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Peruna and the 50 Million Dollar Art Endowment


Peruna was a prohibition tonic. Otherwise known as booze. It was 28% alcohol, that's a pretty stiff drink. At one time the elixir was banned on Native American reservations by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs for that very reason. It was claimed to cure nearly everything you can find on WebMD, but all it did was make you feel warm inside and slur your words. For a dollar a bottle. Peruna was at one time the largest selling proprietary "medicine" in the United States, due largely to the innovative advertising techniques of Frederick Schumacher. I presume the "Cotton Queen" show above was one of his projects. Peruna was spending one million dollars on advertising and that's more than enough to hire as many minstrels, cowboys and tuba players you need. I believe the minstrels here are one "Hink" and "Dink" as a duo with those names toured midwestern states claiming to be WLN radio stars in the late 1930's. Like another recent post of mine, early radio plays heavily in this story...why, for god's sake, the performers dressed in blackface for a RADIO show is beyond me, but then I guess they all slicked up for the camera here.

Peruna faded away... maybe because the "kick" was reduced to 18% alcohol in response to pressure from the AMA and others. Today, it lives on only in the form of the the kicking horse mascot of Southern Methodist University, and yes, that's where they got the name. As for Schumacher? HIs swill tasted bad but he had good taste. He left a 50 MILLION DOLLAR estate to the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, now the Columbus Museum of Art. That's an awful big gift from a bootlegger, but I'm sure they would prefer the term "philanthropist" in Ohio. And they do have Renior, Matisse, Monet and Weegee!

Peruna Promotional Photograph 1935 Collection Jim Linderman

Eugene Bilbrew A Return Visit to the Studio on West 42nd Street








Of all the posts on this blog, the ones generating the most hits are the series I did on vintage sleaze illustrators of the 1960's, in particular the profile and pictures of work by Eugene Bilbrew. So much for my attempts to uplift the masses. I aim to please, ALL ARE NOW COLLECTED ON THE SITE VINTAGE SLEAZE

Bilbrew, an African-American School of Visual Arts student (!) fell into bad company and even worse habits. As he slipped into heroin addiction, his work became even more bizarre. He moved to the rear of a porno bookshop on the deuce. The mob-run publisher he worked for was busted out of business, so he sold his drawings to no less sleazy publishers such as Wizard, Satan and Chevron. Most of these are from Satan. A pall-bearer hits on the widow. An unlikely prison visitor tempts caged psychopaths. A rogue cop harasses an amorous couple out on the beach too late. A shop-class goggles wearing professor aims his student's motorcycle "headlights" into the wind. And of course, the extra-flamboyant dancer against a lime green wall "trips" and falls into the lap of his modern art loving suitor. Never mind that the text had absolutely nothing to do with the cover illustration, this is kitsch of the highest order. These all date to the late 1960's. Several have "saw-cut" slashes, which means they were returned to the distributor unsold. I can not imagine why.

To his credit, I suppose...Bilbrew was one of the few artists doing multi-racial covers at the time. (and the hair-impaired, for that matter) I don't think it helped sales.

Group of 1960's paperback cover illustrations by Eugene Bilbrew. Formerly collection Jim Linderman

Silhouette Parade (and a Shout Out to John)








Circus Parade by Flanagan, c. 1920 Collection Jim Linderman

The Art of Old Time Religion








To say the least, the use of Christian religious iconography in a sincere manner has not been the stuff of contemporary artists or art collectors. On the contrary, and in the last few decades in particular, artists have taken delight in lampooning the depiction of all things bible. You can probably name a few of them without thinking, as opportunistic politicians frequently use their work to raise funds. Whether their motivations were born of genuine artistic skill and talent, or merely a way to appear clever and attract attention is up to the viewer and critic. For my collection plate donation, the most appealing and interesting "contemporary religious art" came from studio Warhol. Sincere or not, his last supper paintings which I saw beautifully installed in NYC were striking, modern and beautiful. All the more "controversial" pieces from the era appeared lame, obvious and contrived by comparison. They do even more so today.

