Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cabinet of Curiosities: An Ode to Charles Wilson Peale

Charles Wilson Peale, American 1741-1827

The Artist in His Museum (self-portrait, 1822)

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia

I first heard of Peale, his museum and the term “Cabinet of Curiosities” while attending museum education classes at the University of North Texas in 2001. I was intrigued by this concept of a collection of art and natural objects of which the owner invites viewers to make what associations they may among seemingly unrelated items. This may have been when I acquired this post card that has been in my box of assorted papers for a while.

I didn’t think much more of it until this past spring while attending a lecture on James Audubon when the lecturer showed this exact same photo to us. And I thought, “that’s what my next piece will be…my own little “cabinet of curiosities.”

I started collecting objects specifically for this project. My only purchase was the beaver skull, which I bought in Ouray, Colorado. I had all the little protective cases that were given to me by my friend Miriam.

Other items include a dead bee I found in a stone cabin in northern Idaho. A dead scorpion I found at my fathers memorial service. A piece of Amber (fossilized tree resin) given to me by my sister) A “skeleton” of a leaf found on a hike in Eugene, Oregon, a stone from New Zealand given to me by my friends Kimberley and Bruce, and wood and pine needles and wasp nests found in my own back yard.

I was going to put everything in a small curio cabinet I have with a glass door but it looked too new. Then I tried this old handmade wooden box, I liked it and decided to mimic the drapery in the post card and add the tassel to the bottom making it into a hanging piece instead of one that sits on a table.

So if someone had to ask me how long did this take you to make I would have to say it took 10 years from inception to completion.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Golden Mirror

I have had this framed mirror for a while and I usually remember were almost everything I have came from but I do not remember where I got this mirror. The back of the mirror has a sticker that says: H. Hal Kramer Co. Chicago.

The flower and fruit charm hanging from the bottom came with it but it was very dark and the detail did not show up so I rubbed some gold rubn'buff on it and the details just popped.

I decided to stick with a golden theme and have used a brooch that was my grandma's and another one that my friend Nancy got at The Box in The Basement - a cool store on 8th St. in Boise. We went to their grand opening and they gave out boxes with recycled wonders in them to be re-used or given away. It was a very cool idea.

I have also used African Beads that I traded a woman for at Art & Soul. And Misc. buttons from my sister in law Doris. And a part from a broken necklace.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Locked Doors and Secret Passages part 2

So the second story concerns China town in cousin was told by a friend that if she wanted to find designer purses for cheap to go to this one corner in china town and ask to see the "back room." We wandered around that corner of town but didn't see what she was talking about, then a Chinese woman whispered to us Chanel...Louis Vuiton...Coach?? and she motioned us to follow her. I wasn't looking for a purse, but I'm always game for an adventure. So we followed this lady around many blocks walking really fast, then she brought us to a small perfume store and said something in Chinese to the man running the store and he motioned to us to quickly follow him and he opened a false wall in the back of the store and just about pushed us in and then another little man snapped the door closed and locked it. Now I am a very claustrophobic person so I kind of freaked out just a little as we were in virtually a closet with designer purses lining the walls. Sizing up the man, I figured my cousin and I could take him if we had to! We were in there for just about 3 minutes with him yelling, hurry, police, no time, my cousin grabbed a big white Chanel purse for $60 handed him the 3 twenties and we were out the door in a flash.

I decided to google "China Town designer purse scandal" after writing this just now to see what I could find and my first hit was a story very similar to mine but explains why all the secrecy.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Locked Doors and Secret Passages part 1

While on our travels earlier this summer I encountered two completey unrelated odd situations that had a common theme of locked doors and secret passages. Here is the first story, tune in tomorrow for the 2nd.

