And though I debated on the drive back, porker clunking in the trunk, what Gil’s reaction would be – would he object to the creature because of its cost or size or general mien – he too was delighted by it. One of his favorite song lyrics, he said, was Dylan’s “I’m no pig without a wig/I hope you treat me kind.” Hard to hold anything against a grotesquerie that cost 24 dollars.
We decided the painted plaster pig with the voluptuous nose must have at one time enticed customers in a store or eatery. The woman in the antiques shop felt sure he had a former life as a piggy bank, but no piggy bank is thigh high. I snapped him up quickly, before anyone else could. If anyone else would.
My eye for art is my own. I’m the one who finds things at estate sales after all the “good stuff” has been bought, after everyone else goes home. In our storage locker the other day I went through our collection of two-dimensional pieces, some by friends, that the Cabin walls can’t accommodate. Space is extremely limited and 250-year-old logs hard to pound nails into.
I did hang a Currier & Ives print, an antique spoof showing a nineteenth century woman with a braid dangling to her knees, a cigarette and a riding crop. “The Girl of the Period” reads the legend on the only slightly stained image. The friends who gave me this know me well.
I do like things that are a bit stained, worn, faded or torn. Things that have the spirit of the vernacular in them. That show the human hand. It’s not outsider art when it comes from your own relative. One vintage artwork in my house was the creation of my great-grandmother Lockie Hillis, three landscape postcards she collected on a trip to the Panama Pacific International Exposition in 1915, which she mounted in a wood-burned frame (she herself burned the wood).
I greatly appreciate handmade signs, but I’ll only collect them for free. Our best sign, hanging outside on the porch wall, we collected off a telephone pole next to a cornfield on a midwestern two-lane.
The one above the fireplace makes an ironic comment on Oliver and the other beloved dogs that have lived with us.
Another perhaps more frightening comment, the mask hanging above the wooden sign. Leather of some kind, it comes from Mexico, and has dropped a few eyelashes since I picked it up 30 years ago. Gil has been known to put it on for Halloween and terrify small children.
The Cabin makes a perfect backdrop for a painted work like the one my artist friend Sandra bequeathed, titled “Cairo in the Garden,” named for a beloved tabby we owned with seven toes on each paw.
We don’t frame it because it doesn’t need a frame to show off its fresco-like charms.
Back to the pig without a wig. Where to exhibit his bulbous corpus? I think he needs to stand by the door, sticking out his tongue in welcoming us. Or by the hearth, though I wouldn’t want his fat to singe. Perhaps the kitchen would be the most logical, given the amount of bacon this household consumes. In a corner, where we can observe him observing us.
While I consider it I’m going to give my attention to a National Audobon Society “miniature chart” showing Twigs of Common Trees.
Here we have 62 ink-drawings of buds, bark, leaf scars and pith. The total effect is exquisite and I’d like to do the impossible: find it wall space. I fished Twigs out of storage and Gil said, You want that? Yes, as a matter of fact I do.
What this jolly pig reminds me of most of all is old-fashioned signage, when shops had a giant shoe or pair of eyeglasses out front, bespeaking loud and clear what they had to offer. That’s a history dating back to the middle ages, but you still find pigs today decorating barbecue joints. That might be this one’s origin. Oink.