The artist, Bethany, was having her first solo art exhibition in 3 years. She had done a series of paintings of nude biblical figures. The painting she was giving her gallery talk about was titled ‘Mary and Elizabeth’. It depicted the New Testament story when Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth after she found out she was pregnant and Elizabeth’s baby jumped in her womb when the two of them greeted on the road in front of Elizabeth’s house.
Bethany was explaining why in particular she painted Mary, the mother of Jesus and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, nude. The paintings had caused a lot of controversy, even having been mentioned on cable new shows. Fox News had condemned the exhibition, saying it was disgusting and disrespectful. Others had been not so opinionated but still said they didn’t think the exhibition was worth seeing. “Unbiblical” was what one mainstream news outlet had said. A satirical website had called the piece ‘umbilical’, which Bethany thought was pretty funny.
The artist told the story of her own life, having been raised by nudist parents in California. She said she loved being raised that way and that it taught her so much about not judging people based on outer beauty or style. When she went away to college to major in art she was drawn to figure drawing classes. She hit upon the idea of painting biblical figures nude when she went to Europe and saw many allegorical, historical, and mythological paintings that included nudes. She noticed however that paintings illustrating the Old and New Testament almost never had complete nudes in them. She decided to do a series on New Testament stories as a result.
She had two of her friends pose for the piece. One was KimLee who was raised in an evangelical family who would not approve. They had met in college when KimLee had come into the Student Union gallery and looked at Bethany’s paintings. They became friends. KimLee had already posed secretly for her a number of times. She had always been shown without her face or Bethany had changed her face so she wasn’t recognizable, which Bethany promised she would do this time as well. The other was the Gallery’s assistant curator, Suzy, who had been pregnant with twins when Bethany came up with the idea. Not many people knew it but Suzy had been an ‘adult entertainer’ in college. She loved the idea of being in the painting. She wanted to be Mary in the the painting because she thought it would be cool if a stripper was Jesus’ mom.
KimLee and Suzy met for the first time at the gallery talk. It turns out their babies were born just two months apart a little more than a year earlier. They hit it off while contemplating the painting after the gallery talk, comparing notes about what it was like to pose and to have their naked bodies out in public for all to see. KimLee explained how no one knew it was her and Suzy explained how everyone knew it was her, including some former ‘clients’ who had come to the exhibition not realizing Suzy was no longer a stripper but a respected gallery worker. They both laughed at how they had come from such different directions to arrive at the exact same spot.
KimLee and Suzy became great friends. They had playdates for their kids together, went to lunch once a month and eventually started a company together that had sales topping one million dollars last year. Their sons became best friends and both became elementary school teachers.
Bethany’s next show was of self-portrait nudes. It led to her being kicked off the PTA.
Being a Grandpa
I am now officially Papa Marty. I went to visit my daughter Rebekah after Christmas. Her daughter, my first grandchild, Vivian, was old enough to call me ‘Papa’ and so it’s official. Next year my Grandson, Mr. Otis, will hopefully be able to call me the same.
When Rebekah was young her Grandfather, Dwight Johnson, was around a lot. He was a fixer. With an engineering degree 2 times over and a mechanic’s mind he could and did fix, install, repair, build and rewire most anything. Didn’t matter if it was a car, a house, a washing machine or a wheelchair. Didn’t matter if it was electrical, gas, water, air, big, or small. He would figure it out. I learned a LOT from him over many years.
I also learned a lot from my own father, who was quite handy with a saw and drill, and from my own grandfather, Papa Powell, who was an excellent woodworker with his own beautiful woodworking shop in the back of his house. I learned a LOT about how to use hand and power tools from them both.
So, when I went to visit Rebekah I saw a number of projects I could do to help them out, carrying on the Grandpa tradition. Here are the ones that were the most fun.
This looks like a photo of a collapsed and broken table, and it is. But it’s secondary to the task at hand, which you can see on the far right, that white bench area. I had been looking at the window bench area, thinking it would be cool to have a cushion there for Vivian or someone else to sit on. Their breakfast area is very small so an extra seat would be great.
We also were putting thin plastic over the windows to help insulate the house from the cold. But, to get a good look at the bench area and to put up the plastic I needed to move the table. The table, unbeknownst to me, was in a precarious state and promptly fell apart when I moved it. Oops!
