When is a mistake a gift? When you (that is to say I) learn from it. Mistakes don’t bother me much. As I make a truckload of them daily, this is a very good thing.
Today’s Covid Card story is one of mistakes, surprises, memories, haste, the fast pace of modern life, and the ease in which some of us miss what is right in front of our faces.
The artist is Marvin Beerbohm. And I’ll begin with a failure to stop and smell the traffic emissions aka the fast pace of modern life.
My partner, Neil, and I were running errands yesterday. I believe he had 2.5 for every one of mine so I spent a fair amount of time sitting in the car in parking lots. My list of personal rules is one for a different blog, but rule number 3 or 4 is to never be caught in the world with nothing to do. As a result of this rule, I had a complete compliment (actually, it was a complement, though I do praise my supplies highly) of drawing supplies. In parking lot number one, I whipped out my phone and started searching for today’s post office muralist. Normally, I would use my laptop, which is much more efficient.
After quickly dismissing a few artists, I landed on (not literally) Marvin Beerbohm. As his work is in my favorite social realist style, I enjoyed looking at it, but I felt I’d already paid homage to this style in many Covid Cards. Then I landed on a right fun little gem and I started drawing. By the time the errands were done, the card was almost entirely sketched out.
Having finished the card last night, this morning it was time to learn something about this Beerbohm fellow.
One of the first things I learned is that Beerbohm was not the artist who created the aforementioned “right fun little gem.” And thus…haste and error. I’m not going to tell you which piece I was referring to because I don’t believe in taking the fun out of life for others or in hand holding. And what’s more, I am not above subjecting others to my form of fun.
Next, I learned that the Toronto-born artist spent most of his life in Michigan and that he painted a mural in a post office less than 10 miles from the town where I grow up. While this doesn’t qualify as failing to see something that was right in front of my face, I think it does qualify as a sad footnote to the whole Federal Arts Project of the early 1900s (I should have known about this little piece of art and culture that I had free and easy access to) and it does lead directly to missing something that was right in front of my face (and a memory).
One of the coolest places in Detroit, Michigan is the Burton Collection at the Detroit Public Library. When I lived in Detroit, I went there regularly to pore over the massive collection of Detroit history texts and materials. The Detroit Public Library has a lot of murals and paintings. It’s really a lovely place. I have a very vague memory of a mural in a short hallway, lined with flyers for genealogy groups, that served as the entrance to the Burton Collection. Was it this mural by Marvin Beerbohm? Did I regularly pass it and pay no attention to it? I may never know as the work now belongs to the Smithsonian American Art Museum. How many of us have passed post office murals without giving them the time of day (not that a mural can ask for it)?
Finally… SURPRISE! My not-so-trusty Wikipedia post office muralists list shows Marvin Beerhom (not Marvin Beerbohm) as the artist of the painting in Belding, Michigan (the town close to my home town). My super complex and clearly very reliable method for seeing how many times an artist appears on that list failed me. Marvin Beerbohm, it says, created just one mural. Alas. How much disinformation have I spread through Covid Cards? SMH…
The two murals Beerbohm created are: Pioneer Group at the Red Rock Line – 1845 (Knoxville, Iowa) and Belding Brothers and Their Silk Industry (Belding, Michigan).