A few weeks ago, The Wife, The Baby, and I visited a friend in Bushwick for a BBQ. About three minutes into this lovely summer event, The Baby made it known that she would not be satisfied with the selection of toys we’d brought with us. So The Wife went off to a local dollar store to get some crayons and a coloring book.
But she didn’t just come back with a coloring book. Oh no. She came back with a goldmine of surrealistic art treasures. She came back with one of the straight-up weirdest things I have ever set eyes on. And it was a mere 99 cents, shoved between expired Tuna Helper and off-brand Malta.
Why was it so weird? The ultra-cheap production is a factor. “Cheap” is actually charitable for the care and attention that went into this publication. Needless to say, none of the art is very good. It was obviously cobbled together from various sources, with little regard for aesthetic unity or copyright issues. Many images have been blown up a thousand times, so the borders are way too thick and pixelated.
But that’s not why this thing is so bizarre. Oh no, that doesn’t even scratch the surface. If David Lynch, David Cronenberg, and Werner Herzog collaborated on a coloring book, it wouldn’t look one-tenth as weird/disturbing as this thing.
Context is key. Keep in mind, this is meant to be a coloring book for children. That’s what makes it so insane. At least I assume it’s a coloring book. There is no text in this book except for what you see there on the cover. I’m not even sure what language this is. Italian? Romanian? Esperanto?
I hoped to investigate the origins of this weird, weird thing, but I can’t figure out who published it because it has no ISBN. The only publishing info is a bar code and a note that says MADE IN CHINA (which means it’s probably made of ground-up plastic pellets and lead paint). But it might as well say MADE ON NEPTUNE, because I can’t imagine a human mind putting this thing together. I just can’t!
Why? Oh, you’ll see. Don’t worry, you’ll see.
Here’s a mild example: frightened bowling pins! Except the object of their fear is about two inches tall. And doesn’t even really look like a bowling ball. And has fists. Notice how all the objects sit in little puddle-looking things that I suppose represent shadows. Get used to them—you’ll be seeing a lot of them.
Fine, you say, that’s kinda stupid, but it’s not that weird. Ah, but we’ve only just begun.
Do you have any idea what this thing is? