Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Vignettes from Vermont: Let's Have A Lookie!


BENNINGTON -- Husbands and wives, fathers and sons, grandfathers and granddaughters ... entire families flock to the wall of excellence, which is why Fiddlehead at Four Corners would not be Fiddlehead at Four Corners without the famed wall of John DeAmicis drawings and illustrations.

It's a joy to watch men and women, boys and girls, young lovers and lifelongers from the greatest generation, anyone and everyone, as they stand in front of the wall hand-in-hand, arm-draped-over-shoulder, head-against-head and react to the drawings and messages in each piece of DeAmicis art. They inspire and motivate and elicit chuckles. They warm the heart, and they provoke thought and insight into the human condition.

There are several Einstein pieces. One says "I want to know God's thoughts. The rest are details." Another piece lists Einstein's 3 Rules of Work: "Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." The best Einstein piece, which the gallery owner and his wife gave me years ago, shows Mr. E=MC Squared with little stars sparking above his head. It reads "Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds."

Another DeAmicis piece shows the silhouette of a dancer, and the caption reads "There is always a reason to dance."

There are so many beautiful John DeAmicis moments on that wall. DeAmicis, who grew up in Central Jersey, also authored books you might have read as a child, teen and adult: "Trees Bees and Boney Knees" and "Mumbles Grumbles and Assorted Worries" and "Thinks Thoughts and Thunks" -- and scores of people thumb through the pages of them.

I've manned the gallery about 10 weeks now. If I were to build a photo collection showcasing my time as an art gallery dude, and I probably will soon, DeAmicis Moments would comprise, oh, 70 percent of the content.

Here are a few more:

The family that appreciates art together ...


The moment below strikes the deepest chord. I titled the photo "Of Fathers and Sons" ...




The DeAmicis piece that draws the most attention faces North Street. It is a window sticker showing "Victoria's Big Secret" and few things in life are more enjoyable than watching people in their south-bound cars at the red light as they look at Victoria's Big Secret then do a double-take at the plump woman in lingerie gazing at you with a naughty smile. People in their cars smile at the image. They laugh. They smile then laugh. And a good number of them whip out their cameras to snap a photo.




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ALL OF THAT SAID, there are pieces inside Fiddlehead at Four Corners that get MUCH MORE play than any of the DeAmicis masterpieces, which sell like hotcakes at a greasy spoon diner on Sunday morning.

Customers rave over these other pieces. They touch them. They pick them up and imagine the possibilities of what they'd look like in their kitchen or living room or bedroom. If their beaming eyes could talk they'd scream "OH. MY. GOD! I WANT THIS!" and they try to talk themselves into buying the piece, especially if they're shopping with someone else.




Those are laser-carved rulers by Julie Flint of Anacortes, Washington. Fifteen or 20 have sold in 10 weeks, but the number of men and women who stop at the rulers and pick them up and mention how cool and gorgeous they are range into the 100s. It seems like I should have sold at least 75 more. A coffee cup sits next to the rulers overbrimming with carved bookmarks, which are just as cool.

But who reads pulp books these days? In other words, I haven't sold one.


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Like DeAmicis, an artist by the name of Anna Kronick of North Adams, Massachusetts, draws a great deal of attention, especially by Jewish people.

Kronick makes framed Judaic papercuts (example above).

The papercuts, she said, "reflects the spirit and history of Jews all the way from medieval times to the present day. ... They are an important part of decor in private homes and synagogues."

The number of people who stare at the intricacies of the cuts in Kronick's pieces ranges in the hundreds. The pieces elicit a profound sense of joy in these people. I see it in their eyes and in their smiles. And yet, I haven't sold one. It baffles me.

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THERE ARE A HANDFUL of great works that get a ton of play but don't sell.

Two of the pieces take the cake:




The runner-up is the piano-looking dish.

"Mr. Johnson would love that!" I've heard. "This is awesome!" they've said. Fingers galore have touched the plate as if they're about to start Beethoven's fifth. It's very funny to watch the musical types admire the piano dish.

But no piece inside Fiddlehead gets more play, more touches, more oohs and ahhs -- more ... WHATEVER! -- than the dish on the bottom-right with all of the colorful squares. It reminds me of the board game Candyland.

Customers pick it up and smile as if someone just told them "I Love You" and it gets to the point where some people just want to hug that dish. I can't explain why.

Five hundred people have picked up the gumdrop dish -- that's what I call it -- in a moment of love at first sight and I think, "Ahh, finally, it's going to sell."

And yet ... .