So, after putting the plastic over the windows I went to the hardware store and got some brackets to put the table back together. I used the brackets (and glue) to attach the legs to each other and then to the table top. Easy peasy. Vivian approves!
The Window Bench
Now we could work on making a cushioned bench top for that space. It wasn’t something I had done before so I did what any good DIYer would do, I went to Pinterest. I searched under ‘window bench’ or something like that and the very first item that came up was a ‘how-to’ on making a window bench. It took me about 5 minutes to read it (if that) and I was ready to go.
I needed the following material:
- Peg board (or some other type of very thin, sturdy board – masonite of some sort basically)
- Fabric Glue
And the following tools:
- Measuring Tape
- Box cutter knife
First I measured the space and drew a drawing of it with measurements in all 3 dimensions. Then Rebekah and I went on a shopping trip to find the material.
First stop was Home Depot where we found 4’x6′ peg board. We needed it cut since it wouldn’t fit in the car. We ended up getting 3 identical pieces in size, plus 3 smaller pieces. We brought them all home in case our first effort was a mess up. Patrick, Rebekah’s husband, was also needing pegboard for his tool area in the basement so it worked out great. We also got a stapler and the staples I thought would be long enough to go through the fabric and the pegboard effectively. We looked at foam at Home Depot but the pieces were too small and not of very high quality.
We then went to JoAnn’s fabric store in Fairfax. When I was looking up fabric stores on Google the reviews of Joann’s had been terrible for customer service but they were fantastic when we went there. The woman waiting on us explained why we should use a certain type of marine quality vinyl for the fabric. They also had a large piece of high quality foam that we purchased. They explained what spray on glue would be best as well.
Patrick and I worked on putting it together. First thing Patrick and I did was mark and cut the pegboard to the right size. We used a handheld jigsaw which was pretty easy. It was a bit nerve wracking getting the measurements right but I felt confident we had, plus we had 2 extra pieces in case we blew it. Always nice to have a back up!
We then put the pegboard on top of the foam and marked it. At the store the person cutting the foam for us had used an actual electric knife, like you use to carve a turkey at Thanksgiving. We didn’t have an electric knife so I used a box cutter knife. It wasn’t quite as smooth but it was sharp and did the job just fine.
We then put the pegboard and foam together and measured and cut the vinyl to fit. We were told by the woman at Joann’s that we needed at least 4 inches to overlap on the backside. The foam was 3″ thick so it was a total of 7″ larger on all sides than the foam/pegboard.
Before we put it all together I took a test piece of pegboard and vinyl and stapled the hell out of it to see who well it would work. I found out I REALLY needed to press down on the head of the stapler or else they just wouldn’t go in. I also folded the vinyl over a number of times to see how well it would staple in that thickness. I figured it out through practice and it worked fine.
We took the whole thing outside and Patrick sprayed each section with the glue as I held the fabric out. We then quickly folded it over and stapled it. We had to work fast since it was about 35º out and the glue was only suppose to be used at 60º or above. We tested the folds at the corners first before gluing and found we had a lot of extra material. We cut that all away before we sprayed and stapled.
And about an hour later we had our window bench done. It looked and felt great, just the right height and the right amount of cushion.
Here is Vivian trying it out for the first time, right before bedtime. The vinyl is durable and washable, something that was critical when you know a toddler is going to be sitting on the seat!
The next morning at breakfast she walked right over to it and tried to climb up. It’s going to be a perfect place for her to sit and eat and play. Even though it was a simple project, I think my grandfather, father and father-in-law would have all been proud!
The Tile Patch
The other thing I did was patch some tile in the guest bathroom. It was crumbling right where I had to stand to use the sink so I went and got some patching material and fixed it. The small tiles had been coming up for a while and I wasn’t confident I would be able to find all of them so I bought one 6″x6″ tile to cover the main area. I wouldn’t have done that but they are hoping to completely gut and remodel the bathroom next year so a weird tile stuck in the middle of the bathroom is no big deal temporarily.
Brandi contemplating on a rainy day at Foolish Things with churches in the distance in Tulsa, Oklahoma on 05/12/14.
Drawing by Marty Coleman
I was thinking of using a different quote today but when saw this one come up I liked the idea of recreating the image again this year, as I did in 2011 and 2009.
