Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ephemera (specimens captured this day)

Although I spent more money than I would have at the Farmersville auction (in PA), I was able to collect some fine specimens for my collage work today at the ephemera auction at Marquis auction house in Earlville, NY. There were not a lot of people at the auction, but there were a few individuals there who were obviously dealers and who really drove the prices up on some items. But that's okay, I came home with some cool stuff. I've posted here some pictures of some of the more interesting things I got. One of my favorite things for collage and simply for enjoyable reading are medical and health books from the turn of the 20th century. They can contain some pretty wacky stuff. One of the books is entitled "The Perfect Woman" written by Dr. Mary Melendy in 1901 in which she warns that "Self-abuse is practiced among growing girls to such an extent as to arouse serious alarm... it is putting to a vile, selfish use the organs which were given only for a high sacred purpose" (the self abuse to which she refers is masturbation, of course). And at another end of the spectrum is the Holstein Herd Book which documents the names and numbers of registered Holstein cattle. I'm intrigued by such obscure records and of course, I am a sucker for a good image for transfer in my pieces (see the cow above).


  1. Congrats on your finds! Would you be willing to reflect here your introduction to collage and its particular facets which keep you engaged? What does the collage experience evoke uniquely from other medium? It's something about that scalpel, isn't it?
    The rapid advances in the technology of medicine likely gives yesterday's found medical books a feel of two to three centuries in the past, yet the moral strictures, not to mention outright misogyny (I guess I did mention it!), embedded in the American society of 1901, is not as far from the loudly shouted epithets of today's "pro-lifers", for example. Interesting, to me anyway, how our advances in technology have NOT equated with advances in moral and emotional life. Many of us have that friend ever looking for the perfect woman (or man.)

  2. As you know, I used to be a watercolor painter with some talent (in my humble opinion). I enjoyed the end-product and was disciplined with the technique. But I never felt all that creative in the process. And I was less able to explore with painting, both in terms of visual aesthetic and intellectual aspects. I find that I am learning much more through collage than I could through other media too. I mean, for example, I had always seen on country lanes the signs for "Registered Holsteins". I never thought that not only were they registered, EACH had an "official" name and number (and pedigree) too. Finding that book yesterday in Earlville was a real treat! And it stimulates me in a weird way to think about the fact that the people who owned those cows back in 1888! are dead of course, and the cows are LONG gone. But here I am sitting looking through that particular book and musing (after enjoying bidding on it at an auction). To some, that may have been considered a "dead" book. Have I resurrected it? BTW I have volume 8 which was one of the "fattest" ones and has several cow illustrations in it. There were MANY other volumes as well (which I suspect may one day (soon?) be carted away and burned or brought to the landfill. Collage is mentally and psychologically stimulating to me. "Musing" instead of "amusing". "Productive" instead of "consumptive". Ah, collage! Howard, you should join me. I'll teach you the technique and then you can journey too!