David Bruce: The Funniest People in Art —Problem-Solving


• Clementine Hunter was a self-taught African-American folk artist who sold her paintings to buy some of the necessities (and some of the luxuries) of life such as a stove, refrigerator, freezer, mobile home, secondhand car, radio, and television. Because of a lack of money, she sometimes thinned her paint with turpentine, and she often painted on pieces of board and on plastic milk jugs. Eventually, she became well known as an artist, and celebrity seekers started trying to visit her. She didn’t especially enjoy meeting strangers, and when a car of celebrity seekers came by, she would tell them, “Clementine Hunter? She lives just on down the road a piece.” After her death, one of her works of art — a window shade she had painted — sold for $60,000.

• Because Winslow Homer was a famous artist, lots of people wished to visit him in his studio. However, because Mr. Homer was a hard-working artist, he wished to be alone in his studio so he could paint. Therefore, to ward off unwelcome visitors, on the door of his studio he painted these words: “Coal Bin.” Of course, his friends were welcome to visit him. These friends used a code knock to gain entrance to his studio. When they knocked three times, Mr. Homer opened the door. A different number of knocks, and Mr. Homer kept the door closed. Of course, Mr. Homer couldn’t avoid all unwelcome visitors. When he could, he ran away and hid; when he couldn’t run and hide, he pretended to be not himself, but his servant.

• The very wealthy merchant Su once brought a large and valuable pearl to a skilled jeweler named Czu and asked him to drill a hole in it so that it could be made part of a necklace. However, Czu examined the pearl and said, “This pearl is much too valuable for me to risk ruining it.” Therefore, Su took the pearl to another skilled jeweler, Li-jo, and asked him to drill a hole in it. Li-jo examined the pearl, realized its great value, and called an apprentice over and told him to drill a hole in the pearl. The apprentice did so quickly and perfectly. Su asked Li-jo why he had entrusted such a valuable pearl to a mere apprentice. Li-jo replied, “He does not know how valuable the pearl is, and so his hands didn’t shake when he drilled a hole in it.”

• Sculptor Louise Nevelson once created a retrospective exhibition at New York City’s Whitney Museum of American Art. Because it was a retrospective exhibition, it included some of her early work — including work she was no longer proud of. One piece that she especially disliked was a sculpture titled Earth Figure. A friend of hers was helping to move the works of art around the gallery, and as he was moving Earth Figure, she suddenly yelled, “Drop it!” Startled, he did drop it, and the sculpture shattered on the floor. Later, the friend — her biographer Arnold Glimcher — wrote, “She was now satisfied with the exhibition; she had edited out the weakest piece.”

• Late in life, after Leonardo da Vinci had become very famous and was working at the Vatican, uninvited visitors often interrupted his work. To get rid of unwanted visitors, he turned his pet lizard into a monster by gluing a horn to its head and bat-like wings to its back. He also created glittering spots on its back, perhaps by using fish scales. Leonardo asked unwanted visitors if they would like to see a curiosity, and when they replied yes, Leonardo let the lizard out of a box. The lizard scurried to the visitors, and the visitors scurried to the nearest exit.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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