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IN PRAISE OF THE BLACK VELVET PAINTING

As a former Art Editor, I wrote about art like I knew what I was talking about. I was informative, witty, and generally well-rounded in my pursuit to appear, well, knowledgeable. But underneath my calm exterior I had a secret…I love bad art.

My love affair with bad art began with my first sculpture purchase at age 12 of a huge plastic jack that I bought at a garage sale for three dollars. The piece was horribly beautiful in that it could serve no real purpose other than to take up space. I loved it, my mother did not. It lived in my room where I would sit on it, uncomfortably, and read. One day, I thought, I will own more of these.

Today I continue with all things funky.

In my home there is an extremely large pastel portrait of an old lady in which someone had glued glass eyes on where her eyes had once been carefully sketched. It is, without a doubt, the pride of my collection.

Another piece I owned entitled, “Safely Through the Storm” was beloved because it was done in tempera paint and showed a trucker being lead through a poorly painted rainstorm with Jesus at his side. That piece I sold to a friend who felt it would look much better in her bedroom than in my house…and who was I to argue with that?

The best part of the painting? The fact that someone had engraved the title on a brass plaque and glued it on the frame as if it were something extremely special.

But now my quest for bad art has become an obsession, for I want to own a Leeteg.

You see, Edgar Leeteg is known throughout the world as “the father of American Black Velvet kitsch”. Between 1933 and 1953 Leeteg is believed to have painted more than 1700 works of art on black velvet, some of which sold for more than $10,000.

As a painter, Leeteg’s personal life was almost as legendary as that of Picasso. An expatriate living in Tahiti, Leeteg spent most of his time in a constant state of alcoholism and died tragically in a 1953 Harley Davidson crash.

How cool is that?

To own a Leeteg would be the equivalent, at least to me, of owning a Monet, a Botero, a Bob Ross if you will. It would fill my heart with joy and cause me exquisite happiness. I could finally boast that my collection is complete and laugh at others who own puny little “Impressionist period” paintings.

I would rule the world!…okay, maybe not, but it is something that would make other people frightened of me and question my mental state, which would more than likely lead to me not participating in Secret Santa anymore thank God (like I want to buy $10 gifts for people I can barely stand…but I digress).

Bad Art is simply much more enjoyable than good art. It lends itself to being made fun of and in the end it is much better to laugh at art than to take it so seriously all the time. I love artists and I love what makes them passionate but when it comes right down to choosing a Keene painting or a piece created to look like a landscape but made out of human hair I’ll always choose the hair painting.

Now, if only I could track down a macaroni sculpture of “The Thinker” that would be awesome.

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