A Van Gogh!

A Van Gogh!
From the artists at ArtWorks945

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

That is the name of my latest trade.

The artist’s name is Gregory Dolnikowski. He is a nutrition professor at Tufts University; and he paints in his spare time.

Gregory learned to paint when he was young from his mother who was an artist. (Among other things, she painted the background scenes for displays in the Boston Museum of Natural History.)

Gregory is quite an active artist. He regularly displays his art around Boston; many people commission his paintings; and he even paints at parties. His work can be seen here:


I had a lovely chat with Gregory before Christmas. Nature often inspires his painting: for instance, a rainstorm that beat down upon the windows in his studio inspired The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow.

Listening to Gregory talk about his painting definitely made me want to paint. He clearly finds immense pleasure in the act of painting. He told me that he sometimes loses himself in music as his brush swirls around a canvas. And he particularly enjoys painting at parties, which I must admit sounds like a lot of fun. Best of all, he has a regular job and so doesn’t have to starve like Van Gogh.

Trading for Gregory’s painting was a great way to end the year. I really do feel like that the universe has given me a Christmas gift.

Maybe next year, the universe will give me a Van Gogh for Christmas.

Of course, to get a Van Gogh, I need to make some trades.

So, just to help the universe along a little bit (especially now that I feel as if it is actively on my side), I can’t help but announce:

I want someone to trade for The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow
I want someone to trade for The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow
I want someone to trade for The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

If anyone wants to trade for a Dolnikwoski original, let me know.

You can reach me at: pstudtmann@gmail.com

Friday, December 24, 2010


Peter Smith is a curious artist.

It seems to me that there is a continuum of attitudes about art: On one extreme it is all about the process and/or beauty that comes from making art. On the other extreme it is all about the product, which inevitably comes along with the painter’s reputation and a price.

Peter Smith stands on the far end of the first extreme. He avoids attention; he does not show his art; and he does not even sign his art. He simply likes making works that he thinks are interesting and hanging them in his house.

‘Akrasia’ means weakness of the will. Smith’s painting is chaotic and yellow. It barely coheres. In fact, except for the figure on the top left, it seems random, as if forces entirely indifferent to painting produced it. Even the color does not in some sense of these words ‘make sense’.

And yet it is visually intriguing and demands attention. My eye vacillates between the turtle-like (in a post-modern way) figure on the top left and the blobbish slightly phallic red figure on the lower right. It then wanders over to the ghoulish looking figure that is emerging from the red blob. And then it returns to the post-modern turtle.

Were I to be potentially foolish and pronounce on the meaning of this painting – potentially foolish, because paintings don’t obviously mean anything; but then again, maybe they do – I would say the following: Akrasia is a glimpse into utter weakness of the will, a condition in which nothing makes sense and everything has a yellow tinge.

But how much is it worth? I don’t know. Like I said, Peter Smith has never tried to sell a painting. So maybe I traded Blow to Life for a complete clunker.

But I like it.

And even better yet, at least one other person likes it too. How do I know? Because he wanted to trade a painting for it. In fact, when I return home from Christmas at my girlfriend’s parents’ house, it should be waiting for me.

It’s almost like a gift from Santa.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Who would have thought? I made a trade.

I have been posting to the artist section in various cities on Craisglist, trying to drum up interest in the Van Gogh project. And it finally worked.

The painting is called: Akrasia.

The artist’s name is Peter Smith. He lives in Miami and paints in his spare time.

Peter claims that he liked what I did to Ode To Life. The nails, caulk and the board give it a tangible edginess. (Those were his words.) And he liked the title.

We had a lovely chat on the phone. Interestingly enough, Peter, like Boo, does not show his work in public. People have told him he should try to sell his paintings or, barring that, at least have a show. But he finds the pathological need of artists to gain the admiration of the public a revolting display of petty narcissism. (His words again.) So he just hangs his art in his house.

I asked Peter why he was willing to go public with his work by participating in the Van Gogh Project. And he said he liked the idea that his work would eventually be compared to one of Van Gogh’s.

So there you have it. Call it the power of the internet if you like. Call it the power of luck. I prefer to call it the power of the universe.

In my next post I will describe my reaction to Akrasia.

Until then, however, I can’t help but give the universe a little nudge:

I want someone to trade a painting for Akrasia.
I want someone to trade a painting for Akrasia.
I want someone to trade a painting for Akrasiae.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I Couldn't Help Myself!

I admit -- I became dismayed and disheartened. Jean Clee changed her mind. She doesn’t want to trade for Ode to Life. And not a single other person has shown any interest.

Call it impatience. Call it desperation. Call it a lesson in not doing drugs.

But I decided to modify Ode to Life.

I’ve been doing some home repair and so had nails, paint and caulk lying around my basement. Over the weekend, I put those to artistic use. I took Ode To Life off its frame, nailed it to a board, dipped nails into paint and nailed them onto the painting, and then put caulk and acrylic in various places.

The result is what you see above. I figure it needs a new name. So I’m calling it ‘Blow To Life’.

I was initially appalled at what I had done and so drank a whole bunch of wine to ease my mind. The next morning, however, I woke up and, despite a persistent hangover, came to like the new painting. Indeed, I started feeling downright pleased with myself. But then, as I was walking to Ace Hardware to get some more nails and a pair of rubber gloves, I ran into Herb Jackson.

Herb is an art professor here and is a deservedly well-known artist. His art, in my opinion, is absolutely fantastic. I feel very lucky that I run into him every so often around campus. We had a lovely conversation during which he told me about the change in technique from the impressionists to Van Gogh. As we talked, however, I told him that I might modify the painting I had. That was a lie -- I had already done it but was still feeling a little bashful about what I had done and so couldn’t bring myself to tell him the truth. He told me that I should be careful because it is illegal to deface another artist’s work. After all, I don’t own the copyright.

Fuck! Fuck, fuck and another fuck.

What was I going to do? Had I done something illegal? Or worse yet, had I done something stupid? Have I doomed the Van Gogh Project?

Herb and I finished our conversation, we shook hands, and I worried about these question all the way to the Ace store. As I was perusing boxes of nails, though, an answer appeared to me: I decided that the only way forward was to trust in the power of art. I decided that I would take a poll.

If anyone thinks that I have defaced Ode To Life, please write ‘Boo’ in the comments section of this blog. By saying ‘Boo’, you will at one and the same time express allegiance to the artist who painted Ode To Life and express your dissatisfaction with my addition to it. All those who don’t comment at all will be interpreted as thinking that I have at the very least not worsened Ode To Life and so can’t be accused of defacing it (and hence of not doing anything illegal). On the other hand, if anyone particularly likes the changes, feel free to write ‘Yay!’

And of course, if anyone wants to trade for Blow To Life, let me know.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sarah's Thesis

Damn I have awesome students!

Here is another message I received from a former student of mine, Sarah Adams.

Anyway, I’ve been reading your blog about Van Gogh (nice taste in art by the way!), and I wanted to add some support to Kent’s thesis.

I think that part of the value of the paperclip is how I obtain it. I contend that the method of obtaining an object adds to its value (even if the method you use to obtain it is irrational). If you had given Dominic’s Face with Line Through It to a reputable art dealer, he probably would have thrown it in the trash and laughed at you. But maybe one day, he’ll receive it and think: “this is the drawing that started the Van Gogh project, and that makes it really valuable to me.”

