Saturday, June 30, 2007

Painting With Fire

Like a reunion tour of middle-aged rock stars who now get more looped from standing up too fast than they ever did from drugs, we took it on the road this week as part of College Tour 2007. For the past three days, instead of sex, drugs, and rock and roll it was cheap motel rooms, hundreds of miles of driving and what felt like almost as much walking. (While we didn't get to trash our rooms, the shower rod and curtain in one of the motel rooms in which we stayed came crashing down completely on their own. My son James, who was in the shower at the time, somehow missed seeing the humor.)
Focusing on Pennsylvania, we saw Millersville, a fine and impressive medium-sized college, and Penn State, a respected college whose size would have to be reduced by half before you could call it enormous. At its present size, it has the area, infrastructure and population of a city. (It is, I'm told, the only campus in America with its own zip code. Not kidding.) Both colleges deserve great and public praise for the job they did with their tours, including successfully accomodating my wife's mobility problems.
The real purpose of this entry, though, is education of an entirely different kind. On our return trip we visited the Frank Frazetta museum in East Stroudsberg, Pennsylvania. (The title of this entry is borrowed - ok, stolen - from a documentary done a while back on Frazetta's life and work.) Finding the museum (which is located on the breathtaking 75 acre Frazetta estate) in the first place is a test of how much you value the experience of going there; they do not advertise anywhere -it's all by word of mouth; their web site includes general directions but no address; and from where it's located having a street address probably wouldn't help anyone find it anyway. Despite this, visitors were there today from Hawaii, and in recent days from France and Bali.
The museum is not large in terms of its square footage, but it's thoughtfully (and efficiently) filled with about 80 or so wonderful paintings. The images, most (though not all) of which might be described as sword/sorcery/fantasy, jump off the canvas at you with an energy that's striking. (The paintings, of course, are copyrighted and can't be shown here, but for a great look at some of what's there, check out ).
As striking as the paintings themselves is the integrity with which the museum is run. A helpful gentleman keeps an eye on the exhibition space, and the gift shop is run by Ellie Frazetta, the charming and friendly wife of the great artist. I mentioned to her one of the things I thought about as I toured the space, that while it's not unusual to see exhibits of a particular artist's work, usually they're pieces purchased by the museum or a private collector. Every one of the paintings we saw could have been sold by the artist for enormous amounts of money and yet the Frazetta's preferred to keep the artist's gifts available for the world to enjoy. (Mrs. Frazetta told me of turning down an offer she'd received of $1,000,000 for a painting I'd mentioned was one of my favorites.) That would be great enough to hear from anybody. To find an artist of Frank Frazetta's stature maintaining that position is beyond refreshing, it's inspiring.
I'm not sure if an on-line journal officially qualifies as word-of-mouth but I'm hoping it does. This museum and the experience surrounding it was a real treat.
In an unrelated item, I saw today that Joel Siegel, who (among many other accomplishments) did movie reviews for Good Morning America and some other ABC-TV programs, passed away. I got to meet him years ago, interviewed him actually, for my high school newspaper when I was about 13 or 14. It was after a speaking engagement he did at the men's club breakfast at my local synagogue. He was a nice man, enduring my clumsy, insipid questions and total lack of interview skills with grace and kind patience. I hope somehow it's possible for him to know the adult version of that kid he was so gracious towards still remembers, and still appreciates.
In another unrelated item, there's a magazine here on my desk that has a picture of a priest on the cover. A few minutes ago I killed a fly on it. Do you suppose that means something?


oldhousegal said...

Ben-  I'm so glad you got to see the Frazetta Museum.  My husband and I went there last year and really enjoyed it, not to mention that we spent too much money (for us) buying a couple signed reproductions.  But they are hanging in the house and always get noticed (picutres that include naked women will do that!)

rdautumnsage said...

While you where talking about the artist, I had what you would call a niggling itch that I had heard of him before. When I went to visit the site through your link, it hit me as to who he was. My ex-husband has quite a few reproduction paintings by him. He is one of those painters you don't necessarily remember by name, but rather by paintings. Once I saw some of his artwork, I knew who he was. Another fascinating tidbit learning you liked this artist.

As for the fly you killed with the priest on the cover of the magazine......oh yeah, your going to hell. (winks) Stay safe and loved dear heart. (Hugs) Indigo