Today's guest writer is my husband:

While walking around a small town in Virginia, a man sitting in a folding chair on the sidewalk asked us if we were "antiquing" we said no but we might as well have said yes. As we were soon to find out he was a retired gentleman farmer and former teacher who owned a vaguely frightening antique store. This involved going down a junk filled alley and into several padlocked windowless rooms and passageways filled with even more junk. It also involved repeatedly referring to Pam as my daughter which she liked, and cryptic illusions to some sort of government resistance militia he was involved with. He had some weird little book for sale about this which we declined, but bought a couple things just so he wouldn't lock us in a vault and kill us.

A cute little German figurine but the woman has no head!

A long forgotten photo of a girl from the south.

Two carved wooden lotus flowers that used to be part of something else.

Look for these items later and see what I have done to alter them.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Warning: this might be creepy to some of you.

Dad never did get to visit Idaho before his passing. I know he would have loved it. I always wanted to take him to Idaho City, where an old west shootout still happens on Friday nights.

Well, a part of dad is now in Idaho as each of his children was given some ashes. I wanted to keep them in a way that would help me remember him, so I transformed this 3" vase into a little urn, and sealed it with a cork, glue and then wax. The cork has the word liberty as dad believed deeply in personal freedom from government intrusion. There are 2 pistols on top of the cork as he was a member of the NRA and felt strongly about his 2nd amendment rights. There is a cuff link from when he was a national champion race car driver. Finally there is Texas, his adopted home which he loved, and the cross to represent his faith. May he rest in peace here in Idaho.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Next Generation

metal wallaby by
Katherine age 16

Part 4 of the blogs on family. I have previously shown work by my great grandfather, my grandmother, myself and today I am showing some of my two daughters art works who both also like to make art.

Paper mosaic collage
Katherine age 12

Katherine age 10

Katherine age 17

Victoria age 14

Victoria age 15

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Talkin 'bout my Generation....

Pam Spreen
Oriental Still Life
Age 12

This post is part 3 of the previous two posts. Two days ago I posted about my great grandfather, yesterday about my grandmother and now I am posting the paintings I received back from my Aunts in NJ that I did as a child and young adult. It is like your life flashing before you eyes when you see something you did almost 40 years ago.

Pam Spreen
Age 8
9x12 oil

Pam Spreen
16x20 oil
age 10

Pam Mall
age 26

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Grandma was an Artist too!

My Grandmother, Elsie Scotti Dorigo, born 1907 was also a painter. I have fond memories of taking oil painting lessons with her starting when I was just 8 years old.

Our teacher was Mary Luth, originally from Holland. We took group lessons from her in Glen Rock NJ. I will always remember her studio in the basement with her cocker spaniels running around with paint on their floppy ears.

My grandmother never did learn how to drive, so when my mom couldn't pick us up we would take a taxi cab ( Grandma lived with us) and I remember it would cost $3 for the ride home.

18x24 Oil Chrysanthemums Elsie Dorigo circa 1970

24x36 oil painting Swiss pastoral scene Elsie Dorigo circa 1970

8x10 Oil on 4 glass panels (very heavy)
1974 Elsie Dorigo

Jeri & Joan (from my previous blog entry) gave me some of the paintings that my grandmother and I had given them over the years. Pictured above are three of them. I packed the ones from Jeri, so it wasn't a surprise what I was bringing home but then Joan showed up with a large packed box, I had no idea what was in it, we packed it in the truck and drove it from NJ to Idaho. It was like a weird Christmas of times past when opening them up...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Great Grandpa was an Artist!

painted by
Abramo Scotti, my Great Grandfather
born 1873 Como, Italy
immigrated to the US in 1899
morto il giorno 21 Novembre 1934(7)?

On our 6 week road trip we visited lots of family. Some of the family we saw were my maternal grandmother's (Elsie) nieces. Aunt Jeri, her sister Joan and their husbands Bob and Stafford. Jeri gave us a tour of her home. LOTS of original art covered the walls! Of interest to me were the two painted by my great grandfather Abramo Scotti. The two primitive floral oils were painted in 1925 in Union City NJ.

Abramo Scotti
1925 Union City NJ