Sunday, February 19, 2006

COLUMN: Isabel Bloom

Okay, so for those few of you outside of the Quad Cities who read my column, a little explanation is due here. Isabel Bloom was a local artist whose big claim to fame is that she once studied under Grant Wood, the guy who painted "American Gothic" (which still strikes me more on the dogs-playing-poker side of art than the Mona Lisa, but hey, that's just me.) Isabel went on to produce weird little concrete statues out of her home studio, which has since grown into Isabel Bloom Co. here in the Quad Cities. Isabel died a few years back, but they still crank out her concrete creations to a thriving small local business. A business which proceeded to systematically p*** off the whole town last week when they declared that they were moving their production to China. Every single columnist in our paper took immediate aim. Quad Citizens galore went up in arms. They were losing their local flavor, and more than one person estimated that Isabel herself would be rolling over in her grave over the decision. It was an official Quad City brouhaha. Me, I was more concerned about why people were worried about these concrete critters in the first place. Hence, my official take:

It's time once again for another chapter of my soon-to-be-written bestseller, "Girls Are Weird." Once again, this is NOT an emotional outburst or irrational statement on my part. No, this is pure science at work here. I've spent a goodly percentage of my 35 years on Earth studying these elusive creatures, and I can safely assert that, quite factually, girls ARE weird.

The proof is always at hand. For instance, if you've ever thought that the two words "candle party" actually make sense together, then you are a girl. And are weird. If you've ever discussed with your friends what you would like to make for dinner before you have even eaten lunch, you are a girl. And are weird.

Which brings me to my latest supportive fact: Isabel Bloom is moving production of their wares to China. If this statement makes you OUTRAGED... you are a girl. And are weird.

Before I delve deeper, let's get one thing out in the open: I firmly believe that Isabel Bloom makes quality products. I don't want to anger anyone that's associated with the place, nor do I want the wrath of Isabel Bloom collectors upon me. I realize and respect that Isabel Bloom is a cherished Quad City artist who will never be forgotten, and I know that many of you adore her artwork. I will even go as far as to make an endorsement: If you're the kind of person who finds innate joy at purchasing rotund hunks of concrete that vaguely resemble butterflies or babies, you will find no better store than Isabel Bloom. And you're a girl. And you're weird.

As a rule, I'm a huge supporter of small businesses that help to define a town. I like Whitey's, I love Country Style. I can't live without Boetje's. I'm a frequent face at Co-op Records & Video Games, Etc. I'm dead serious when I say that one of the primary reasons I didn't leave town after college was Harris Pizza.

Therefore, when approached by a female friend one time to accompany her to the Isabel Bloom shop, I went along. Ms. Bloom's reputation is known far and wide, and I wanted to see the artwork that merited such a vast cult following. When we walked into the store, though, I must say I was a bit disappointed. I looked high and low for some artwork to appreciate, but it seemed as though everywhere I turned, the artwork was being obscured by weird little concrete statues.

Imagine my surprise to discover that the weird concrete statues WERE the art in question. Again, it's nothing against Isabel Bloom. Some people really appreciate the lumpy little things. I, however, was cursed with both testosterone and sanity, which means my admiration of the statues stops at the notable fact that, as a concrete product, they're (a) highly durable, and (b) make fantastic paperweights.

Beyond that, I'm stumped. Why every mantle in town needs to be decorated with little bulbous children hugging is beyond me. To me, the kids all look deformed, as though they're suffering from some sort of lethal Rolypolyitis. Perhaps when one of these bulbous children meets another, all they can do is commiserate their tragically deformed state by crying on one another's shoulders. This would at least explain why they're always hugging.

So I asked some girls that I know to explain the phenomenon to me. What's the appeal of Isabel Bloom statues? All gave the same answer: "Because they're soooooooo cute!" Interestingly enough, these are among the same females who this week have been going, "I hate Isabel Bloom! They're moving production to China! That's ridiculous! I'll never buy another one again!"

Soooo... the Chinese are incapable of producing cute? Worried that they'll have a secret button that starts the statue ranting Communist propaganda? Nope.

Fifty Quad Citians will lose their jobs when Isabel Bloom moves production to China, and that honestly stinks. But the real reason why you're in arms over the move? It's because YOU want those little concrete buggers all to yourselves. You don't like the idea that someone could soon walk into a Truck-o-mat in Oregon and buy an Isabel Bloom. You want your great aunt Edna to go green with envy when she flies in from Fresno and sees that chubby cherub on your endtable. In short, you want to HOARD the cute.

Ladies, if Isabel Bloom statues really bring you some kind of inner peace, tranquility, and comfort, you shouldn't want that just for YOUR curio cabinet. You should want it for the curios of the WHOLE WORLD. I say let Isobel Bloom make as many pudgy concrete children as they want. They'll brighten the homes of the whole planet, and they'll give you something weighty and painful to chuck at us guys when we call you weird.

(And yes, half a week after this column was published, Isabel Bloom changed their minds, are NOT moving production to China, and will remain a Quad City institution. Thank God. Concrete for everyone!)


Anonymous said...

Thank you. I was getting worried for a bit that I'd have to do without reading your column for the week.

And gosh, I'm also sure relieved that Isabel Bloom is staying in the QCs. At least for the people who get to keep their jobs.

Chubby concrete cherubs? Sure, they're cute enough and all, but they're such a poor substitute for the real, squalling ones.

JohnC Anderson said...

I'm sorry they didn't move. It meant the death of a perfectly good little ditty I had written about the company, a few lines of which went---

Isabel you done shot yourself in the BLOOMers
Movin' your production overseas
Isabel you done shot yourself in
the BLOOMers
now you'll never get another
nickel from me