Monday, May 08, 2006

Gina's Fever Dream, Part 1

This still-unfolding story had its origin last Sunday at the flea market. I was the first to see this painting, but it was Erin who voiced the question -- "Do you think the Museum of Bad Art would want it?" -- that was the true beginning of the saga. "It's bad," I replied. "But is it bad enough for MOBA?"

We asked the vendor what the price was. "Somewhat less than $20," he said. "That's about $15." We continued our horrified viewing, debating the cost, while the vendor teased Erin that she looked a bit like the girl in the painting. I took a picture of it and we walked away, still mulling over the possibility of purchasing and making a donation of it.

For the next few days, the painting haunted me. I showed the picture to a few people who shared Erin and my simultaneous attraction and repulsion. I went to MOBA's website to find out about donations of art, and learned that they accept only about 10% of what people offer and that they encourage a letter of inquiry as the first step.


Dear MOBA -- Last weekend at the flea market in Hadley, I saw this untitled painting by Gina. The vendor was asking $15. I'm not sure how that compares to the going rate for such a unique original work, or whether MOBA would be interested in having this work in its collection. If the painting still available next weekend, should I buy it and donate it to MOBA? Please advise.

M. J.

The reply came back the next day:

Dear MJ,

I'm like "Hello"! You should run back to the flea market and scarf this piece ASAP and submit it to MOBA, where I will be awaiting its arrival at our loading dock.

As always I remain,
Michael Frank, Curator-in-Chief

Next came the period of anxious waiting. Would the painting be at the flea market the next Sunday, or would some other patron of the (bad) arts have scarfed it before me? I forwarded Mike's e-mail to Erin, who confirmed that she was earmarking $7.50 for her portion of the purchase price. I woke up early on Sunday. No rain -- a good sign. I thought about lighting the Powerful Elvis Prayer lucky candle for good fortune at the flea market, but decided that, as the candle's had a very successful run of luck on job offers for my friends and me, it is best used for Big Things. So I consulted the online Magic 8 Ball. "Will I score the painting?" I asked. "You can rely on it," said the 8 Ball.

It's amazing the number of people who get up at the crack of dawn on Sundays to worship at Our Lady of the Field of Trash and Treasures. The place was a sea of cars when I got there a little before 8 a.m. I went down three rows before spying the vendor. The painting was still there! "I was here last week," I started, as he interrupted me with, "Oh, no." I think he thought I wanted to return something. I went on to explain that my friend and I had looked at the painting and that I'd come back to purchase it. "The price is somewhat less than $25," he said. I reminded him of last week's $15 price tag. We exchanged money for art. He told me that he felt badly about teasing Erin about her hair. "Tell her the old guy says he's sorry," he told me. "No problem," I said. I asked where the painting came from. All he could tell me about it was that it came out of a house in Springfield and that his guess was that it was painted in the 1960s. Then I cautiously told him about our plan for it. "I've been coming to this flea market every Sunday for the past 25 years," he said, "and no one has told me anything as funny as that!" He called his son over and made me repeat the story of my contact with MOBA. I told them that they'd be able to visit the painting in the museum sometime in the near future. "See you in Boston," the son said as they waved me goodbye.

Dear Mike -- I returned to the Olde Hadley Flea Market yesterday and I'm happy to report to you that Gina's fever dream is now in my possession! My friend Erin and I would like to make the donation jointly to MOBA of this unique work. I'm thinking that we could deliver it to you on the loading dock one weekend in June. Please advise as to your availability for the hand off.

As I spend more time with this work, I'm haunted by the juxtapositions of innocence and menace, the waking and the dreaming, the dark and the light. I trust it will find a welcome place at MOBA.

Looking forward to meeting you and making the donation.

Your friend in bad art,
M. J.

The next chapter in this story promises to be just as gripping as the first.

To be continued.


  1. It's a good thing MOBA wants this painting, as otherwise I am afraid M.J. and I would fight over who would get to display it in their closet or garage! I feel so honored to be a patron of the (bad) arts with M.J.!

  2. This is such a great story, MJ!! I wish I had such interesting things happen to me. But I'm too busy being in school!