So here’s my thesis: participating in a trade like the kind outlined in your blog and in the story of the red paperclip increases the intrinsic value of an object.

And I’ll support it with a little history of Van Gogh. Did you know Paul Gauguin lived with him in Arles at one point (before he moved to Tahiti)? Apparently in December of 1888, Van Gogh confronted Gauguin with a razor blade because he was afraid Gauguin would leave him. Van Gogh fled in panic after this confrontation, and that was when he cut off a piece of his ear and gave it to a prostitute to keep carefully. Gauguin moved to Tahiti and never saw him again, and Van Gogh died in January of 1889. Some doctors have even speculated that the strange perspective and angles in his painting of the “Bedroom in Arles” are the result of lead poisoning, and that Van Gogh actually saw the world in those strange angles. Lead poisoning could have also caused the rings around the stars in “Starry Night.”

Van Gogh’s “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” sold for $139 million in 1990. Who wouldn’t want to own a painting by a man who tried to kill his friend, ended up cutting off his own ear, and was very probably suffering from lead poisoning? Even if the painting was only halfway decent (and Van Gogh was clearly quite a talented artist), think of all the stories you could tell about its history!


Just to emphasize Sarah’s thesis, here it is again:

Sarah’s Thesis: Participating in a trade like the kind outlined in this blog and in the story of the red paperclip guy increases the intrinsic value of an object.

For self-interested reasons I really like this thesis.

But of course it is one thing for me to like Sarah’s Thesis and another for it to be true. But is it? In my next blog post, I will argue that its truth depends on a particularly difficult topic: the nature of value.

Until next time, however, if anyone wants to (perhaps) increase the value of a piece of art you own, let me know – I’ll trade you for Ode to Life.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Kent's Thesis Revisited

According to Kent's thesis, the process of trading up need not involve irrationality. Why? Because people can place different values on items. Hence, when two people trade, even though one person is in some sense getting the better deal, they both end up with something that they prefer. Hence, both have acted rationally.

Consider an example. I have a paperclip and you have a pen. I really want a pen but have no use for a paperclip; you really want a paperclip and have no use for a pen. We somehow meet, both realize the other’s position, and so decide to trade.

When we trade, we both end up with something we value. Because you really value a paperclip and not a pen, you end up making a rational trade – after all, why not give up something that you don’t want for something that you do? And because I prefer a pen to a paperclip, I act rationally too.

Now, in a bartering system, this sort of process can and does happen. Indeed, in a bartering system, something like this almost inevitably happens. So if we were all forced to barter for our goods, it would be possible for someone to trade up from a paperclip to a house without any sort of irrationality.

So there is at least one circumstance -- if we must barter for our goods -- that validates Kent's thesis.

But of course we don't barter for our goods. Instead, we use money; and this changes things. Although you might prefer a paperclip to a red pen, you presumably would prefer two paperclips to one. And given that you have a pen, you could get two, and indeed perhaps twenty, paperclips by selling your pen and then using that money to buy paperclips.

So if we have a monetary system, it looks like trading a pen for a paperclip involves irrationality. After all, why get only one paperclip for your pen when you could get twenty?

There is, however, a complicating factor: transaction costs. Using money involves a certain cost.

To see this, suppose that we are sitting outside on a bench having a pleasant chat and so could easily make a trade. Suppose further that it would be quite a hassle for you to find someone who is willing to buy your pen and then find someone else who could sell you twenty paperclips. In such a situation, the transaction costs involved in using money may be greater than the difference in value between the pen and the paperclip.

In such a case it may be rational for you to forego the additional nineteen paperclips. If the time, effort and other additional costs involved in using money for the transaction were not worth nineteen paperclips, then it would be rational for you to make the trade.

In general, if the transaction costs are greater than the difference in value between two items, it can be rational for someone to make a trade even though he is trading for something that is worth less money than what he currently possesses.

So there is a second circumstance that validates Kent's thesis. If for every trade, the transaction costs were greater than the difference in value between the items traded, then someone could trade up from a paperclip to a house without there being any irrationality involved.

There is yet one final complicating factor: subjective value. Suppose that for some reason you really liked the idea of trading a pen for a paperclip. Suppose, for instance, that you believed that making such a trade would curry the favor of the gods. And suppose further that you value the favor of the gods more than you value the money you would lose were you to trade a pen for a paperclip. In such a situation, it would be rational for you to make a trade.

So we have a third circumstance that validates Kent's thesis: If for every trade, the person trading for the less expensive item placed a subjective value on the trade itself that was greater than the value of the money the he was losing, then someone could trade up from a paperclip to a house without there being any irrationality involved.

But now we must ask: in the cases of the red paperclip guy and the kid who traded from a cell phone to a Porsche, were either of these circumstances actualized?

What about the first circumstance: was it the case that the transaction costs were greater than the difference in value between the items traded?

The answer to this question is almost certainly 'no'. Why? Because the difference in value between a paperclip and a house is around $200,000. So if irrationality were not involved, the total transaction costs involved in the series of fourteen trades would have to equal $200,000. But it is very implausible to suppose that there really are such significant transaction costs. Using money may sometimes be inefficient. But it would be surprising in the extreme were it that inefficient.

What about the second circumstance: Did the people involved collectively place a subjective value on the trades that equaled the difference in value between the first and last items traded?

Here, I must admit, we run into a difficulty: How do we know the values that the people had? Indeed, it is plausible to suppose that in the case of the red paperclip guy some of the people were motivated by the notoriety and fun involved in the process. Hence, it is plausible to suppose that they would place at least some value on the act of trading itself. And perhaps the people involved collectively valued the notoriety and fun as much as they collectively valued $200,000. If so, then the trading process would not have been fueled by irrationality.

But this is where the kid who traded from a cell phone to a Porsche comes into play. In the case of the red paperclip guy people may have been motivated in part by the notoriety and the fun involved in the process. But the kid who traded up from a cell phone to a Porsche was not advertising what he was doing; hence, one could not explain away the irrationality in his series of trades by appealing to notoriety and fun.

So in the case of the kid, it seems clear that irrationality was active. But if it was active in the case of the kid, it was probably active in the case of the red paperclip guy as well.

So even though I think Kent’s thesis is true – it could be the case that no irrationality is involved in the process of trading from a red paperclip to a house– I think that a great deal of irrationality was in fact involved.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Kent's Thesis

I must admit – I love my students. I try not to let people know that. But it’s true. How could you not love them when they send you messages like this?

Subject: Van Gogh...

Wait, the apparent jump in value from an initial item to another in 'trading up' does not require irrationality. I feel like it's evidence for a great deal of relativistic weight to valuing, and that it's sort of just another example of supply and demand. For example, being able to trade from a paperclip to a house does not show that people do not act in the most economically rational ways. Rather it shows that at some time a chain of circumstances has existed such that over that span of time a particular paperclip was equal in value to a particular house. This can work in perfectly rational ways. If we attach relativized values to each item through the trade, we can show how each item is truly equal in value, so that no net (relativized) value is lost from beginning to end.

