Going abstract

Waiting at a bus stop, an obviously homeless man approached. I carry fivespots for helping as I can, but my giving is mostly for the homeless who ask, and never for the ones who seem dangerous.

This bum was talking to himself, or rather yelling at himself, spit fountaining out of his mouth, his head swiveling in six directions. He wasn't getting any money from me, so I turned my attention toward the sign listing bus arrivals.

Sept. 16, 2022

The bum started talking to another man waiting at the same stop, saying something about the Korean War and last week's Seahawks game.

They talked until the bus came, at least five minutes, with the bum doing 99% of the talking, about a woman who works at a motel, falling into a sticker-bush, something about Hubert Humphrey, and then the Korean War again.

The guy who wasn't obviously insane didn't say anything except occasionally, "Uh-huh," and "Yeah." When the bus came, the bum walked away, and me and the other guy shared a very brief chuckle as we climbed onto the bus. He flashed his fare, and as I flashed mine he said to me, "My mistake was, I made eye contact with him."

"Yup," I said, and took a seat.

"I've been living here long enough to know better," he said. Then he sat down and said again, shaking his head, "Never make eye contact."

"Yup," I said again, without making eye contact.

Most art museums have permanent displays, paintings and sculptures and murals and etchings you can visit again and again, and there's also a section dedicated to whatever artist they're currently spotlighting. The Frye Museum, where I visited yesterday, is so small that they have no permanent displays. I didn't know that, going in.

A bedroom-size section toward the front featured a small selection of pieces by Jeremy Shaw. These were interesting photographs, but displayed under multi-angled plexiglass that allowed you to see only a portion of any work. You'd then tilt your head to see another portion of the photo. This was on purpose, for artistic effect, but for me the effect was frustration. It felt like they were hiding the photos.

In a darkened room, they showed a short film by Shaw, called Liminals (2017). It's about a weird dance class, with hippies of all colors twirling around by themselves but in a group, in an otherwise empty warehouse. The dancing hippies were shouting and breathing heavy and making ecstatic faces, while a drum played and a British narrator was mostly quiet but occasionally said pompous stuff. When the drumming stopped, the dancing stopped, and the camera zoomed in on one guy who looked like Jesus, as he made post-coital faces and groans indicating his extreme pleasure with the dance he'd just performed.

This film was, by far, my favorite part of the museum visit.

My second favorite part was a series of windows along one wall, looking over a pond outside. It wasn't an art display, though, just part of the building's architecture.

The rest of the building was entirely dedicated to the works of Romare Bearden (1911-1988), an abstract artist I'd never heard of. None of his art spoke to me, even abstractly. About a hundred of his works were on display — a few rooms of collages, and several rooms of what I'd call 'blotch art'. 

Having seen thousands of collages during my zine era, most of which seemed only intended to take up space, I was skeptical at first. Surely, though, collages created by a professional artist would be far beyond the zine-level stuff I'd seen. Surprisingly, no.

As for the blotches, well, it's a museum so it must be art, but most of the pieces looked like what you might see if you left a blank canvas outside for a year.

I walked through all of this, pausing several times not because something intrigued me but because I wanted something to intrigue me.

And then I'd seen the whole museum, and walked back to the bus stop. My visit had taken 55 minutes, including the movie and a few minutes in the gift shop. It was the first time I've been to any art museum and not seen at least a dozen works I wanted to spend more time with.

I'm not slamming the Frye, though. The staff was kind, the facility is nice, the admission is free, and I'll be back. Had a lovely time. It was a very short time, but that was my fault. I should've checked the museum's calendar, because they said up front, it's all about Bearden and his abstract art. That just ain't my thing. 

My mailbox is across the street from the house, on the gravelly shoulder, where someone smashed those light fixtures a few weeks ago. There are still a thousand shards of glass in the gravel, and probably there will be for years, or forever.

And now, the news you need, whether you know it or not…

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Donning Clemente's #21, Rays field MLB's first all-Latino lineup 

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Rare fossilized vomit discovered in Utah's 'Jurassic salad bar' 

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Out of contact 

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Black waiters in white restaurants 

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One-word newscast, because it's the same news every time...



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The End

William Klein
Richard Roat


Cranky Old Fart is annoyed and complains and very occasionally offers a kindness, along with anything off the internet that's made me smile or snarl. All opinions fresh from my ass. Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited.
Tip 'o the hat to Linden Arden, ye olde AVA, BoingBoing, Breakfast at Ralf's, Captain Hampockets, CaptCreate's Log, John the Basket, LiarTownUSA, Meme City, National Zero, Ran Prieur, Voenix Rising, and anyone else whose work I've stolen without saying thanks.
Extra special thanks to Becky Jo, Name Withheld, Dave S, Wynn Bruce, and always Stephanie...


  1. "blotch art" yeah. Good term for it. Most modern art is shit.

    1. Most statements of "all" are exaggerations, and I wouldn't say *all* modern art is shit. I'd just say, some art is for me and some isn't, and the stuff I saw on Thursday isn't.

  2. >Having seen thousands of collages during my zine era,

    Why would you bring up such trauma? Might as well mention zine poetry.

    1. If I really really tried which usually I didn't, I *might* be able to get something from an occasional poem in a zine.

      My recollection of zine collages is that they weren't necessarily 'bad' but that most of them were interchangeably the same. After the first 50 collages, the next 500 or 5,000 all seemed like reruns even if they weren't.

      These collages were exactly like those collages.


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