Sunday, November 25, 2012

Convinced of Spirits

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(Above) Click on image for larger viewAn original glass lantern slide photograph, the same image reproduced in Ghosts in Photographs by Fred Gettings, plate 55, with the caption “Photographic Testimonial of Mr. & Mrs. Gibson with spirit image of their deceased child, taken by the Crewe Circle.” Slide size: 3.25” x 3.25”
(Above) Click on image for larger viewAn original 1930 spirit photo by the Falconer brothers of London. Image size: 2.5” x 2”

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An original circa 1900 photo by Robert Boursnell (1832 -1909) with a spirit resembling Jesus. Image size: 3.75” x 5”

(Above) Click on image for larger viewA glass lantern slide (with a diagonal crack) of a sand sediment face inscribed: “This face was formed in the sediment of sand water, after it had been stirred by a finger of the late Mrs. L. Lanchard of New Ulm Minnesota USA (died in 1873 after evaporation of water).” Slide size: 3.25” x 3.25”

GRIEF AND DESPAIR OVER THE LOST OF A LOVED ONE HAS BEEN AN ENTRY POINT for many an unscrupulous person to take advantage of another. Whether by “automatic spirit-driven” drawings, Ouija boards, tapping, voices, noises, bells, sounds and a host of other things, communicating with the dead continues to fool people and take their money even today.

In England, during the late 19th century, everyday people who had lost loved ones were easily fooled simply by not understanding the new medium of photography. They would sit for a photo in a seance-type setting, being told that if spirits were there they could often be seen by a special film. All you had to do was pay for the seance and the photo—come back the next day and Holy Mother of Mary! look who showed up!

The modern spiritualism movement actually began in March 1848 in Hydesville, NY with the Fox sisters who claimed they could communicate with a spirit inhabiting their house by tapping on the floor. Eventually, news of this made it to the great showman P.T. Barnum, who took the sisters on the road and made their “tapping with the dead” a stage act.

Others got into the act, including the Falconer brothers, a gentleman by the name of Robert Boursnell, and numerous others.

At the top of the post, you’ll see old newspaper and gazette articles from England actually attesting to the believability of these charlatans. It is quite revealing, and I hope that they enlarge well enough for you to read. I guess, even back then, these fakes had a good PR firm.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Adam Beane

WHEN MY SON LUKE WAS A KID, HE LOVED HIS ACTION HERO TOY FIGURES—X-MEN, WWF FIGURES, G.I. JOE’S, YOU NAME IT. In fact, tucked away in a back corner of our basement is a box, containing every toy figure he ever played with. One day, he discovered girls, or sports, or both—and that was it. I put them all in a box and took them away. He never gave it a second thought. One day, he’ll discover them, just as I left them. Old friends.

Most figures I bought for Luke were made of plastic or rubber, and when I think back about it, most all of them were well done. Realistic. Proportioned well. I never really gave much thought to who made the original—but maybe here’s an answer: Adam Beane.

Beane is an amazing sculptor who works with art directors of toy companies to create the original model from which mulitples are made for market. Beane uses a material that he calls CX5, a tremendously versatile material which molds like clay when warm but dries hard as plastic when cooled. I am impressed with his realism, attention to detail and the subtle nuances he is able to pull from the material.

Adam is also available for lectures and workshops.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Rare and Beautiful Find

(Above) Americana and folk art dealer Tim Chambers stands next to his booth at the 2009 Queeny Park Antiques Show in St. Louis, Missouri. Click on image for larger view.

(Above) This 100-year old architectural gable caught my eye immediately. I had to learn more, and Tim Chambers obliged not only with an oral history, but a 100-year old photograph of the house it came from just outside of Rochester, Minnesota. Click on image for larger view.

(Above) Detail. Click on image for larger view.
(Above) Tim Chambers believes strongly that what you see of paint on this gable is the original paint and it was painted at the turn of the 20th century. Click on image for larger view.
(Above) Look at this beautiful detail, showing the tree of life at the center, with the rays of the sun extending from each side. Click on image for larger view.

(Above) This photo, dated 1906, is the holy grail of the architectural piece. If you click on the image, you can see the gable, right at the peak of the roof. This is a great photo, the Dee family, (Frank, John and Katharine and their Collie dog) standing proudly in front of their Minnesota homestead—a personification of the American dream. Definitely, click on this image!

WHENEVER I AM FORTUNATE TO SEE FOLK ART DEALER TIM CHAMBERS, you can bet he’ll have some great objects for sale. Tim is not only a great guy, he’s an expert in early American folk art game boards, and his book The Art of the Game is widely considered one of the finest books ever published on the subject. You can order it here (while it lasts!)

Now let me tell you about the find of the day. The architectural Victorian-styled gable from a Rochester, MN farmhouse was just outstanding. The piece is hand made and measures about 10’ long and 5’ tall overall. Gabled ends such as this were considered the crown jewel of these otherwise simple dwellings. This example is in a near perfect state of preservation. The design elements include the expected stick and ball as well a a center “tree of life” with sun bursts on either side. This beauty has survived well over one hundred freezing Minnesota winters and summers—so imagine the stories it could tell.

The house today is, unfortunately, near ruin. Tim says that some farm animals have been housed there—and hay is stored in the house as well. It is really a blessing that this particular architectural remnant could be saved, as the house is about to be torn down.

The piece is sold, but you can go to his Web site, Missouri Plain Folk here.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Brilliant Flying Bug

MikroKopter - HexaKopter from Holger Buss on Vimeo.

OK, I’LL BE HONEST WITH YOU. THIS VIDEO IS 12 MINUTES LONG. I KNOW—BUT TRUST ME HERE. I WATCHED EVERY MINUTE OF IT, fascinated by the brilliance of this home-made flying machine. If flight fascinates you— if “garage-built” ingenuity is something you find interesting, then you’ll like this video.

I’m a prankster at heart, and could really have some fun with this machine. Just imagine! :-)

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