Monday, July 25, 2011

Something Strange Is Afoot in Hannibal, Missouri

Something in the water? A certain frequency transmitted from their cellphone towers? Could be something to do with Mark Twain relics...I really can't say. I have never ventured to this town, whose population was logged at 17,606 residents in 2010.

But consider the work of Joachim Knill and Matthew Naftzger, two Hannibalites at the Ann Arbor Art Fair this year. They're both transplants, which complicates matters.

I have several bad photos of Knill's fascinating offering, which is ostensibly a shipping crate. It is filled with oil paintings of toy stuffed animals. The paintings are ominous and mysterious rather than cute; claustrophobia elbows fun to the side within the viewing area/crate.

From the artist's statement, we learn that some of the dis-ease can be attributed to past events:

"'National Treasure' is a shipping crate containing a
portrait room from Anilife, a place inhabited by stuffed
toy animals. The room has been forcefully taken in a
regional dispute, acquired by a kingdom, seized in a
revolution, captured by a military authority, and now
dropped onto the streets of cities to be shared, viewed,
and consumed by humans unfamiliar with this foreign
cultural artifact."

Knill has been racking up Best in Show prizes for this installation (see more details here), including from the Cherry Creek Arts Festival (CO) and Bucktown Arts Fest (Chicago, IL). Before this, Knill created a series of 20" x30" polaroids (you read those dimensions right), from a kerazzzzy large camera of HIS OWN MAKING. The photos were of surrealistic landscapes he also created .

Does he realize some people just take pictures of (naturally grown) flowers and call it a day? This guy is really showing the rest of us up. I bet Knill's someone who forgets to eat. You know, food growing colder by the minute, and he's wondering, "How, HOW can I fit 50 large plastic baby heads in a freezer compartment? THERE MUST BE A WAY." (Disclaimer: Ahem. I respect your work.)

Maybe they don't sleep in Hannibal. That could be it, they have discovered a way to forego the daily respite. I mean, dangerous, certainly. Everyone knows that. A friend from college thought she had escaped the sleep blindness/craziness, while working in Alaska, until she saw 50' geese. This didn't actually tip her off; see also: sleep deprivation. But luckily she muttered to her friend in the passenger seat,"FUCK. THOSE are going to be hard to drive around." To which her friend replied: "PULL OVER."

So, the geese bring us to Matthew Naftzger (Works of Man). While he is a long-time jeweler, this year his booth was focused on several intricate, so-called "Ridiculous Vessels," all moveable and made out of titanium (yes, DJ Saint, you want ALL of these). They immediately call Tim Burton and the steam-punk movement to mind; and are simultaneously impressive and really, really fun. And really, how many artists remove things from their glass cases, so you can play with them? Answer: very, very few.

While Naftzger initially balked at being in a photo, only a few moments had passed between the balking and him arranging vessels on his head.
According to his web site,"Works of Man creations are a mash-up of space traveling circus acts, post-apocalyptic sideshows, Fabergé eggs,
 rocket-building Cro-Magnon men, wonderfully terrible “B” sci-fi movies, 
future explorations, societal comment, and naval gazing."
While IN his booth, however, there were NO mentions of Faberge, Cro-Magnon men or the like.
Ridiculous vessel Phineas knows how to make Naftzger laugh. 

He also looks a bit sleep deprived, non? Though that could simply be the Ann Arbor Art Fair and not mysterious conditions in Hannibal. It's likely that both artists will return next year -- they both had shiny award badges adorning their signs.

I have the day off and should be gallavanting outside in the sunshine. But before I go, here's a photo from yesterday's print-pulling session. A wee Cakeasaurus design, destined for cards-- in advance of the larger, complete design:

So that brings us full-circle back to stuffed animals, I guess. Good luck trying to get the bunny away from him.


  1. Hmm... so you held off defending my recent photo shoot of washed up Piglet why?

    Could've used the help against my youngest (who I think was born just to ask me "why" I do the ridiculous (according to him), things that I do). ;-)

  2. Oh no!!! Terribly sorry, don't know how I missed it. Poor sodden creature. A little disturbing that you can't see the eyes in most shots -- I imagine he has no eyes at all. Waterlogged and eyeless.

  3. LOVE the works of man artwork!

  4. These sound like wonderful works of art, sorry I missed art fairs and the weatherman this year.

  5. Had a ball talking to you that day. Loved reading this post, as well.

    I've heard of this thing called sleep. Sorry, I have to go to wikipedia now...

  6. Saint-- See? I called it.
    Laurie-- Perhaps you'll join me for a walk next year!
    WoM --Thanks for showing your art at the show, was definitely fun to talk.