8. Pop-Pop’s Art
My grandfather is a painter. He picked it up when he retired, diving headfirst into the world of oils and acrylics and watercolors. Pop-Pop doesn’t paint from life. Instead, he prefers reinterpreting others’ creations – pictures from magazines, photographs of houses, famous paintings by the great masters.
I do not use the word “re-interpreting” loosely here. Pop-Pop’s paintings look nothing like the originals. A fountain spurts water in an awkward direction, or a Picasso is not quite disarrayed enough. Although he is proud of his work, Pop-Pop sees these inconsistencies as flaws. I, however, have a slightly different take on the many J. Hecht originals that adorn my bedroom.
Henri Rousseau was a French Surrealist (1844-1910). His style of painting is referred to as the “naive” or “primitive” manner. Many people, in fact, dismissed (and continue to dismiss) Rousseau’s art. Was he just naïve, self-taught and talentless or was he an innovative surrealist genius? The question is still discussed by art enthusiasts today. His figures are a bit too flat, his canvases too dreamlike, nothing seems quite right.
I feel the same way about Pop-Pop’s art. Self-taught screw up, or creative genius? Maybe it’s not on purpose – maybe his mistakes are just mistakes – but it sets his work apart. The first piece he ever painted was from a picture from a magazine,m depicting a small cabin in the woods. This cabin is surrounded by trees, grass and small mushrooms. In Pop-Pop’s rendition, the house is there, and it looks pretty good. A strong gale could probably knock it down, but it’s brown and wooden. Just like the original. The trees and grass surrounding it are true to form. But look at this painting for a moment and the viewer will notice the mushrooms. They are enormous, bloated, as if from a Lewis Carroll opium dream. These mushrooms stand half the size of the house, dominating the picture with their intensity. And here is where I ask – was this intentional, an act of rebellious surrealism? Probably not. But those mushrooms make for a pretty sweet tableau.
I wish I had a photograph of the mushrooms to share with you, but that painting sits in the place of honor above my grandparents’ fireplace. I imagine I won’t have to fight too hard to get it in the will, but I need it.
One of my favorite things about the Pop-Pop art experience is that the artiste himself knows that I love his art. I don’t think he knows why. I get the rap as the alternative, artsy grandchild – maybe a little bit out there, maybe I see something in the paint that no one else does. But every time I show up in their Active Adult Community I get some fabulous new art to take home. And now, for your viewing pleasure, some J. Hecht originals.
I’ll leave you with the question that has been asked many times of many esteemed artists. Talentless faker or brilliant individualist? Pop-Pop’s surrealist tint may only be respected after his death, but I see it for what it truly is. A masterpiece of independent thought, freedom with the brush and love, poured onto the canvas.