Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Oddubon

The City of New Bedford -- for want of a better term -- has a lot of really cool paintings.
Surprisingly, the New Bedford Art Museum does not (because it -- wisely -- is not collection-holding and is a private entity not in any way affiliated with The City). Nor does the New Bedford Whaling Museum, which also is not a City entity and may actually have the "New Bedford" appendage excised.
A moment of explanation: The reason that I exhibit such eagerness to insist on the "not affiliated with the city" status of certain organizations that have "New Bedford" in their business names is due to an overwhelming number of near-altercations I have experienced while working at those cultural institutions. Usually, some besotted angry-letter-to-the-editor-writing "community activist" tells me that he is a taxpayer and pays my salary. Then he'll make the leap to threatening to have me fired, because I have refused his stinking shmammered self entrance or permission to stand in the courtyard and yell about PCBs and the socialistic Clinton/Bush/Hussein administration.
All right, Whiny McFussbudget. If you want to be that way about it, then, by golly, the fact of the matter is that my stipends and exorbitant fees have been paid by the family of an actor with nothing officially to do with New Bedford because they live in the suburbs. Other individuals responsible for me earning my extraordinary dollarage, since I was not paid by the City of New Bedford:

  1. Emily Bourne, daughter of Nineteenth Century whaling mogul Jonathan Bourne;
  2. Irwin Jacobs, CEO of Qualcomm;
  3. Colonel Edward Howland Robinson Green, son of Hetty "The Witch of Wall Street" Green, (not the genocidal Star Trek nutbag character).
  4. Also: any member of the Olde Dartmouth Historical Society, thank you.
Where was I? Oh, of course, the City of New Bedford's collection of rare, unique, and priceless art... If one were to, say, make a discreet inquiry about such a collection, where would one direct this query? As previously declared, NBAM is non-collection-hoarding. So who else might have paintings and such available for perusal? Besides, that is, terrifically tasteful pals of mine?
Don't look to Johnny Cake Hill, Seeker. When I worked for the Whaling Museum, we were hanging, devising exhibits, rearranging, redevising exhibits, putting hands through paintings and dropping whalebones on priceless things every eighteen minutes or so, so it's probably not the best place to see "art" in its natural habitat. Except for in the lavishly-appointed galleries on special occasions every other day or so. (I was always glad to deinstall an exhibit because goodness knows that I get antsy around misspelt exhibit signage.)
The New Bedford Free Public Library -- although it doesn't have a cool granite header outside that says THE PEOPLE'S UNIVERSITY like the Fall River one -- curtains an incredible collection assembled with whaling lucre, and recently, they've dragged some of it across the street to NBAM in order to share it with the clamoring hordes of New Bedfidgians who, every decade or so, write angry letters to the editor wondering "whatever happened to all those beautiful bird pictures that we used to have on display in that shopping arcade?"
Dear Mr. Sure-To-Turn-Whatever-The-Answer-Is-Into-A-Reason-To-Bash-Liberals, that "shopping arcade" is the New Bedford Art Museum and those "bird pictures" are actual pages from the Brobdingnagian four-volume set, The Birds of America, that John James Audubon peddled to pal James Arnold, the original owner of the building that is now the Warm Supper Club. This was back when Audubon was selling the huge volumes door-to-door to pay off his Surly Illustrator school loans. Arnold gave the set (which features quadrupeds, in a peculiar 3-D section available only to adults with special glasses) to the New Bedford Free Public Library in 1866, having grown tired of lugging it around his drafty old manse and pestering the members who were there for the club's Whiskey and Suffragettes Night.
But modern viewers can stop by NBAM at 608 Pleasant Street and see these splendid pieces of two-dimensional taxidermy until May 24, in the exciting ellipsis-addled salon: "... Alive and Moving!" John James Audubon's The Birds of America, thanks to Janice Hodson and Louie Doherty, who have neither authorized nor been consulted about this journal entry.Here comes Peter Cottontail, indeed..

(not available as depicted)

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