And, it seems that the decision-making processes that resulted in everyone's evaluation of each item could itself involve totally rational concerns and decisions - (i.e., I have a second house I don't need/want, it will take a lot of work and energy to sell it under normal circumstances, I don't want to pay taxes or for upkeep another year, and I want a used car...you have a used car that you don't need, and you don't want to deal with selling it and paying the taxes, you want a house in the country, etc...we are in an interesting position, where the ideal market value for our possessions is quite different from their actual, real-time value. Basically, in trading we both can end up in a better position than we were beforehand. Even though my cool house seems worth more than your dumb old car, when we take in all the real-world costs and benefits at the time (take in more data), we can trade and both trade up). So the incredible thing is just how disparate people's evaluations of various things (concrete or not) can be.

That is from Kent Ford, a former student who is now…hmmm…Kent, what the hell are you doing? Last I heard you were in New Orleans with plans to sail somewhere exotic. Whatever it is, I hope you are using that mind of yours.

I will call the following Kent’s Thesis:

The process of trading up from a red paperclip to a house need not involve any irrationality.

I think Kent is right -- it need not involve irrationality. But I also think that it in fact did. I will try to explain why in my next post.

Until then, let me tell my former students – I know some of you are reading this – if you want to trade a painting for Ode To Life, god damn it, let me know!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


What is it about crazy?

Jean Clee is, I am pretty sure, a bit looped.

I wouldn’t normally say such a thing. I know she will read this. But there it is – she’s a bit looped.

Nonetheless, I’m beginning to like her. A lot.

She traded Boo’s Ode to Life for my Kelly Lambert original. Now she wants to trade another of Boo’s painting for Ode to Life.


I’m not sure. Why and crazy don’t get along very well. So I don’t know what her motives are. And that makes me a bit nervous.

I know this trading up to a Van Gogh thing is already a bit of a weird venture. So maybe I shouldn’t be too concerned that suddenly the only interest I am getting is from a woman I don’t know who claims to have paintings from an artist no one has heard of. But it is all a bit odd.

With that said, the painting she wants to trade is pretty awesome. Indeed, I would say it is close to a masterpiece.

So should I trade?

I don’t know. I don’t even know if Boo ever existed. For all I know, Jean Clee stole these paintings.

What to do? What to do?

I know! I will ask the universe for help. If the universe hasn’t responded in two weeks, I will trade Jean Clee for another of Boo’s paintings.


I want someone besides Jean Clee to trade me for Boo’s Ode to Life.
I want someone besides Jean Clee to trade me for Boo’s Ode to Life.
I want someone besides Jean Clee to trade me for Boo’s Ode to Life.

There. I feel much better. And optimistic.

It’s funny how therapeutic it is to ask for what you want.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ode To Life

The universe works in mysterious ways. I have made a trade.

The painting is called Ode To Life. I received it from an art collector, Jean Clee, who in her own words ‘travels all over the world looking for neglected works of brilliance.’

The artist, according to Madame Clee, emigrated to the United States from Czechosolovokia in the early 80’s and has recently died of AIDS. Madame Clee purchased all his work prior to his death and has offered to trade me this painting for the Kellie Lambert original.

The artist’s name, believe it or not, is ‘Boo’. Though you might think that someone with the name ‘Boo’ would have made a mark in his lifetime, Boo is apparently totally unknown in the art world.

The painting is the replication of part of a huge painting that appeared on the wall of the New York MOMA. The original was painted by Kara Walker and is called Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occurred b’tween the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and her Heart. Walker’s painting is, to be sure, a masterpiece.

So this painting is in some sense utterly post-modern. It is derivative upon a huge painting that was painted for the MOMA.

And yet, despite its post-modernity, indeed perhaps because of it, this painting is rather incredible.

The subject matter is shocking: what looks like a girl giving a blowjob to what looks like a boy who stands with his hands outstretched in a moment of joy.

And the color is striking too. The original is entirely black and white. But this one has shades of blue that both suggest and betray the forgotten innocence of the boy and girl. I am not sure how the artist did it, but the color demands attention.

So both the subject matter and the color transfix the viewer.

It is perhaps for these reasons that Madame Clee told me: Few have the eye to see just how brilliant this painting is. Plagiarism be damned!

So there you have it -- my latest painting. It is from an obscure artist who copied part of a painting that appears in the MOMA; and a self-proclaimed art collector traded it to me for Kellie Lambert’s original.

So did I trade up? Who the fuck knows?

But I couldn’t be more pleased. I love this painting.

If anyone wants to trade for Ode to Life, let me know.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

To Be (Rational) Or Not To Be (Rational)

I did not expect to be in this position. I’ve had a number of offers to trade. And I haven’t accepted any of them.

I can’t give any particularly rational reason for my refusal to trade. It boils down to the fact that I really like Kellie Lambert’s painting and haven’t been offered a painting that I like better than it.

My current stinginess, however, has made me wonder about rationality.

As I’ve said in previous posts, the whole process of trading up must involve a good deal of irrational behavior. And I’ve speculated that perhaps the predictable irrationality of people is what makes trading up possible.

But I now am wondering whether it would make sense to reintroduce the lottery idea into this scheme. Just as a refresher, I had toyed with the idea of giving anyone who traded with me the right to enter into a lottery for the Van Gogh at half of what the price of a lottery ticket would be worth. People could then either sell their right or enter the lottery at a highly discounter price.

Were there to be a lottery of this sort, half of the irrationality in the trading process would be eliminated. With a lottery in place those who traded with me would collectively lose half the value of Van Gogh. But losing half the value of a Van Gogh is less irrational than losing its full value.

So should I or shouldn’t I try to inject this process with a little more rationality?

I am inclined to think that I shouldn’t. Despite the fact that I am partial to rationality – I have studied way too much Aristotle not to be – a brief look at the world would convince most anyone that irrationality reigns. Consider politics. Repeatedly shouting slogans, it would seem, is far more effective than calm rational deliberation.

Nonetheless, I am open to the potential power of rationality. So I have decided to make a decision based upon my next trade. If the person who trades with me would be willing to trade a significantly better painting if a lottery is involved, then I will go with a lottery. If not, then I won’t.

And since I am so concerned with rationality, I want to take this opportunity to tell the universe:

I want to trade my original Kellie Lambert for a significantly valuable painting.
I want to trade my original Kellie Lambert for a significantly valuable painting.
I want to trade my original Kellie Lambert for a significantly valuable painting.

Anyone who wants to trade, let me know.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Van Gogh's Prostitutes

It is easy to turn someone into a saint, especially someone as brilliant and tragic as Van Gogh.

In fact, I am guilty of doing just that. When I think about Van Gogh, I can almost see a halo above his head. I form an image of a man who nobly pursued beauty in its purest form, a man with an untainted soul who was too good for this world, a man whose unrivalled artistic sensibilities led him to an act of tragic self-harm.

But was Van Gogh a saint?

That of course is a tricky question. But it is clear from his letters that he engaged in behavior that we typically don’t associate with saints.

After falling in love with two women who did not reciprocate his feelings, Van Gogh ended up living with a low class prostitute named Sien.

The following are three sentences taken from three of Van Gogh’s letters.

Van Gogh’s Prostitutes

And I tell you frankly that in my opinion one must not hesitate to go to a prostitute occasionally if there is one you can trust and feel something for, as there really are many.

