Scenes from Silver Creek: The Art Show
The Silver Creek Arts Guild was, unfortunately, one of the most popular and certainly the most prolific club in town. They met once a week to gossip and, ostensibly, to work. I could never understand how everyone worked at once because they all seemed to have different mediums. At any one time you’d walk into the rec center and see Mrs. Hodges turning lumps of clay into differently-shaped lumps of clay or Mrs. Morgenstern painting yet another pastel seascape that would look exactly like the last pastel seascape.
Each season they had a “showing” which typically featured paintings with no perspective, slightly boring and out-of-focus photographs, and the occasional still life with unappetizing fruit. To see these still lifes you would assume that no one in Silver Creek had ever seen real fruit. They bore no resemblance in either shape or color to any fruit known to man.
Sadly for us, dreadful Aunt Camille was a member of the Guild and expected us to attend every show Her artistic oeuvre seemed limited to malformed ballet dancers or anemic poodles who always seemed to have either not enough or too many limbs. She would only branch out when the Guild would do themes. I remember for the “Childhood Dreams” theme she contributed a nightmarish series of scenes from Mother Goose that, quite frankly, scared the crap out of me when I was 6. I recall actually shrieking the following Christmas when I unwrapped her watercolor of The Old Man and the Shoe and, subsequently, I had to coaxed out from under the dining room table by my father before the rest of the gifts could be unwrapped.
The spring flowers show was a much-detested annual event and produced some exemplary pieces of horticultural horrors. I think I attribute my dislike of flowers to early exposure to oddly colored blobs of paint thrown on top of dead-fingers of stalk. They were universally awful and I was comforted to know that I was not alone in my hatred of the spring show above all others. I would typically try to get the flu that week. Once, when I was 14, I actually kissed 8-year old Benny Martin on the lips because he had strep throat I wanted to get sick enough to had an excuse to miss the show.
The amusing thing about these shows is that everybody won a ribbon. We had blue ribbons for first place of course, and red and white for second and third. But we had so many shows in town for so many various things (ranging from growing the largest watermelon to the best costume in the Halloween parade) that the city never could afford to have the name of the event put on the ribbon. Silver Creek bought them in bulk so all they said was “First Prize”. Not “First Prize, Spring Art Show.” Eventually everyone in town had a ribbon for doing, growing, or making something, even if it were just for showing up to the event.
Aunt Camille always won at least one blue ribbon per competition because everyone was afraid not to. I remember looking at one of her malformed ballerinas, and the combination of elongated body and disregard for perspective made me feel as if I were standing down a steep hill and looking up at a fun house mirror. I was vaguely seasick form the battling viewpoints and lines and kept finding myself leaning slightly back and forth to orient myself. I pointed this out to my friend Gina and we noticed that other people did the same thing. Eventually we stood in a corner and giggled as we watched everyone in town pause, look, and weave.
The landscape show was notorious for several unique and decidedly phallic geographic formations and bleak winter landscapes so depressing that the suicide hotline had an upswing in calls. Aunt Camille’s contribution that year was entitled “The Mighty Mississippi,” which she had never seen, depicted in an unlikely turquoise blue more suitable for the Caribbean. This wound through an idyllic, Mark Twain-esque dreamscape of weeping willows, rounded hills, and blue sky. Unfortunately her trees looked like green cigars, the hills looked like two breasts, and the sky was filled with clouds shaped like barnyard animals.
The only really good artist in town was Dr. Foster. But he only painted trout. That’s it. Not even other fish, just trout. And always dead. No mater what the theme Dr. Foster would contribute a trout painting. They were exquisite in detail and execution, but they were, after all, only dead trout.