This is my favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. quote because, to me, it embodies the rock bottom truth behind it all. It doesn’t matter what boat you came on, what matters is that you are here now and you are an American (or want to be one). If you are, then you are in the same boat I am in. I want the boat to sail well and true and I believe you do too. I will work with you to make that happen and I hope you will work with me. I don’t care what your skin color is. I don’t care if your heritage is African or Albanian. I don’t care if you are a pauper or a princess. I just care that you want the best America possible, one that lives out the meaning of its creed.
We all want that, right?
Drawing by Marty Coleman
Quote By Martin Luther King, Jr.
This drawing, and all my drawings, are for sale. Email me at email@example.com if you are interested.
Penelope was a Tour Guide of impeccable reputation. She knew everything there was to know about the art in the museum, including the current exhibition. She would explain in great detail why the artist made the choices she made and how one painting led to another and when she did what she did and who she was influenced by and where her art had been shown and what it all meant. People loved her and always gave great compliments about her to the staff of the museum as they left.
She was also a thief. She only took when no one was looking, on those rainy, cold days when she would have just one person in her tour, or she was walking through the galleries and saw an easy mark. The museum was an old place without a lot of money so it hadn’t yet installed security cameras. She was happy about that. She had learned to pickpocket when on a vacation to Barcelona. She actually watched others doing it on La Rambla and simply imitated them again and again until she had it down. She mostly stole wallets. It was a fun challenge for her and she was quite prideful about her abilities.
What she didn’t know however was that the current exhibition’s artwork held a secret. It was more modern than the museum. The artist, unbeknownst to anyone, had installed a camera into one of her sculptures in the exhibition. Her father had worked as a camera repairman and often told her he thought it would be fun to secretly put cameras in art to see how people reacted to the work. He got the idea when she was a child and he had brought her to Disneyland. They went into the haunted house and he kept wondering if the animatronic figures had cameras in their heads to catch the reactions from people. When she did a large sculpture of a head for the first time he asked if there was any way the head could contain a camera. She figured out a way to make room while he adapted a little spy video camera he had got into the repair shop that had never been picked up after being dropped off for repair.
The artist, a woman named, Britt Smithson, was getting a kick out of watching the video of people looking at her artwork. In particular the reactions to her paintings of sloped-shouldered slackers with big penises. The men usually wouldn’t say much but the women would usually crack up or whisper to each other. The camera didn’t have audio and she really wished it did when she saw this. Some people hurried past without taking barely a glance. Some seemed to really like the work, spending time looking and reading the little handout.
When she saw the Tour Guide pickpocket the woman in front of the painting she was dumbstruck. Not because she knew Penelope, she didn’t. But just because it was so unexpected. She showed the tape to her father who was very excited. He and his daughter had caught a thief with their little collaboration!
They spent a lot of time talking about what they should do. Should they simply show the tape to the director of the museum? Maybe to the police? Maybe go and talk to the Tour Guide and let her know what they saw? But if they did any of those things it would be found out that there was a camera in the sculpture and she didn’t want that to be known. In the end they decided to set up a ‘gotcha’ operation. They would have Britt’s sister, Goldy, be a solo museum visitor. She was an easily distracted, spacey person to begin with, so asking her to play that role wasn’t a big deal. Goldy was up for it. It would allow her to put some of her long ago acting lessons into action.
Goldy was to get Penelope as a Tour Guide, make sure her purse was wide open, slung behind her with her bright pink wallet easily accessible. The wallet would have a little tracking device in it that her father had bought at Radio Shack and had installed. Once it was stolen, Goldy would go to the front desk and complain, explain about the tracking device and bring out her iPhone with the tracking app on it. It would be easy enough to track it back to Penelope that way and she would be caught. It was a simple. easy plan that would still allow the camera in the sculpture to be kept secret.
The plan seemed to go perfectly. Goldy played her role to perfection. Penelope stole the pink wallet just as they expected she would and Goldy went to the front desk when she ‘discovered’ the theft after she had finished the tour. The wallet’s signal could be seen on the iPhone and a security guard, a beefy, bearded guy named Gus, went with Goldy and her phone to find it. They had to go through almost the entire museum to where the signal was coming from and the security guard turned out to be quite a flirtatious character. In the five minutes it took to walk to the signal he had tried to finagled a date out of Goldy. This happened to her much more often than she cared to admit and she held off saying yes for the time being.