I am reading the last part of Les Misérables; the figure of Fantine, a prostitute, made a deep impression on me...

To explain my meaning more clearly, let me begin by saying that even his most beautiful weeping Magdalenes or Mater Dolorosas always simply remind me of the tears of a beautiful prostitute who has caught a venereal disease or some such small misery of human life.

So maybe Van Gogh wasn’t so saintly after all.

But then again, maybe there is nothing un-saintly about frequenting prostitutes. Indeed, some have speculated that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute.

So maybe we are all too Victorian in our moral sensibilities.

The Catholic Church requires a saint to have performed three miracles. But I don’t see why the Catholic Church should have the final word on this matter. I will therefore articulate the following thesis. I will call it the Ho-Ho-Ho thesis.

Ho-Ho-Ho Thesis: Any saint must sleep with a prostitute at least three times.

See, I am doing it again. I can ‘t help but think of Van Gogh as a saint. And I will do just about anything to continue to do so.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Kellie Lambert's Dream

In Kellie Lambert’s Dickinson period, her paintings were a surrealistic and symbolic montage. It is not, however, the surrealism of Dali. No, it is a surrealism that harkens back to Emily Dickinson.

In this painting two birds float in the foreground. One is black and dominant; the other, pink and submissive. I can’t help but suspect that the birds are related. Perhaps they are sisters. The older sister, I think, is the bolder darker one.

Above the birds to the right is a tree house. The tree that holds the tree house descends into a series of logs under which peak out two barely noticeable feet that belong to a little girl. The feet perhaps represent the buried desires that exist in their most innocent form in the tree houses of children.

Above the birds to the left is a pale window. All windows point both outside and inside. The window in this painting would seem to be pointing primarily inside – it is giving us a glimpse of someone’s inner being. Nonetheless, the window makes one feel as if one can see beyond it to the outside. It thus in a peculiar way gives both perspectives.

In the lower left corner sits a black figure. Although it is on the same level as the child’s feet, as a result of the bright color surrounding it the figure visually feels like the lowest part of the painting. Perhaps it represents death, that permanent inhabitant of all our deepest feelings.

There is much more to say about this painting. It has a peculiar geometry. The colors are almost painful. And much, much more.

Come Slowly, Eden! What is Kellie saying? I feel as if she is trying to say something. But then again, perhaps not. Dreams are like that.

It is a remarkable painting.

Anyone who wants to trade, let me know.

Monday, August 23, 2010

I Didn't Do It!

I wish I had. But I didn’t.

Over the weekend thieves stole a Van Gogh painting called ‘Poppy Flowers’ from a museum in Cairo. The painting is worth $50 million.


As I said, I didn’t commit the crime. But I understand the impulse. The thieves probably wanted a Van Gogh to hang on their wall, just like I do.

Although the criminals probably don’t read my blog, I want them to know that I understand their desire. And since I feel such a close bond with them, I also want them to know that I am willing to help them out.

Since they probably need some place to store the painting, if they want to trade their Van Gogh for my Kellie Lambert original, I would be more than willing hang Poppy Flowers on my wall while the manhunt subsides.

So, Van Gogh thieves – if you’re listening, and if you want to trade your Van Gogh for my awesome Kellie Lambert original, let me know.

And anyone else with a Van Gogh, (or any other cool painting), if you want to trade for my Kellie Lambert original, let me know.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Trade, A Trade, A Mother Fucking Trade!

You’ll have to excuse my enthusiasm. But I really was beginning to worry that I had become stuck. It had been almost a month since my last trade. And I was beginning to think that the universe had turned against me. But last night, just a few days after my birthday and a few days before the end of the summer, I made a trade.

I must admit, I think the universe timed things rather well. This time of year can be a bit distressing, at least if you are a teacher. As my good friend, Susan, said a few weeks ago as we were walking along a dock to her boyfriend’s boat, every teacher, even the most eager, says a secret ‘Oh Fuck!’ as the school year approaches. So let me be the first to thank the universe for providing a very pleasant surprise before my ‘Oh Fuck!’ begins. And let me thank as well someone who has chosen to remain anonymous but who gave me a beautiful painting by an intriguing artist named Kellie Lambert.

I don’t know much about Kellie Lambert. In fact, I know hardly anything at all. So let me just make some stuff up.

Some have speculated that Kellie Lambert was a renegade. Some claim to see dark inner struggles in her work. Others dismiss her as an insignificant attention seeker. Whatever one thinks about her, however, her art has without a doubt made its mark in local art circles in the United States. Artists ranging from Smith to Birscht have all admitted their tremendous debt to her artistic vision, a vision that culminated in a handful of stunning paintings from what is now called her ‘Dickinson Period’.

The painting I now have belongs, believe it or not, to Kellie Lambert’s Dickinson Period.

I will do my best in the next post to describe my feelings about the painting. Until then, if anyone wants to trade for this amazing Kelie Lambert original, let me know.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Van Gogh's Funeral

Ok. I admit. I’m becoming gloomy. I think the universe has abandoned me. I have had no offers to trade.

Because misery loves company, I looked at a letter written by Emile Bernard, an artist who attended Van Gogh’s funeral. It is a magnificent letter, though of course a painfully sad one.

It too paints a portrait of Van Gogh.

He finally died on Monday evening, still smoking his pipe which he refused to let go of, explaining that his suicide had been absolutely deliberate and that he had done it in complete lucidity.

On the walls of the room where his body was laid out all his last canvases were hung making a sort of halo for him and the brilliance of the genius that radiated from them made this death even more painful for us artists who were there.

We climbed the hill outside Auvers talking about him, about the daring impulse he had given to art, of the great projects he was always thinking about, and of the good he had done to all of us.

Anyone would have started crying at that moment…the day was too much made for him for one not to imagine that he was still alive and enjoying it

He was, Gachet said, an honest man and a great artist who had only two aims: humanity and art.

Even Van Gogh’s funeral, it would seem, was beautiful.

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Request, (round two)

I wish I had good news. But except for a distant lead that might come to fruition in a few weeks, I haven’t had any luck trading for a painting.

I have been feeling a bit down about the matter and have been trying to figure out how to generate more leads. And it did occur to me that I could ask the universe again. But then I began to worry that asking again might be a bit pushy. And maybe the universe doesn’t like pushy. But then I though -- fuck it! If I’m going to get a Van Gogh, I better be at least a little pushy. And besides, the universe may appreciate persistence.

So, universe god damn it!

I want to trade my Melanie Bamberg triptych for a painting.
I want to trade my Melanie Bamberg triptych for a painting.
I want to trade my Melanie Bamberg triptych for a painting.

If anyone has any leads, let me know.

Monday, July 26, 2010

News and More News

News Flash 1: Did you hear? A seventeen year old just traded from a cell phone to a Porsche.


I must admit – when I first heard about this story, I became quite dispirited. I thought that surely the novelty of trading up will now have worn off and so no one will want to trade with me.

But I now think that my reaction was irrational. This latest trading up might improve my chances. Why? Because the fact that a second person has traded up so spectacularly suggests that red paper clip guy’s trading up wasn’t a fluke. One person doing something very surprising might always be a fluke. Two people doing something surprising, however, suggests that the event wasn’t a fluke. And non-flukes are generally not as hard to reproduce as flukes.

