Wednesday, October 26, 2011

An Unearthly Palette: The Museum of Bad Art

Most art museums you encounter exhibit excellent art. Commonly, these museums lovingly display their treasures in airy, humidity-controlled, carefully-lit rooms, designed to maximize the pleasure and understanding of the viewer. They aim to show you the best.

None of this applies to the Museum of Bad Art. Cheerfully located in two movie theater basements -- Dedham Community Theatre and the Somerville Theatre -- as well as its newest outlet in the offices of Brookline Access Television, each location aims to show visiting patrons some particularly egregious creations that most of the world would prefer to forget. The placard on the wall in the Somerville Theatre location professes the provenance of this putatively priceless collection:

“The majority of the art in the collection has been purchased at yard sales, second-hand stores, and thrift shops. Some pieces were donated by the artists, and others were rescued from inevitable destruction after being entered as detritus into a solid-waste disposal system.”

"Chiquita" doesn't seem to mind the desert -- or the active volcano.

Many of the pieces had no known titles when they were first acquired by MoBA, so the staff either made them up on the spot or put the pieces up and asked patrons to come up with names and artistic descriptions of each piece. One such piece currently resides at the Somerville location, with a final submission date of March 2010. As it remains untitled, MoBA may still entertain submissions. (This author may enter one soon)

You, too, could caption this picture for MoBA!
The first piece that greets patrons at the Somerville location is titled, “Loneliness in a Blue Lagoon,” by Amal Haidan. The smiling nude blonde lady, kneeling on the beach while facing the viewer, would perhaps be less bad if she weren’t sporting one of the worst documented cases of sunburn ever painted. 

Every piece lacks something of vital importance, such as assorted body parts, shadows, comprehensibility, or taste. For example, “Chiquita” shows a topless lady carrying fruit on her head while winking at the viewer, seems inordinately happy for a woman who has an active volcano erupting right behind her. By contrast, “Mama and Babe” depicts a classic pose of a mother with her child in her lap; but both have faces that look like ugly versions of Edgar Bergen’s Charlie McCarthy doll. The mother’s face is colored aqua, while her daughter’s otherwise-normal hair is a shade of green normally only found on pine-trees and in Japanese anime.
"Mama and Babe"
Don't hate them because they're beautiful.  Run away from them because they're creepy.

Some pieces actually look fairly pretty, such as “March Madness,” but up close... well, it is to laugh.

Words alone cannot properly convey the power - and the gory - of MoBA’s collection. Each MoBA museum is free to enter, but the ones in theaters require that you purchase admission to the theater before entering. Still, if you have nothing better to do before catching your first-run movie in Davis Square, you should investigate the collection. You’ll never get those fifteen minutes of your life back, but you weren’t using them productively anyways.

For more information, and to see some pieces, please visit

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