As I discuss in the introduction to Take Me to the Water: Immersion Baptism in Vintage Photography and Music 1890-1950 (Dust-to-Digital) there is a notion that sincere religious artists, regardless of medium, often work harder when they are depicting renditions of their faith. The gospel singer strains to reach a higher note, the mural painter uses precision when attempting to achieve God's perfection and the glazier never leaves loose leaded panes in a piece behind the pulpit. Whether these practitioners of religious craft use iconography to preach or to make a living is moot... it could be both.

The most prolific "religious" artist of this century is certainly Howard Finster, the late folk artist from Georgia, who created nearly 50,000 individually numbered works before having the brush (and Sharpie) pried from his cold fingers. It has been a common understanding that despite his seemingly sincere attempts to convert heathens though his work, a collector of his eccentric paintings who has actually been saved has not yet come forth to testify. Rather, his work has been appreciated for the most part by smug non-believers who found his work quaint rather than convincing.


I started collecting religious ephemera as an outgrowth of folk art and vernacular photography. My own beliefs don't exist beyond a rudimentary trust in the scientific method, but I do believe OTHERS believe, and that makes the material fascinating. Elaborate obsessive doodles of outsider art, shaking and sweating evangelists and tax-dodging street corner churches have always seemed a sort of performance art to me. Who determines what is saved, sacred or sane? It's all fine with me even if not fine art...and when it isn't any good, it is at the least still interesting because it was a good try. I may lean solidly towards the smug side of art appreciation, but there is always a story with each work I find. Faith or fraud, the fevered brow produces some pretty interesting product.


Running the gamut from silly to sacred, eccentric to evangelical (I could go on) there is a wealth of spiritual flotsam sitting in the shoe boxes of history, and I will present it one day at a time on old time religion. Objective reporting seems to be a disappearing along with newspapers, but I aim to be journalistic. If a preacher sullied the farmer's daughter and left town with a sack of money, so be it. Just like Jesus said, no one is perfect, and it seems particularly true in this milieu. One thing we CAN give thanks for is federal prosecution of mail fraud. Whether the material presented is pathetic or profound, it exists in great big abundance. One doesn't look far for a message of faith in this country. From rear bumper fish to door-knocking Jehovah's, we are looking at one big industry here...and big industry makes lots of things that take up space. I certainly do not need to prosthelytize. All manner of bible salesman, radio preachers and lobbyists have beat me to it. But I can dig up some cool things and probably dig up a few things folks would rather have buried too. Let's see!


Follow OLD TIME RELIGION Here

Photos from Paste Magazine Review of Take Me to the Water


Untitled (Baptism) Collection International Center of Photography, gift of Janna Rosenkranz and Jim Linderman 2007
HERE

The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together





The unfamiliar jargon and sheer multitude of options is overwhelming. Ombre, cordet, guimpe, organdy? Velvanna, nubby, sport fingering, wool-o-nyl? I can't tell where a trademark meets a technique.

Peter Pan Yarn Sample Card c.1955 Collection Jim Linderman

At the Circus in Black and White


In the tradition of F. W. Glasier, Dull Tool Dim Bulb incorporates a new mini-series, "At the Circus in Black and White" I will post an amateur vernacular photograph of the sideshow weekly.

Untitled snapshot "Woman, Monkey, Man, Dog" anonymous c. 1950 Collection Jim Linderman

J. Charles Jessup, Convicted Preacher with a Triple-neck Mosrite guitar







Charles Jessup was married to a 15 year old girl while still married to his third wife. Rev. Jessup was a border radio fixture for years, sharing time on a mega-powerful station operating just across the Rio Grande (and outside of U. S. regulations) at the same time as Wolfman Jack. Robert Duvall cited him as an influence on his film The Apostle, and others have compared him to Elvis, but then Elvis was never convicted of mail fraud and using ill-gotten contributions from loyal listeners for cock-fighting.
Jessup barnstormed God's airways with mountain music, a squeaky voice and an insatiable sexual appetite. Taking in ten million dollars, he claimed was to help the Mexican people, he instead "llenarse los bolsillos" which is Spanish for "line your own pockets." And there are folks who worry about Mexicans coming here? Cars, Seaplanes, real estate...whatever supposed pleasures awaited his followers in the afterlife, he was taking full advantage of in the present.
Not to be outdone by his own brother's double-neck guitar, shown in a photo here...he ordered a custom made THREE neck guitar from the Mosrite Factory which surfaced a few years ago. I am not sure what he used to play it with, but perhaps his young wife can tell us. Amazingly, he continued to appear on other evangelist's programs after serving his sentence (at least one of which still operates in my home state) and they welcomed him as an inspiration! I include here several photos of Jessup and his posse with a scan of their 78 rpm record (which unfortunately I have not heard as God has not yet provided me with a working turntable, but he will, I believe)



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A double blog post here and on "old time religion"

Photo excerpts from "Heaven and Hell" "My Life's Story" "A Stirring Message on Death" all circa 1945-1950 by J. Charles Jessup, and "Preach the Word/I'll Meet you in the Morning" by Jessup Brothers on Jessup Brothers records, 78 rpm. All Collection Jim Linderman

Things to Build





Images from The Family Fallout Shelter June 1959 Collection Jim Linderman

Look Up



Chalk Drawing by William A. Bixler 1933
See also old time religion

Time to Bring in the Big Guns (Meet the Press)


Original Glossy Press Photograph 1953 Collection Jim Linderman

Bazooka Joe and the Tijuana Bible Eight Pagers (You're kidding, right?) NOPE







Wesley Morse created Bazooka Joe. Joe and his gang started about the same year I started, and every one of the bonus fortunes came true! But, as so often happens here at Dull Tool Dim Bulb, Morse had a hidden agenda. Morse also drew those "8-pagers" or Tijuana Bibles which showed prominent figures of the day hitting on gangster molls, waitresses and starlets! I guess Mr. Morse liked to work small and let Dad have a little fun too! Some half-dozen have been identified, Morse holds the distinction of being one of only two artists working in the tiny dirty genre to have been identified.

In the 1990's after Morse passed away, Joe got "wigger" pants.


Group of Bazooka Joe comics Collection the Neighbor Kid

NOTE: KIRK TAYLOR sent the following link to his GREAT site on the artist.
http://www.taylormorsecollection.com/

The Eccentric, Eerie, Erotic Outsider Art of D.H.






Often the artistic quality of an artist means less than the story. This is an example, though I find the paintings, of which there are hundreds and hundreds, charming and accomplished in a perverted way. Yes, they are severely cropped here. I've learned my blog provider has a different idea of appropriate than I do, so all I'm showing is the heads (when I can isolate them among the morass of limbs, hands and other body parts, most rendered WAY out of proportion) Trust they are, well...creative. All are unsigned. The best have a chalky white quality which looks like shoe polish, but I am afraid you won't be able to tell from these details.

D.H. produced huge stacks of these watercolors in his summer cottage. I suppose the family thought he was fishing, but when he passed away well into his 90's they were found hidden among a big box of Life magazines in the attic. An old story for fans of outsider art, but it never gets tired for me. A fevered brow, a driven eccentricity and a paintbrush gets me every time. Something about a family happening upon a huge body of unknown work is fascinating...and when it reveals Great-Gramp's secret obsession, all the better. Some of the work was destroyed. I don't want to know why. At the least, he had a delicate and consistent vision, you can tell his work from across the room...and all are marked with a playful, well-rendered eroticism. In some the participants are sprawled over poorly drawn modern furniture. They aren't primitive, but he certainly followed the adage most primitives do, that is that the most important part of a painting is made the largest. I am hiding the artist's name as that's the way the family wants it.

They seem to have been done in the early 1970's for the most part...but one of mine has a hand written tally sheet on the reverse tracking the results of the Mondale election. Fritz lost. All and every manner of partnering up you can imagine is there. The artist made no distinction between gender in the least, and if there is a personal preference, I sure can't find it.


So there you go. Another tale of a reclusive artist, painting for his own pleasure and piling up the work without a single sale or concern that it will. My kind of art.
I did do a little research...the last line of his obit reads "he loved to carve and draw."

Group of watercolors by "D.H." c. 1970. Collection Jim Linderman