But the latest trading-up story has made me scratch my head a bit. When the red paper clip guy traded, people may have been motivated to participate just for novelty’s sake. But this latest story simply involves a kid bartering over Craigslist for items of increasing value. So novelty doesn’t seem to have anything to do with it. Instead, what seems to be at play is irrationality. Over the course of fourteen trades, the collective group that traded with the kid lost close to a Porsche in value. So somewhere in the whole process some people acted irrationally.

So here's a question: Why would people act so irrationally?

And here's an answer: Because people are predictably irrational.

Indeed, a whole school of economics has sprung up recently that studies predictable irrationality. Dan Ariely, an economist at Duke, wrote a great book about it called Predictably Irrational. I highly recommend it.

All this has made me formulate a thesis, which I shall call the Irrationality Thesis (IT):

IT: Predictably irrational desires provide the fuel for trading up.

If IT is true, I should be feeling quite optimistic right now. Since art is by its very nature irrational, I may be working with jet fuel.

News Flash # 2

My attempt to make another trade fell through. I didn’t even go see the painting.

I was quite dispirited about this fact too. But then it occurred to me – the universe is giving me a sign. It is punishing me for my hubris.

After formulating the Ask Thesis in my last post – if you don’t remember it, the Ask Thesis asserts that asking for something is almost always a better strategy than not asking – I didn’t ask the universe for a trade. I simply assumed that the trade would happen. But the universe, I am now inclined to think, likes to be asked.

So, properly chastened, let me now announce to the universe:

I want to trade my Melanie Bamberg triptych for a really great painting.
I want to trade my Melanie Bamberg triptych for a really great painting.
I want to trade my Melanie Bamberg triptych for a really great painting.

If anyone wants to trade, let me know.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Two Theses

It has been a few weeks since I traded for Melanie Bamberg’s Broken City triptych, but I wasn’t having any luck in getting another trade. As I sat around thinking about this fact a few nights ago, two thoughts struck me.

First, it occurred to me that perhaps in the near future someone will make a machine that can create a perfect molecule for molecule replica of Starry Night. There is already a process – it is called Giclee --that produces a painting from a digital picture. It is like a Xerox machine for painting. So I could take a picture of Starry Night and Giclee it. But a Giclee is hardly a molecule for molecule duplicate. What I have in mind would be a process that analyzes a painting at the level of molecules and reproduces it.

Such a machine is a popular one in philosophical thought experiments. One is asked to imagine a machine that could produce an exact replica of a painting and is then asked whether one would prefer the original or the duplicate. Of course, just about everyone would prefer to own the original, which is meant to show that our aesthetic preferences are shaped by factors that are extrinsic to works of art. As a result, philosophers conclude, either factors completely extrinsic to a work of art, factors like its causal origin, alter its aesthetic value or we have irrational aesthetic preferences.

But to my knowledge, no one has speculated that such a machine will in fact exist. And so I have formulated the following thesis, which I shall call the replicator thesis (RT).

RT: Within 100 years there will be a machine that can produce a molecule for molecule replica of Starry Night.

A second thought popped into my head the other night as well. I have yet to declare to the universe that I want someone to trade for my Melanie Bamberg. And that made me think about the extent to which asking for something raises the chances of getting that thing.

It seems to me that asking is almost always a good strategy. If you ask, and the person (or universe) says ‘yes’, then you get what you want. If the person says ‘no’, you are no worse off than if you hadn’t asked. The only problem comes in situations in which asking causes someone who was antecedently planning on giving you what you want not to give. But that type of situation, it seems to me, is fairly rare.

So I formulated a second thesis. I shall call it the Asking Thesis (AT):

AT: Asking for what you want is almost always a better strategy than not asking.

And having formulated that thesis, I was determined to declare to the universe that I want someone to trade for my Melanie Bamberg original triptych. But the very next day, I got lucky. A professional artist who paints in the abstract style saw Melanie’s paintings hanging on my wall and really liked them. She said that she has a painting that she wants to trade for Melanie’s. I am supposed to go see it on Saturday. I can’t wait. So I will save my desire declarations for another time.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Van Gogh the Pauper

I was in NYC this last weekend and while there visited the Museum of Modern Art. And guess what? It has Starry Night. So I spent a considerable amount of time looking at it just to see what makes it so much better than the Dominic original.

I thought that I was close to seeing what it was; but then I happened to wander over to a collection of paintings by Picasso. And when I did, I couldn’t help but think that Dominic’s drawing really might belong in the collection of great artworks.

One thing, however, is certain: Van Gogh’s Starry Night is worth a whole lot more than Dominic’s drawing.

And that got me to thinking about what Van Gogh’s finances were like just after he painted it. And that led me to the following sentences from two of his letters to Theo just after he painted Starry Night. The sentences paint an interesting picture. I shall call it:

The Pauper

These four days I have lived mainly on 23 cups of coffee, with bread which I still have to pay for.

I am almost sure that Bague will like my big studies, the “Starry Sky,” “Furrows,” etc., he will like some in the last batch much less.

I have a lot of expenses, and it worries me a good deal sometimes when I realize more and more that painting is a profession carried on most likely by exceedingly poor men, and it costs so much money.

So Van Gogh, having painted what would become considered one of the greatest paintings of all time, was forced to live on coffee and bread, was worried whether some collector would like his paintings, and was dismayed by the fact that painting cost so much. And what did he have in his possession at that time? A future treasure, as is shown by another sentence from the same letters.

That's 5 canvases I have in progress this week, that brings the number of these size 30 canvases for the decoration to 15, I think.
2 canvases of sunflowers
3 “ the poet's garden
2 “ the other garden
1 “ the night cafĂ©
1 “ the Trinquetaille bridge
1 “ the railway bridge
1 “ the house
1 “ Tarascon diligence
1 “ the starry night
1 “ the furrows
1 “ the vineyard

Van Gogh was 35 when he wrote these letters and hence had less than two years to live.

The universe is a funny thing. Perhaps Van Gogh didn’t ask enough of it. Or perhaps he asked too much.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Van Gogh at 30

Van Gogh painted himself. His self-portraits are some of his best-known works.

Interestingly enough, Van Gogh also painted himself in written form. His letters to Theo, his brother, paint a fascinating picture of Van Gogh throughout his life.

Those letters can be accessed in unabridged form here:


Of course, all pictures misrepresent. And today, we are presented with pictures within pictures within pictures. It is enough to drive one mad.

But at the risk of driving someone to madness, here is a picture of Van Gogh composed from four sentences taken from a letter he wrote to Theo February 8, 1883 at the age of thirty.

I will call the picture:

Van Gogh at Thirty.

Sometimes I cannot believe that I am only thirty years old, I feel so much older.

I feel older only when I think that most people who know me consider me a failure, and how it really might be so, if some things do not change for the better; and when I think it might be so, I feel it so vividly that it quite depresses me and makes me as downhearted as if it were really so.

I sometimes think I will make an experiment, and try to work in quite a different way, that is, to dare more and to risk more,

What a mystery life is, and love is a mystery within a mystery. It certainly never remains the same in a literal sense, but the changes are like the ebb and flow of the tide and leave the sea unchanged.

