left the house? Shit! Piss! Dammit... I try to hold it. My bladder, thanks to the cold, is probably the size of a walnut at this point. I put down my brush and decide to chance the bathroom.

I slog past Patrick, Keith and Tam. The bathroom door is open. IT IS HEATED! A whole 70 degrees - like an oasis! I am so delighted, I am singing as I strip off layers to pull my drawers down. The acoustics are AWESOME! THIS is why it is so important to pay for that park sticker every year! Hooray!

My outdoor clothes are in a heap in the corner of the bathroom (which was thankfully clean). I consider taking off my boots to warm my toes. I find a clean stall and sit down to relax and enjoy my luxury. And good luck. I stop singing.

You know, we can HEAR you, right? The voice is Tammy's, from outside. Keith and Pat are laughing. I don't care, I yell. You know we can HEAR you peeing, too? She says, softly. Everyone is laughing.

I flush.

I wash my hands with WARM water and dry them with the hot-air dryer. I pull my boots off and push the hot-air dryer, pushing the air into the toes of my boots. It takes me ten minutes to put on and adjust my gloves, scarf, boots and hat. I check myself in the mirror.

I am staying in here! I announce to everyone outside. I'm bringing my easel and paints into the bathroom, and I'm gonna do a still life of a toilet. I'm coming out to get my easel, I say.

Pat says, from outside, don't be such a painting pussy. Get out here!

No, I say. You are all CRAZY, you know that?

Tammy drolly responds: You can't be a plein air painter and do a still life of the inside of a public toilet in the park. YOU are crazy. We are fine.

Yeah. What WAS I thinking? I open the restroom door, and assume my place.

Follow up to Mona Lisa - Will she become the Tiki Tart?

My pal, Kim, texts me. Hey, she knows someone who has a real eclectic, outlandish collection of stuff. It surrounds his sellf-dubbed Tiki-Bar that overlooks the river. Do you think Heiner would part with Mona Lisa? Mona could have a new life as the Tiki Tart.

Dunno, I text back. He might have disposed of the body by now. I am visualizing the legs sticking out of the trash can, with their shapely toes in the air. Delicate little fingers at the end of slender palms and long arms, reaching out from under the Hefty Cinch Sack at the top of the garbage can. Who knows where Mona is?

And so, we go about finding Mona, so to say (the studio tour was called Finding Mona). It seems, Kim says, after a few phonecalls, that Heiner has fallen for the girl. He won't be parting with Mona for the time being.

Kim texts back later that day. Why, she asks, are two men interested in a plastic woman with a smushed nose and missing eyeball, when she is still single?

Now, there's a good question. I am still amusing myself with all the possible answers and haven't texted her back with anything. Poor Mona! Men are still seeking you out, searching for something in that damaged smile of yours!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What to do with old studio props

My friand and I decided to go on a studio tour. There were a bunch of our friends who cleaned their studios up, put their paintings on display, served coffee and chocolates, and hung out. It was well advertised, and pretty much well attended. Seriously, the arts community is thriving and there's a lot of talent here in Michigan.

Being industrious, my friend says to me, Hey, we can load up your car with my resale junk and drop it off between studio stops. I said, Okay, load it up girl and let's get on the road! She puts baskets, a leopard throw, some old dishes and a mannequin. The mannequin's legs went in first. Then we buckled the torso of the old bald mannequin into the back seat. No wig. Poor thing!

Girlfriend says: Hey, she's vintage! You know how much this is WORTH? No, I say. She looks like a really big Barbie. My friend says - She's an ANTIQUE! Oh, yeah, I say. Let's get on the road.

You can imagine the looks we were getting, driving around with this naked, bald lady seat-belted into my back seat. The first stop at the studio tour garnered lots of stares from the non-artist volunteers.
We get to the resale shop, and commence to emptying the car. My friend, Tammy, tells the front-counter lady about the naked girl in the back steat. A vintage mannequin! She's worth a fortune! What a great find! She is convincing this very skeptical counter-lady to take this antique.

Tammy says: They're gonna take the mannequin! Awesome I say. I am having a hard time getting the torso free of the seat belt. The mannequin's arms are in the way. I grab one arm, it comes off and I put it on the roof of my car, while I grab the mannequin's head - trying to get a grip on her torso. I am wondering how axe-murderers ever bother following through with  moving a dead body. Girlfriend says, be careful! I'm trying, I say. She's really heavy for a piece of plastic. By now I have the torso free. It is out of the car. Oh, it's slipping! Shit! I grab her other arm, and it comes loose from her shoulder. The torso and head start to slide from my grip. Dammit! Torso falls, head first, on the pavement.

It's that moment of silence that follows breaking Great-Grandma's gravy bowl at Thanksgiving in front of the whole family. We stand there. I can tell Tammy is really upset. I am holding an arm with one hand, and covering my mouth with the other. Shocked! I just dropped Vintage Life Size BARBIE head first on the pavement! My friend is clearly upset. I am so sorry, I say. I hand her the arm, and bend over to pick up the mannequin. Her face is smashed! There's a pile of flesh-colored paint chips where her nose hit the ground. Her eyeball is loose and rolling around inside her hollow head. An eyelash is sitting in the pile of paint chips. Shit. Now I feel horrible.

Counter Lady at the resale shop says we can't dispose of the body in the dumpster. Okay, no bodies in the dumpster. Fine. Back she goes, in the car. I am so sorry! Oh, how terrible. Can't believe her arms came loose. Why didn't I grab a breast on the torso for leverage......whatever. I feel like shit.

Tammy is quiet in the car as we drive off. Back to studio tour, she says. We'll figure out what to do with the body later. I am wondering when we're gonna get pulled over for having a big-size Barbie body in the back seat. whose face is smashed and is missing arms.

We notice a friend's address on the studio tour. Tammy has an idea. It's a good one, too! We pull in front of our Plein Air pal's driveway. Cars are coming and going, patrons are still touring his home studio.
Mannequin comes out of back seat. We struggle to get her legs and torso connected, on the stand. In his driveway. She's naked! Yes, she is. Tammy puts a sign on the mannequin's neck - Five Dolla Make You Holla Studio Tour. We are giggling now. This is good! Poor thing, her girl parts are gonna get cold, I say. She says, here, give me the studio tour flyer. We tape it to her plastic pubic area. Okay, I say. Better! We notice her eyeball is rolling at the foot of the drive. I pick it up and give it to Tammy. We put it in the mannequin's open hand.

It's been a month. Large Barbie - now dubbed Mona Lisa is still there. I have pictures on my cell phone, but I don't know how to download them. I'll stop by on my way to painting Saturday, and take a photo of the poor naked girl at the end of Heiner's driveway.