Art so bad, it’s good

Art so bad, it’s good

Appreciation of art is a highly subjective thing. As hard as we may try, it is simply not possible to explain the subtle difference between a masterpiece and an uninspired effort. Words may fail us, but we all know what we like and what we don’t like.

There is good art and bad art. The really good art is proudly displayed on walls and in museums while the bad art looks for a home in a flea market.

Then there is art so remarkably bad that it acquires a different sort of collectability—art that has the power to make a person stare despite his better judgment urging him to look away…

This is the kind of art you can expect to view at the Museum of Bad Art in Somerville, MA. The museum houses a collection of works that have earned their place in the museum by possessing some kind of fatal flaw in an otherwise noble effort at expression. The curators of MOBA reject most of the works submitted because they do not rise to the level of “badness” desired. “To be included in MOBA’s collection,” according to the MOBA Wikipedia page, “works must be original and have serious intent, but they must also have significant flaws without being boring.” Also excluded are children’s paintings and kitchy genres like black velvet.

The museum owes its existence to one particular painting which founder Scott Wilson recovered from the trash. The portrait of an elderly woman that Wilson dubbed Lucy in the Field with Flowers drew such a reaction from all who saw it that Wilson made it his life’s avocation to become a collector of bad art. Thus was born the MOBA.

Lucy’s Story

LucyflowersAs the museum grew and gained notoriety, Lucy remains one of the most “appreciated” works on display. 

Sometime later, Boston nurse Susan Lawlor was enjoying a moment of relaxation with a soft drink and weekly newspaper that featured a story on the museum. When she opened to the page with the article, she spewed Coke all over the table. There in the paper was the long-forgotten portrait of her grandmother, Anna Lally Keane!

The painting had been commissioned two years after the death of Ms. Keane based on photographs of the late subject. Lawlor remembers it hanging in her aunt’s house for years. The museum newsletter reports, “Ms. Lawlor told us of the day that the painting arrived wrapped in paper. Everyone gathered around to watch as the paper was torn off; the 13-year-old Susan bit her lip to keep from gasping.”

The painting has inspired others to flex their creative muscle in homage. Here, for example is a song by a poet named Darkdeer:

Picture a grandma in big horn-rimmed glasses;
A quiet country kitchen; a pie on the sill.
Something is calling from out in the meadow
And Lucy must go where she will
 
Tall, spiky grasses of yellow and green
Lean ‘neath a bright jaundiced sky
Leave the door open a moment too long
And she’s gone
 
LUCY IN THE FIELD WITH FLOWERS (3x)
 
Follow her down to an ocean of flowers;
A chair of red pleather adrift on the sea.
Wind stirs the clouds like a wild Van Gogh dervish
And hints at a glimpse of white knee
 
Pendulous bosom that sways in the breeze
Speaks of the freedom she’s known
Leave the door open a moment too long
And she’s gone…
 
LUCY IN THE FIELD WITH FLOWERS (3x)
 
Picture a grandma in big horn-rimmed glasses;
A quiet country kitchen; a pie on the sill.
Something is calling from out in the meadow
And Lucy must go where she will
 
© 2010 darkdeer (All rights reserved)
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