At 30, Van Gogh considered himself a failure, as did most everyone else; he resolved to take more risks; and he was, it would seem, a romantic.

At 36, Van Gogh was unable to find love, unable to consider himself a success.

At 37, Van Gogh was dead.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Melanie's Paintings

First things first – Melanie’s paintings should be displayed vertically, not in a triangle, like I had them before today. When hung vertically, they form an obvious progression from the heat of the day to the cool of a moonlit night.

So what do I like about Melanie’s paintings?

This may sound like criticism, but it is far from it – I like Melanie’s paintings because they are childlike. Not childish. Childlike. If you were to try to paint the dream of a child, these are what you would paint. The buildings are distended, as if alive. The windows, especially in the middle painting, look like eyes. The sun in the top and bottom paintings looks almost as if it has been spit up from the street. And the street itself looks as if it is standing straight up and down.

Melanie, it seems to me, has captured brilliantly a recurrent dream image of a child. And that is no insignificant feat.

It seems to me that capturing is perhaps one of the fundamental artistic metaphors.

Great artists somehow capture something.

Maybe the fact that capturing is so important to art is part of the reason that photography changed art so much. Photographs capture rather well the world just as it is. So with the advent of photography artists had to figure out not just how to capture something but also what to capture. And that doubles the difficulty.

This is pure speculation, but perhaps what makes contemporary art so difficult, both to produce and to appreciate, is the fact that artists must now figure out both what to capture and how to capture it. Picasso’s cubist attempts to capture the three dimensionality of a person on a two dimensional plane is a case in point. It took a genius to think that such a phenomenon could and should be captured and then to figure out how to do it. And it takes a certain aesthetic leap to appreciate Picasso’s cubist paintings. Neither capturing what is not part of the world nor appreciating what is captured are easy feats.

And this in part is what I like so much about Melanie’s paintings. She has captured a child’s dream. Indeed, when I look at Melanie’s paintings I feel a bit like a child who has been winked at by someone who knows about his dreams.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Three For One

I made another trade. But I didn’t just get one painting. No, I got three.

Last night I drove to Melanie Bamberg's place to see her collection of art. But as I did, Kelly's first question kept bouncing around in my head: How will I know if I trade up?

In fact, I was almost driven to distraction by that question.

But then Melanie solved the dilemma for me. After she showed me her very interesting collection of art, she offered me three paintings for one. And in strictly numerical terms, getting three for one is a trade up.

Indeed, as I thought about trading with Melanie, I couldn’t help but consider an interesting possibility. If I got three paintings in this trade, maybe in my next trade I can get eight paintings; and in the next, seventeen. Who knows? In ten trades I may have eight thousand paintings; and I bet I could trade eight thousand paintings for a Van Gogh.

Of course, I still want to trade for good paintings, even if I am getting more of them.

But in the case of Melanie’s paintings I couldn’t be more pleased.

When I looked at Melanie’s facebook gallery of paintings a few days before visiting her, I immediately noticed the three that I eventually traded for. But when I saw them online, I thought: surely, Melanie won’t give even one of those paintings away. They are all so cool. I really dug those paintings. Still do.

But then Melanie offered to give me all three. I was flabbergasted. Still am.

In my next post, I will tell you what I think is so cool about Melanie’s paintings.

But before doing so, let me first thank Melanie for giving me three such awesome paintings.

And before leaving for the day, let me add: if anyone wants to trade for my three totally cool Melanie Bamberg paintings, let me know.

Monday, June 28, 2010


3500 ceramic pieces in a little over ten years. -- that’s how many Picasso made near the end of his life.

I learned that fact over the weekend at a museum in Charleston. I am still stunned by it. That’s about one piece a day. Except for performing basic biological functions, I haven’t done anything every day for even a week much less ten years.

So I’m feeling pretty ordinary compared to good old Picasso.

As I drove away from Charleston I thought that perhaps I would feel a bit less ordinary were I to trade up to Charleston. That way I would own the museum that holds the Picasso vase that made me feel so ordinary.

Could I trade up to Charleston?

Probably not.

Besides, even though Picasso is great, I still prefer Van Gogh. I think it has something to do with his ear. And I don’t think there are any Van Gogh's in Charleston.

So I will stick to my original plan. Trading up to a Van Gogh.

And as I mentioned last week, I am supposed to go see another artist’s paintings on Wednesday.

I have seen pictures of the artist’s work online, and I think they are great. So I can’t wait.

I will let you know what happens in my next post.

Just to help things along, though, I can’t help but tell the universe:

I want to trade my Kelly Koeppel this week for a cool painting.
I want to trade my Kelly Koeppel this week for a cool painting.
I want to trade my Kelly Koeppel this week for a cool painting.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pagan Rituals

Two nights ago was the summer solstice. What a beautiful night.

I think Van Gogh liked the summer solstice. That is pure speculation on my part. But it is hard not to like the summer solstice. The moon takes on a special glow.

I wonder whether Van Gogh ever engaged in a pagan ritual. He was an artist after all. Aren’t they supposed to do that kind of thing?

Does anyone really know what Van Gogh was like? I would like to know what he was like. Did he know about pagan rituals? Did he engage in any?

I think it would be a shame if there were no truth to pagan rituals. Indeed, I propose a bold thesis:

If there isn’t at least some truth to pagan rituals, the world is less beautiful than it could have been.

Pagan rituals, after all, are beautiful.

I will call that thesis: The Pagan Ritual Thesis (PRT)

And because I feel so strongly about PRT, I am going to declare to the universe:

Let there be at least some truth to pagan rituals.
Let there be at least some truth to pagan rituals.
Let there be at least some truth to pagan rituals.

And now that I have the universe’s attention, I want to thank it for the lovely time I had two nights ago – it was a beautiful summer solstice.

And on an unrelated note, someone else may be interested in trading. A week from today I am supposed to go see her collection of art. I can’t wait.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Kelly's Second Question

I want a Van Gogh. So I decided I’d try to trade up to one just like the red paper clip guy traded up from a paper clip to a house. But in order to make my plan a bit different and so potentially more interesting, I thought I would hold a lottery for the Van Gogh once I got it. If I gave all and only those people who traded with me the right to buy a lottery ticket for half the ticket’s real price, anyone who traded with me would get some benefit in addition to helping me achieve my goal. That, I thought, might be lots of fun.

But then, as I was in the middle of trading with Kelly, she asked very bluntly:

With the addition of the lottery, hasn’t your plan now become too much of a scheme? Won’t money taint it?

If I could express in words the sinking feeling I had when she asked me those questions, I would. Maybe Kelly was right. Maybe I had tainted my plan. Money does do that. And people don’t like getting caught up in a scheme. So maybe I should stick to trading up to a Van Gogh and leave out the lottery part.

Kelly then had a very good suggestion: why don’t you ask some of the other people who might trade with you what they think?

So that is what I will do. I will ask the next few people interested in trading which plan they prefer: trading up without a lottery or trading up with a lottery.

But just to set the stage, here are what I take to be the pros and cons of the two plans.

Trading Up Without Lottery


Isn’t tainted with money.


Isn’t all that different from the red paper clip guy’s plan.

People who trade with me won’t get any benefit other than having
participated in my pursuit of a Van Gogh

Trading Up With Lottery


People who trade with me could benefit monetarily and could, if they so choose, donate such money to some worthy cause.


