Friday, December 08, 2017

COLUMN: Naked Guy

Make room, art connoisseurs. I am finally one of you.

I have long attempted to position myself as an elitist artsy-fartsy type. Why? Because that's pretty much your only social safety net when you're an unashamed nerd with limited hand-eye coordination who's lousy at sports. There's just one problem: I've never really had an eye for art.

I have friends who can be moved to tears by paintings. I look at them and go, "Ooh, that's a pretty picture." It's hard to be convincingly artsy-fartsy when I see a Renaissance painting and the only thought that springs to mind is, "Ha ha, olden time people sure were fat."

It's cool, though. I make up for my ineptitude at art appreciation with my overly-honed ability to appreciate music. I've never had a painting bring me to tears, but I can play you a dozen albums that have literally changed my life. To each their art, and I just happen to prefer mine with subwoofers.

But that's about to change. I officially own my very first piece of hand-sketched wall art.

If you've ever played in a charity trivia night, you may have seen me. My team plays frequently, and we win a lot of the time. I guess when you're an unashamed nerd with limited hand-eye coordination who's lousy at sports AND not so great at being artsy-fartsy, all you can do is fall back on your useless knowledge of pop culture in a feeble attempt to impress friends and strangers.

One thing I've learned from playing trivia is that I'm a HUGE sucker for raffles and silent auctions. If you've got a basket of trinkets, I'm very likely queueing up to bid on it. My hall closet is a graveyard of Scentsy burners and knick-knacks from raffles of yore. Every once in a while, though, you can get a real find. Once I scored an Amazon Echo at about 70% off store price.

Last week, I played a fundraiser in support of Rock Island's Broadway Historic District. I was there for about five minutes when I first spotted it across the room. It was the weirdest raffle prize I've ever seen in the history of trivia nights: a framed charcoal drawing of... a naked old guy, lounging comfortably on what might be a sofa or might just be a toilet. With hollow eyes and chiseled jaw, he stared at me the entire time we played trivia.

Heated discussions were held amongst my team as to the subject of the sketch. Popular consensus agreed that it was naked FDR, guiding our country with confidence and without clothes. Some suggested it might be actor Ted Knight or perhaps John Mahoney, the TV dad of Frasier - but naked. Butt naked, in fact. Hailing from Galesburg as I do, I looked upon his weathered face and perhaps saw my hometown hero, poet (and perhaps nudist) Carl Sandburg. 

None of this is to slight the sketch itself. I'm embarassed to have not caught the name of the local artist who donated the piece. It's honestly pretty great. If you handed ME a piece of charcoal, I couldn't draw a convincing stick figure, let alone a fairly realistic naked dude. I would never mock the art itself, because as far as I'm concerned, making a realistic sketch of ANYTHING requires magic the likes of which I'll never understand.

What it was doing in a trivia night raffle, though, was beyond me. As a fan of all things off-kilter, I simply had to throw one of my raffle tickets its way. And of course, beyond all odds, they pulled my ticket. It turns out that the only thing more embarassing than winning a drawing of a naked man is when your entire table screams in jubilation when it happens.

So I've got a spanky new piece of art, and he's just as naked as the day I won him. But what to do with him? Do I mount him in the living room to become the conversation piece to end all conversation pieces? One of my friends suggested that I hang it in my empty spare bedroom, preferably with some complementary lighting effects, and then pace a single chair in the center of the room for appropriate contemplative appreciation of the naked elderly male form.

Again, if you're the talented artist who sketched my new naked friend (I've named him Carlos Danger), I mean you no disrepect. I'm actually in awe of your talent. If I tried sketching a naked old guy, it would barely be recognizable as a guy, let alone one people could recognize. Another friend (who really IS artsy-fartsy) took one look and recognized the model as a guy who often poses for collegiate life art classes in the area, so perhaps there's dozens of sketches of this same wardrobe-challenged gentleman around town. Maybe there's one in YOUR home. If so, holler. After all, the only thing better than a sketch of a naked stranger is a ROOMFUL of sketches of a naked stranger.

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