Friday, December 14, 2012

Tiny Treasures

It seems like we visited my Great Aunt Tiny and Uncle Norwood a lot when I was a kid.

I wasn't complaining - they had this awesome house on the outskirts of Fort Myers that Uncle Norwood designed and built.

The house was on a natural dam by Lake Orange. There was a family of alligators that would come up on the bank in the afternoon, which I thought was the coolest thing in the world. The house was on a lot of land, so you could spend the day fishing, playing in the lake, exploring the woods, or driving the golf cart across the dam in the afternoon to feed the cows or visiting a little hollow in the woods that Aunt Tiny called her "laughing place."

Most of their house was dark and cool with some of the creepiness around the corners that fascinated me as a kid. There was a little pond out front with these scary tiki statues that I was drawn to, but afraid to look at too much. There was also a novelty bathroom trashcan in the shape of a huge stick of dynamite that absolutely terrified me.

There was also Uncle Norwood's study, full of old copies of  my Uncle Bruce's old comic collection  which included a ton of horrifying EC comics about people coming back from the dead to avenge murders or getting killed gruesomely in ironic twists. I also found a bunch of Playboy joke books that went completely over my head, but hey, they had cartoons of naked ladies in them.

I don't remember Uncle Norwood too much - maybe he was annoyed with the kids running around and tried to stay away from the house on our visits. And now, with the ravages of age on my memory, there's a lot I'm forgetting about Aunt Tiny.

Tiny wasn't really her name, of course. It was just a nickname that stuck. I mostly remember her telling me about St. Patrick every St. Patrick's Day, which is strange, since our family wasn't Catholic. I also remember the rainy days when we would paint.

Aunt Tiny loved buying stuff at flea markets and yard sales. One of her specialties was old paintings.
When it rained, she would let me help her improve them.

Like, say she originally had a painting of a field. She might decide it needed brighter grass. So we'd repaint the grass. Then with the grass that bright, the sun and sky needed to be redone. And the original artist really missed the boat by not adding any clouds, so we'd have to put some in there. And hey, how about some bunnies in the field, or a flock of birds flying around? Can't have an empty, boring field.

Birds in a big field of green

And after adding all that stuff, we had really done more work than the original artist. What gave him the right to keep his lazy name on it? So we'd paint over the name and paint our own on there.

Three bunnies meet an owl. I don't know what that grass curtain on the left is.
Sometimes the paintings would retain most of the original work, with our improvements enhancing whatever the now-anonymous artist had originally done, other times there was so much paint on the that they became completely new works, like the two paintings here that I've had for ...holy crap, probably over 35 years.

Our big mistake was not publicizing this stuff. I mean, an untaught senior citizen and a little kid manipulating other people's art? If we had thrown around enough bullshit and two-dollar words, we would have been the kings of American postmodernism.

So today when I see art repurposing someone else's original work, my first reaction is usually, "Eh. Aunt Tiny invented that stuff."


The She-Creature said...

Let's hear her take on St. Patrick!

scott said...

All I really remember was her telling me about how he got rid of all the snakes in Ireland. I remember thinking, "That can't possibly be true," but I didn't say anything, because I was a good nephew. Then I was on a quest to find out if there were really snakes in Ireland.

The She-Creature said...

The Irish version of the story is more colorful. Especially after my uncle would pour a batch of screwdrivers for us kids.

scott said...

Even though they came over on the boat, we might have had the only non-drinking Irish family in the world.

The She-Creature said...

Darn, I meant to type, "The 'Irish' version of the story...," but forgot to put quotes around Irish. My relatives were from there, as well as good at "Irishing" everything up. You only missed out on the mode colorful stories. And the fist fights.

JE said...

My only memory of Uncle Norwood was of him trying to take a piece of bread from that fake (but insanely realistic-looking) basket of biscuits that used to sit on the table...where WAS he the rest of the time? And where is that bread basket centerpiece? I can't imagine anyone throwing it away. Thanks for the "Tiny Treasures". -Jill

scott said...

Jill! I look for you every once in a while on facebook - I used to run into Melanie about once a week - at Publix, when I'd go out to eat, just about everywhere. How have you been? I keep thinking of writing up the story of the neighbor's pool party, but I can't remember a lot of the details now.

JE said...

Yeah, I wish I was a little more interested in facebook - it's kind of a pain when you're a teacher. I tried it a couple of times before realizing it could never work, unless I choose an alias - such as "Erin Sloan" may know her. That pool party story deserves an accurate retelling - I don't remember much more than that huge cooler being the main reason we got busted. Super funny and wasn't that when Monica's ultimate clutch move (broken arm) reversed our punishment?! Merry Christmas!!