Taints the process with money and so seems like a scheme.

Those are the options at the moment. If anyone has any thoughts, let me know.

And of course if anyone wants to trade for my awesome Kelly Koeppel original, let me know that as well.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Kelly's First Question

As Kelly looked for paintings in her garage, she asked me a simple question: how will you know when you have traded up?

‘Well’, I said, in a confident tone, ‘there are different ways.’

‘Like what?’ Kelly asked.

‘I could, umm, see what it is worth on the market.’

‘But what if it hasn’t been sold? Or what if the market value doesn’t reflect its quality?’

And with just a few questions, Kelly had exposed a soft underbelly of my plan. It is easy to see why a snowmobile is worth more than a red paper clip. But it is not nearly so easy to see why a Van Gogh is worth more than a Turner or a Manet. Or, to make the point more local, it is not so easy to see why the paintings that Kelly has are worth more than the Dominic original.

Having been asked such an important question, I countered with a lame response: I guess I’ll just have to see whether I like it.

Ugh. Is that it? Is that all I can say about whether I have traded up? Is it really a matter of my looking at some piece of art and, just as if I were Homer Simpson, saying ‘I like that one’?

This problem only got worse once I saw the painting that I eventually traded for. When I saw it, I was immediately struck by it and thought to myself – no way will Kelly trade me that one for the Dominic. But Kelly told me emphatically that she hated it, which made trading for it seem like a good deal for both of us.

Our transaction, however, suddenly made me a little worried. In fact, shortly after leaving Kelly’s house, I began to engage in a bizarre philosophical thought experiment.

Maybe Kelly got the better deal after all. Maybe Dominic’s original is the greatest work ever produced and in my attempt to end up with a supposed masterpiece I have in fact embarked on a long process of trading down. After all, if beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, maybe the beholders will eventually judge Dominic’s drawing to be the pinnacle of artistic progress.


But that is only the first question Kelly raised about my plan. She had another even more difficult question.

I’ll wait until next time, however, to tell you what that question is.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Trade!

I feel like a kid who has tasted candy for the first time. Last night, I traded my Dominic original for a Kelly Koeppel original. And I haven’t been able to think about anything else since.

I spent two absolutely brilliant hours last night looking at Kelly’s collection and talking to her. I will try to recount some of the more interesting aspects of our conversation in the next few posts. But let me first talk about her painting.

That’s a picture of Kelly’s painting right above the Dominic. It is in my not so humble opinion (IMNSHO) fascinating. It is fascinating in its own right. But what makes it even more fascinating is the fact that Kelly hates it. The artist hates her own painting. And yet, I love it. She told me that other people love it as well. The artist hates it; and yet other people love it. The implications of such a state of affairs have had me pulling my hair out ever since.

The most obvious feature of the painting is the blue outline of the outstretched legs, stomach and breasts of a woman as seen from that woman’s point of view. If you loosen your eyes a bit, though, you can look at that outline in different ways. The outstretched legs look like two fingers being held up in a victory sign. And if you really let your imagination run wild, the outline looks like the elongated ears, top of the forehead and sunglasses of a Donnie Darko style Easter bunny.

The blueness of the outline stands in edgy contrast to the orange and brown background. The contrast gives the impression that Kelly took an old painting and painted the outline on top of it. This, Kelly told me, was a deliberate effect.

If you look closely, you can see a barely visible face in the orange background. When I first saw the face, I thought it looked like Jimi Hendrix. But the more I look at it, the more Christ-like it looks to me. Of course, the face is abstract enough that you can see what you like in it. But the combined effect of the barely visible male face below the seemingly out of place blue outline of a woman’s breasts, stomach and legs really is quite striking.

As I said, I think Kelly’s painting is great. And I love the way it looks on my wall. So let me take this opportunity to thank Kelly for her painting.

Moreover, I am inclined to think that I made a good trade. The Dominic original was great. But this painting is to be sure a trade up.

Or is it?

Ah. Nothing in life is simple. Before going over to Kelly’s I would certainly have been convinced that trading the Dominic original for her painting would be a ‘trade up’. But our conversation has made me question whether I really did ‘trade up’. After all, if she hates her painting, what does that say about its real value?

Indeed, our conversation threw me into a state of confusion about not just art in general but also about my new and improved plan to get a Van Gogh. Kelly raised some difficult questions about the plan; and now I am no longer convinced that it is a good one.

I will try to explain the source of my confusion in the next few posts. And in the process I should get to talk more about Kelly’s painting and the fact that she hates it.

But until then, let me once again thank Kelly for trading with me.

And let me take this opportunity to say: if anyone wants to trade for this Kelly Koeppel original, let me know.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A New and Improved Plan -- Part II

To anyone who has been following my blog, I am sorry to have left you hanging about the second part of my plan. My niece got married in Chicago this weekend, and I had to go to the wedding. (For what it’s worth, it was a beautiful wedding. I was a very proud uncle.) Nonetheless, I didn’t have time to post.

But today I am back. So I am going to tell you the second part of my plan. But before I do, I have some exciting news.

It turns out that the rumor was not just a rumor -- someone actually wants to trade a painting for my Dominic original. With any luck, I'll go visit her sometime this week to make the trade. I’ll tell you more about that, though, when it happens.

So here is a synopsis of the first part of the plan:

I am going to trade up to a Van Gogh. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. And I am going to hold a lottery for that Van Gogh once I have it. Anyone who trades with me will be eligible for a lottery ticket. And whoever wins the lottery drawing will get to keep the Van Gogh. That is part one of my plan. Well, it’s not really my plan. It’s the universe’s plan – the universe very kindly popped the plan into my head after I had asked it for some direction.

The universe popped the second part into my head as I was watering my plants.

I am going to hold a lottery for the Van Gogh amongst those people who traded with me. But of course, lottery tickets generally cost something. So that raises the question: how much should the lottery tickets cost?

Because I would want anyone who trades with me to benefit, I figure that I should give all and only those people who trade with me the right to purchase a lottery ticket for half the ticket’s real price. That way they could either sell their right for a considerable profit – presumably such a right could be sold for up to (the other) half of the real price of the ticket -- or enter the lottery at a highly discounted rate. It would be a win-win situation all around.

So that is the second part of the plan: I am going to give the right to purchase a lottery ticket for half of its real price to anyone who trades with me.

Of course, there is one question that must be addressed: how does one go about calculating the real price of a lottery ticket? I will wait until next time, however, to tell you how I think that question should be answered. I have to feed my cat.

Until then, I suppose that it can’t hurt to tell the universe:

I want to hold a lottery for a Van Gogh in which a small number of people have a chance to purchase a ticket for half of what the ticket is worth.
I want to hold a lottery for a Van Gogh in which a small number of people have a chance to purchase a ticket for half of what the ticket is worth.
I want to hold a lottery for a Van Gogh in which a small number of people have a chance to purchase a ticket for half of what the ticket is worth.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A New and Improved Plan

Alas, the rumors about an impending trade have not come to fruition. I’m still hopeful that the person I heard mentioned will want to trade. But in the meantime I’ve been thinking about my plan.