When they arrived at the back of the museum, they were led to a trashcan just inside the entrance to a restroom. The security guard took the plastic swinging part off the top and looked in. There, on top of a pile of wet paper towels was her pink wallet. The security guard reached in brought it out and asked her to check to see if anything was missing.
Goldy suddenly realized she had done a very stupid thing. Her sister and father had told her to take anything really valuable out of her wallet but in the nervousness of doing this secret mission she had completely forgotten to do that. She had left all her credit cards, all her ID and all her money in the wallet. She was feeling like a complete idiot as she looked through the wallet. Relief came over her though when she discovered the only thing missing was her money. It had been more than she usually carries, probably around $120.00. But that wasn’t going to throw her into poverty or make her miss her rent payment. It was just going to mean not buying anything at the flea market later that day. She was pissed off at herself and relieved at the same time.
Gus said he would report the theft but chances are they would not be recovering any money. Goldy asked about fingerprints on the wallet. Gus said if they reported it to the police they would do that but if she just wanted to be done with it and not report it, then no, he wouldn’t be taking fingerprints. Goldy asked if he thought he could find out who did it. He said it wasn’t likely but he would look as people left, keep an eye out in general and who knows, something might turn up.
Goldy decided to just cut her losses and not call the police. She knew that is what her dad and Britt would want. And she had no intention of telling them she had stupidly forgotten to take her money and credit cards out of the wallet. Gus gave her the number of the security office at the museum as well as his cell phone number. He also asked for hers in case he found something out. She had a feeling he wanted the number to continue to try to get a date. She wasn’t wholly against the idea and gave him her number.
Goldy called Britt as soon as she was out of the museum and explained everything that happened, not including the loss of the money. Britt and their father were disappointed. They did have the tape showing Penelope stealing the wallet if they did want to go to the museum or the police, but it really didn’t seem to be worth it since as far as they knew nothing had been lost. They still did worry about Penelope and her continued thievery. They just weren’t sure what to do about it.
Gus had been wondering for a while about the loss of wallets and other items in the museum. He had seen all the reports come in, most via telephone after someone would get home from the museum and realize something was missing. At first he thought it was a ring of pickpockets that had been around the city over the past few years. It had been reported on again and again but there hadn’t been any progress in catching anyone. But after a while Gus came to the realization that something else was going on. First, it was only women’s wallets that were reported stolen, never a man’s. The city-wide issue had mostly men being targeted. Second, it only happened on slow day, never busy ones. The city-wide pickpocketing was almost always at busy tourist destinations. Gus was starting to have an idea that this might be someone from inside the museum. He instructed the other security guards to watch everyone, including staff. And when possible, discreetly use their cell phones to take pictures of videos of suspicious situations.
It was a little over a week later, during a spring downpour in the city, that one of the security guards, a young women named Jolene, decided to follow Penelope from a distance. It really was a reflection of Jolene being bored more than anything else, but she also had never liked Penelope nearly as much as everyone else. Penelope had treated her rudely a few times in the back offices, basically ignoring her when she said hello and turning her back on her while she was saying something once.
Jolene had her cell phone recording video from the very far side of an empty gallery when it happened. She was looking the other way, out into another room, as if she was paying no attention to Penelope and the lone women she was with. Penelope was explaining one of the paintings, pointing to the volcano in the background when she brought her hand up to the lady’s purse and quickly snatched her wallet out of it and put it in the museum bag she always carried with her so she could hand out information sheets.
Jolene brought the video back to Gus who immediately went back with Jolene to the gallery and confronted Penelope. Later that day she was both fired and arrested. They found 5 sets of credit cards and 10 wallets in her apartment. She confessed and told the authorities she had thrown away all but the nicest wallets. She had sold most of the credit cards on the black market except for the ones she had stolen recently.
Gus called Goldy and told her Penelope had been caught. Penelope in turn called her sister and father and told them. They all took a deep sigh of relief over a resolution happening without the hidden camera being found out.
Gus also took one last chance to ask Goldy out. Goldy said yes. Gus and Goldy ended up dating for 2 years and getting married 3 years later. Penelope was sentenced to jail time, spending three months incarcerated. She was ordered to repay close to $10,000.00 but never did, since she was basically broke the rest of her life. Her life didn’t last long. She was hit by a taxi in a rainstorm two years later.
Britt never did another piece with a camera in it. Her father stuck to listening in on his Ham Radio to conversations in distant lands.