Category Archives: Mussolini

APRIL 20, 2015


I had been looking at my tin chimney cap Mussolini for a few days, moving the tin man around on the little ‘teatrino’ setup I am using, trying to see what made sense, or gave me a fresh idea. At some point a crowd of objects came into the space but weren’t doing anything other than crowding. And then something happened. I introduced the tall wooden figure and, like a chess move, the force on the stage changed. The grey shapes began to cluster around and behind the tin man setting up a dialogue for me. The wood figure suddenly became slightly confrontational, as if he was the spokesman of ‘the people,’ who were represented by tiny, silver pastry cones, and the dynamic seemed to be (and all this is just the buzz inside my mind) that he was appealing to the powers that be for some cause, and that the outcome wouldn’t be in favor of the people, because the tin-man had his Henchmen to support him.

The stage seemed to bristle with potential political or social story lines, and then these cast-off objects, no longer used for whatever their original function was, seemed to come back to life for me. I thought, ‘is that what natura morte can do?’ Bring the inanimate back to life?

So I learned something here about what might be my way with still lives, which is not to arrange for beauty of form alone, that has been done by painting for a thousand years, but to stay open to trying to bring my street sense of possible connections and meanings into the way I look at the objects I choose. And that way test them to see if something meaningful rises up out of the collective assembly.

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APRIL 16, 2015

Where Will It take Me

In yesterday’s post I showed a photograph of this statuette and talked about how desirable it was, but not for me. What I didn’t say was that the guy also had this tin chimney cover, and that that was the thing that interested me. Now how strange is that? Why the damn chimney top of all things? I can’t explain it, but I found myself walking away from it, and then turning around and going back to look harder, handle it, and finally, overcome by some mystery inherent in the object, some strange power, I bought it.

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As I have mentioned before, my new interest in still lives has me seeing things. This tinsmith’s work, and after all, the thing was meant to go way up on a roof top where nobody really looks at it, yet it has about it a kind of madness and image quality that suggested to me something of the dictatorial power of Mussolini. Even the profile feels like Il Duce.


Look at the force projected by the helmet-like face and the warrior’s plume, which in this case is simply a wind catcher, so that the draught from the fireplace below will flow smoothly upwards as the wind turns the cap. My first impulse was to read arrogance and force into the inanimate tin pot. From that moment on I was blinded to the actuality of the thing itself, and all my first images seemed to be about scale and power. Where will it take me?

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