I want to trade up to a Van Gogh. I got the idea from the red paper clip guy – he traded from a red paper clip to a house in fourteen trades. But I have begun to think that I need to sex up my plan a little bit. Otherwise, I won’t be doing anything much different from the red paper clip guy. And that’s no fun.

So believe it or not, last night I once again asked the universe for a good idea. (I might start doing that on a regular basis.) Then I smoked some pot. And as if the gods were smiling upon me, an idea popped into my head.

So what’s the new and improved plan?

It is a little involved and may take a few posts to explain. But the basic idea is very simple: a lottery. Yes, I am going to hold a lottery for the Van Gogh once I get it. And who will get to enter into the lottery? Only people who have traded with me.

So that is part one of my new and improved plan. Anyone who trades with me will get the chance to purchase a lottery ticket for the Van Gogh that I end up with. Of course, you never know. I may end up with a Picasso and simply be unable to find anyone with a Van Gogh to trade. If so, then I will hold a lottery for the Picasso. Or I may end up with a Monet, or a Renoir, or some other cool painting. If so, I will hold a lottery for those paintings.

The plan, however, doesn’t end there. There is a second part. But I’ll hold off on describing that part for now, since I need to go eat lunch.

If anyone wants to trade, let me know. You may end up with a chance to enter a very small lottery for a Van Gogh.

Friday, June 4, 2010


I have heard rumors that someone wants to trade a painting for my Dominic original. How exciting -- my first art trade! In fact, it would be the first time I traded anything. I never even traded stuff in my lunch bag with other kids. I always ate what I was given.

Of course, a rumor is just a rumor. I haven’t had any explicit offers. But I am optimistic. I think all that is needed now is a little help from the universe. So I will once again make a universe directed declaration:

I want someone to trade a painting for my Dominic original.
I want someone to trade a painting for my Dominic original.
I want someone to trade a painting for my Dominic original.

Ok, universe. Do your thing.

I have also heard rumors that Dominic has drawn another picture that he wants to give to me. This time he has drawn a desert landscape. At least that is what I was told. I haven’t seen it yet. But I can’t wait. I’m almost inclined to think that I won’t need a Van Gogh if Dominic keeps it up. But then again, A Van Gogh would be nice. Yes indeed. A Van Gogh would be awfully nice.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I haven’t received any offers to trade yet. So let me tell you a bit about the artist and the picture.

Dominic is eight. (He was seven when he drew that picture.) He likes to play sports, dance, play with his dogs, and eat. He has a highly refined philosophy of art, which he sums up with the following question: Hey, can I have some of your cake?

Dominic’s artistic training has come from a careful study of Shel Silverstein’s ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’. There is widespread agreement that his mastery of existentialist themes traces directly to the poem ‘Sick’. Experts, however, have not been able to determine the source of his bold use of color, though there are two major theories: (1) He is rebelling in a brilliant though haphazard way against the black and white drawings in ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’; (2) He has been watching SpongeBob SquarePants.

Dominic's picture doesn’t have a name; but I like to call it – Face With Line Through It. It clearly exhibits Dominic’s struggle with the sporadic anonymity of our internet-addicted youth culture. The line represents the schism between the personality, which was the dominant intellectual meme in the twentieth century, and then gene, which is and will continue to be the dominant intellectual meme in the twenty first century.

Experts estimate that Dominic’s painting is worth about 58 cents. I reckon it is worth at least a dollar.

So if anyone wants to trade a painting for my Dominic original, let me know.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Trading Up!

I don’t want to get all mystical. But I think the universe may have responded to my request. It hasn’t delivered me a Van Gogh. But it did give me an idea.

Have you ever heard of the red paper clip guy? He started with a red paper clip and traded up to a house


It’s an amazing story. On the first trade he got a pen; and then he traded for a doorknob; and then a keg of beer and a bar light; and so on. Fourteen trades and one year later he had a house.

Well, if someone can trade up to a house from a red paper clip, I figure that I can trade up to a Van Gogh.

And I think I’ll start with a picture drawn by Dominic, my girlfriend’s eight-year-old nephew. It’s the one on the side over there. Yes, that’s what I’m going to do. I am going to trade Dominic’s original for a painting; and then I’ll trade that painting for another; and so on. Who knows? Maybe fourteen trades and one year later I’ll have a Van Gogh.

So anyone who wants to trade with me let me know. I’ll drive (or fly) to wherever you might be in order to trade with you.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Universe

I can’t remember its name. But I remember hearing about a book according to which the key to life was asking the Universe for what you wanted.

Now, I must admit to being on the side of the skeptics. But you know what – I don’t care. What I care about is getting a Van Gogh. I mean, I really want a Van Gogh. And I’m wiling to try whatever I can. So just in case that book is right, I am now telling the universe:

I want a Van Gogh.
I want a Van Gogh.
I want a Van Gogh.

There. I said it three times. That should be enough. And I’ve even decided to make it easier on the universe. I am not asking to own a Van Gogh. No, I just want a Van Gogh to hang on my wall, even if it’s only for one night. So, here goes again:

I want a Van Gogh to hang on my wall, even if it’s only for one night.
I want a Van Gogh to hang on my wall, even if it’s only for one night.
I want a Van Gogh to hang on my wall, even if it’s only for one night.

So universe, if you are listening, you have some work to do. Throw me a bone. Just one little idea -- that’s all I need. How can I get a Van Gogh? How can I get a Van Gogh? Hmmmmmmmm….

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bad Ideas

I want a Van Gogh. I even know where I want to hang it. But how the hell am I going to get a Van Gogh?

Some ideas:

(1) Get a job that makes me lots of money; save, save and save some more; and then buy one.
Problem: Too much time and effort. Besides, I would need to make LOTS of money. Not going to happen.
(2) Steal one from a museum
Problem: Prison would really suck.
(3) Find someone who owns a Van Gogh and perform a sexual favor for it.
Problem: I ‘aint that sexy.

So I don’t know. If I am going to get a Van Gogh, I am going to need a better plan than what I’ve got so far. If there is anyone out there with any ideas about how I could get a Van Gogh, let me know.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Crazy Dream

About a year ago I bought a beautiful restored house that was built in 1860. It has twelve-foot high ceilings, wood floors, plenty of nooks and crannies and a lovely porch. Not just that, but the history behind it is fascinating; it sits in a lovely neighborhood right across from a very old cemetery; my neighbors are fantastic; and it is a five minute walk to my office.

I must admit: I fucking love this house. As I have been living here the past year, however, one thought has kept popping into my head. This house is fantastic. But there is one thing that would put it quite literally over the top.

Now, before I tell you what that thing is, I’ll be the first to admit that this idea is utterly outlandish. Indeed, it is one of those thoughts that you don’t really want to tell anyone, except perhaps after you’ve had quite a few drinks and want to laugh at yourself and your crazy ideas. But I just can’t get rid of this thought. It’s like a stray cat that you feed a couple of times. It just keeps coming back; and when it does it gets harder and harder not to keep feeding it. So I’ve decided to take that cat in permanently and care for it. I am going to admit that I have this crazy idea. And I am going to see what I can do to make it come to fruition.

So here goes. In short, there is one thing that I want to have in this house, one thing that would make this historic beautifully cared for house a palace, one thing that I just can’t help imagining hanging on one of my walls. What is that one thing? A painting by Van Gogh.