We want to say thank you to our outgoing Guest Curator, Stephen Wehmeyer! If you missed a chance to see his fantastic artifacts, please stop by the Guest Curator Archive Page. You can also examine all of our past Guest Curator’s as well.
Welcome to our Co-Guest Curators, B.D. Love & Maura Kennedy!
B.D. Love taught for many years at California State University, Los Angeles. The experience immersed him in the multi-culture of Southern California, and inspired many of his stories, poems and songs. He has published novels, a story collection, and books of poetry, as well as showing work in many literary magazines. For the last three years, he has devoted his best energies to his songwriting with Maura Kennedy, which produced the acclaimed record, “Villanelle,” and is about to expand with their new collaboration, “Sestina!”
Maura Kennedy is one half of the Americana duo, The Kennedys. She has released nineteen albums in the past 23 years, and has toured North America and Europe continually during that time. Rolling Stone Magazine once wrote that Maura’s melodies contained “…more hooks than Marilyn Monroe’s closet.” Artists including Nanci Griffith and Southside Johnny have covered her songs. In 2014, Maura teamed up with writer B.D. Love in a songwriting collaboration that saw her melodies take delightful new directions, following B.D.’s poetic rhythm, phrasing and imagery.
This is a painting in watercolor and ink by a boy named Jeff Leeah. Jeff was a scandal at Southern Methodist University, where I met him. He was openly gay — In Dallas, in the early Seventies. He painted his face, and later mine, in garish designs that kind of remind me of Day of the Dead masks. We were twin outcasts, one straight, one gay, both openly creative and unashamed of it. We finally gathered, maybe, five fellows on a campus of ten thousand or more. Jeff could do anything. He drew and painted, improvised classical quality works on the school’s pianos (which the traditional music students ridiculed in terror, as they knew they’d never have his talent), and he wrote poetry that regularly eclipsed mine in the school literary magazine awards. Jeff died of complications from testicular cancer in 1976. When I left Dallas for Syracuse University the year before his diagnosis, he gave me this work. As far as I know, only his love, Matt Osterberg, possesses any of Jeff’s visual artwork. He left very few objects of art, and we are all the poorer for that.
I worked for a long while in Atwater Village, Los Angeles, on the River. FoLAR (Friends of the LA River) organized a May cleanup event, and I loved the River deeply — I walked my dogs along it, though at the time any access was illegal. I organized the local September cleanup event on my own. We always had a good crowd. All, technically, illegals. We found many things odd, some rather disgusting, but we all filled our bags and the city cooperated by carting them off, though, again, it was not a sanctioned activity. While I was down at the edge of the River, watching the crawdads hoist their claws at my dogs, I’d always come across bones, mostly raccoon and ‘possum, by my reckoning. I gathered up many, cleaned them using the ant method (leave them outside and the ants will strip the nasty stuff away). I have loved bolo ties for many years. A new shop opened on the Boulevard, Memphis George. She did jewelry, all original designs, so I gave her a jawbone fragment from a ‘possum and asked her to turn it into a bolo. It took longer than expected, cost more than expected, but it’s a one of a kind work of art. I only wear it on exceptional occasions. [Notice the eyes etched into the inside of each bolo tip claw (inset)]
I bought this from a man selling his homemade dreamcatchers out of the trunk of his car on the perimeter of the Colorscape Chenango art fair in upstate NY. He said he couldn’t afford the booth fee, so he was going rogue. If the cops saw him, he could slam his trunk shut and speed away. I bought two of them. He told me he used all items from upstate NY, including the grapevine, the feathers that he found near his home, and the Herkimer diamond quartz. I remember then asking him for a card but he said he didn’t want to be identified so he wouldn’t get fined!
I bought this piece for ten dollars at a yard sale in Atwater Village, CA in 2016. The couple who sold this to me told me they had bought it in a raffle (or auction…I can’t remember which) for a substantially higher price at a festival in Telluride Colorado. I don’t know the year. All I know is that Johnny Cash’s pensive songwriting face is enshrined inside the sound hole, and the lyrics to his “I Still Miss Someone” (co-written by Johnny Cash and his nephew Roy Cash JR) are reprinted across the body. While this piece is not signed, the artist explains the imagery in a note pasted on the back which reads, “THEY HAVE $$$ BUT THEY DON’T HAVE CASH – The song written is “I Still Miss Someone from Mr. Johnny Cash. I feel the sheriff badges sum up his time on top, the dog bones sum up his low down ways, and the dice, a roll of what kind of man he was that day. The title is a line from a Darrell Scott song.”
I bought this odd and wonderful piece at the New Bedford Summerfest, later renamed the New Bedford Folk Fest in New Bedford, MA in the early 2000s. There used to be a guy with a booth there, and he created these unique pieces celebrating pop culture icons. I bought a piece from him every year (Bob Dylan, John Lennon, two Johnny Cash) for several years running, and then, one year, he was gone. I always figured he got busted for unauthorized use of celebrity images. This piece is made by a couple rough chunks from 2 x 4s or pieces of a railroad tie, which is totally appropriate (“I hear that train a-comin’…) Johnny Cash’s portrait is similar but not exactly the same as the portrait inside the art guitar, above. There are small magazine cutouts of Johnny glued to the base, and tin Shiner Bock bottle caps nailed and screwed to the top. The piece is as rough and real as the man it celebrates.
If you are a folklorist or a collector of folklore/popular culture artifacts, please consider becoming a Guest Curator. Your objects will be highlighted here on a rotating basis.
All we ask is that the objects be yours, you have a photograph of the objects, and all or most of the information about the object (see the guidelines below, for more details).
Guest Curator Guidelines:
1. Artifacts must fall within the subject of our website (folklore, folk art, popular culture, etc).
2. Artifacts must be a part of your own personal collection.
3. Submissions must be limited to no more than five artifacts.
4. Submissions must contain a photograph of the artifact, as well as the title, purpose, country of origin, culture , materials, and dimensions of the artifact.
5. We also would like your photograph and a brief biography to accompany the collection.
Please contact, firstname.lastname@example.org and write Guest Curator in the subject line for further information or with any questions. We cannot wait to highlight your collection!