Wednesday night I visited the Seattle chapter of the Official Bad Art Museum of Art (OBAMA) at Cafe Racer in the U District.
First, a note about naming: Before the election, the national organization, based in Boston, went by the name Official Bad Art Museum of Art and the acronym OBAMA, which Cafe Racer dutifully applied to a sign above the doorway of its crowning room of badness, which opened a few months ago. But now, it appears that the national organization has changed its name to MOBA. When you see the sign at Cafe Racer that says "OBAMA ROOM," just know that it has nothing to do with the president-elect.
Cafe Racer is a weird little place. While I was there I ran into cartoonists Bob Rini and Jim Woodring. They were sitting in a little corner and said they remembered when the place looked like a Mexican restaurant in Mexico, and it still has that orange-vitamin color on its walls, along with the feeling that a fight may break out. A short flight of stairs up to the bathrooms (where, in a black and white poster, Angie Dickinson sits on a scooter wearing a short skirt) leads to an area that looks like an unfinished basement, where a large flatscreen was showing football. Regulars at the bar looked slightly too young to be undangerous, and occasionally yelled about "titties!"
It is a pretty great place. Rini and Woodring told me that a few years ago they organized a gathering of young cartoonists there every Wednesday night; there was the group, sketching away.
But on to the bad art. Next to Rini and Woodring was a large pointillist Christ made of Peeps. Above them was a portrait of Hamlet that looked like Ted Danson, made by the artist Sean Hurley when he was in high school. There were the requisite clowns, kittens, dogs, skeletons, birds, Elvises, deserts, dogs playing billiards and/or cards, children in profile crying fat tears, monkey kings, and art historical ripoffs (Van Gogh's Starry Night in yarn! Blue Boy in paint-by-numbers! Venus de Milo being defaced by squirting hot dogs!).
But a few of the bad artworks went beyond the call of duty. Some were, as Rini and Woodring put it, true abominations—pathological, nightmarish, epic. Their pick for worst worst (as opposed to best worst) is this piece, which hangs, mercifully even in this setting, behind a door. It is called Poetry by Leandra DiBuelna and is oil on unstretched canvas to the tune of 52 by 37 inches. Please note that the breasts double as eyes, the milk as a tear.
This one, however, wins the prize for best worst. It is heavily lacquered wood. "This is about the Tower of Babel," my scholarly companion noted. We agreed the only thing it needs is a small clock in the upper right hand corner. Please note the tiny workers attached by wires to the couple's lower parts. Please also note the couple's glorious flowing hair, and please note, finally, that it is possible that these two are in this position because he is terribly, terribly well-endowed.
This is the runner-up for best worst. It's a little hard to make out, but can you see the wild empty look in her eyes? It's as though she's saying, "NEW CEREAL?!"
Seattle can stand up with the worst of them.