Quote and Credit

Quote and Credit


Outsider Art and Art Brut? It's a Piece of CAKE Paul K. Schimmack Bakes and Decorates an Astrology Chart

As much as I hate to start a new trend in "outsider art" I present here what was likely the first CAKE made with obsessive scribbles.  The medium?  SUGAR.  So there you go…a visionary piece of cake!  

There is an art to making cakes (and Schimmack was good at it) but when was the last time you saw some Art Brut applied with a frosting bag?  Among the proclamations made of sugary goo is that a trip to Neptune at 60 miles an hour will take over 20,000 years, so eat a big lunch before you go.  The artist/baker also indicates the weight of the moon.

Paul K. Schimmack was a bread and cake maker by trade (he was named Secretary of the Washington Wholesale and Retail Bakers Association in 1910)  As you can see here, his shop "The Lion Bakery" was capable of "40 buns in one minute!"   The building no longer stands. A house was placed there in 1922. Still, if one can say "he is better known" for a guy not known at all…it was his astrology art for which he is best not remembered today.  It is fair to speculate the great share of his work was eaten, but this recent discovery of a second obsessive diagram produced over 100 years ago is a good time to explore what is in the historical record.  This one has missed being included in the record as it was consumed after the picture was taken.

Astrology, of course, is the most intricate and detailed bogus system in the world!  Wiki calls it a pseudoscience, which means not science at all.  It is an early scam and continues to be.  I rank it just ahead of "magnet therapy" and Phrenology…the science of bumps on the head. 

Paul K. Schimmack's work "The Weather Shark Predictor" of paint on tin is now in the Balsley collection and it has appeared in shows, in a 1997 issue of Folk Art Magazine and in at least one catalog.  It is something of a masterpiece.  The artist seemingly registered a print of the piece in 1913 as "a work of art" titled Farmers Morning Glory Chart with the US Copyright Office.  It was published by the Schlesinger Company.  I believe "work of art" means a postcard, as the company was also responsible for the once common"Indian with headdress" postcards, though they did also publish lithographs for wall display. No publisher is indicated on the postcard here of his cake concoction, but it dates to around the same time.

Folk Art Magazine Spring 1997
A more typical image from Schlesinger Brothers Publishers

The Daily Republican (Monongahela, PA) of March 31, 1931 gave Mr. Schimmack a nice feature and asked him for a few predictions. "Inch downpour of rain during May followed by a rainy June. July, August, and September will be moderately dry. During November and October the rainfall will be medium and a general cyclone will strike the eastern states, causing shipwrecks and endangering tall buildings. Schimmack forecasts a general peace-making among all nations with the end of the year 1931.  Several years earlier, the paper had gone to Shimmack for his prediction on the Dempsey - Tunney fight!  Dempsey will enter the sign "with the support of the moon" while Tunney has Mercury behind him. 

In 1927, the Lincoln Star (Nebraska) filled lots of space with his predictions.  They called him a "weather shark" and astrologer.  The numerous, if mundane "crop reports" ran for several inches of copy.  Most notable was a "A big flood In California" and "The lion will show his teeth the first part of March, but that month and April will be relatively springlike."

Schimmack was also apparently the "go-to" guy for the Pittsburgh Press.  They called on his expertise in the January 26, 1932 issue.  "The change In weather will start to be noticeable today or tomorrow, however. Prom then on, there will be blizzards, sleet, snow, rain and ice. Eastern States will be paralyzed. "Coldest days will be Jan. 27, 28, 29, 30 and 31; Feb. 1, 3, 5, 6, 19, 22, 23. 24, 25, 27; March 2, 13. 18, 29, 31; and April 6, 7, 9 and 17." The Washington seer also predicted heavy snows in Pittsburgh and New York Feb. 22, 23 and 24. The groundhog will see his shadow; rivers will be at flood stage about the end of March and this district will experience a "white" Easter Sunday, he said."

He was referred to as the "astrological seer of Washington Pa." and that he had been "observing and charting planets for nearly 50 years…he's delved into histories of floods, cold spells and droughts for as far back as 1832, noting positions of planets for each."  Whew. 

The Spring 1997 issue of Folk Art magazine illustrated Mr. Schimmack's "Weather Shark Astrological Chart" along with a notice of an exhibition at the American Visionary Art Museum.   The piece is in the collection of John and Diane Balsley.  It also appears in the catalog of the exhibition.  A large color image of the piece is available HERE from the Ricco - Maresca Gallery. 

"Illustrative Astronomy" by Paul K. Schimmack  Photo Postcard 1910 Collection Jim Linderman

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