Missed this wonderful church yesterday at the flea market.   Already sold.  Wouldn’t have paid the money asked for this creation anyway.  Part of the fun of securing a treasure is the vendor not knowing what he has.

1-prison art

This one did know something about what he had, and he said it was “prison art”.  Interesting.  Made with matches, things that for a long time (I assume) could have been available to prisoners, our rules for things being as nonsensical as they are.

Above, the vendor points out that there was probably a cross at the peak of the roof line of this structure.  The image above does not do the thing justice.  It was a wonderful mass created of match sticks and just wonky enough to look like it was dancing.

Looking at it from an artist’s point of view, the maker lost an opportunity for building another layer of pattern into the surfaces by considering where the match head falls, and making a repeat pattern of that as well as the natural pattern that layering the matches makes.   Look at the front facade, especially in the pediment (triangle) area.  The broken lines created by the match heads add nothing.

1-inside prison church

The entire roof is removable revealing three triangular windows featuring plastic interfaces, and an altar.  Altars must be difficult.  This altar is underwhelming, as is the altar below in a church I own made of give-away paint sticks.

1-church interior

1-side of prison church

Again, the match heads could have been handled better.   But this guy was a prisoner, right?  Not a crafts person.  The vendor dated the church from the thirties or forties due to the type of electric fixture at the right.  The whole church lit up.

Running into this knowledgeable vendor changed my mind about what we have here at home.

1-lamp 1

This little interior landscape is made of matches.  I had thought it was a church camp project.  Mused aloud about that to the vendor, and he mentioned that Popsicle sticks might be a better medium for kids.  I think he is correct.  A child would not have the patience or wherewithal to create an armature and clad it with match sticks.  The lamp shade is also made of them.  In this example the (prisoner) did think about the sub pattern made by where the match stick ends and made zig-zags.

I find it so interesting that the church seems to be a focus here.  Look at another lamp we have; not made of match sticks, but this could also find its way into the same workshop.

1-lamp 2

Same kind of thing; armature covered with pebbles this time; wood engraving with praying hands on the shade.  Church theme.  Too difficult for kids.

A while ago, I bought the following two boats made of match sticks for five dollars total.  Now thinking they were made by prisoners, probably male, the boats make sense.  They cannot be too old considering their design.  But I love objects made by the untrained that show their passion for the topic.


In this example, the match heads have been cut off, not allowing for a secondary pattern.  The name of the boat appears, painted on the surface, which is a little disappointing.  It is way too bold.

1-small fishing  boat

My last match stick example, probably made by the same person as the former, sits in front of a hand carved boat we have had for years, and know nothing about.  Now that the idea of crafts in prisons is an interest, I wonder how broad the tools allowed in work situations would be.


Due to popular demand, here is our recently identified odalisque.  Marta sent it to me after reading the first post about her mother.  She assumed this image, done in 1946, was probably of the cheesecake variety.

1-barbara's mother

Oh no!  The position of Marta’s mom is purely art historical, absent some shape in the upper right to draw the viewer’s eye away, but briefly, from the figure.  The line of red fringe on the pillow in the center of the image helps some.

odalisque-courtat gold

The oriental rug and brass pitcher above suggest the “East”, and that the woman may be part of a harem (when artists began to use this motif as an excuse to paint a nude woman, it was understood that the woman was of low morals).  This work has a nice opposition element in the upper left of a musician, which fills the compositional need but also suggests low morals as we all know what music does to people!


Simply with the head wrap, the artist suggests that this woman is a member of a harem.  Notice that the counterpoint to the strong line of the figure here is a window lightening up the composition and subtly drawing the eye away from the left side.  Any kind of shape can do this balancing act for a composition.  The single red rose may symbolize love, as it did in Roman times.

1-carole w no crop

Moving into the Twentieth century, consider the envelope being pushed!  If this is a “reclining nude” enough for your definition, we see my outlaw, clothing symbolizing pure sex, with a counterpoint of the ironing board at the upper left.  This makes me think of an episode of “Mad Men” we viewed last night.  Jackie during the day, Marilyn at night!

Gracie looking over shoulder

Walking further into the bizarro world, we see Gracie, the late love of another outlaw, displaying what she knows about the motif of the odalisque.  Her seductive stare is so memorable.

odalisque_1843 corot

Corot’s odalisque above is more simply rendered, like that of Marta’s mom.  And her position is close to Gracie’s.  I find it interesting that he felt the need to fill that empty space that usually has a correspondent with words—Marietta____Roma.  It works!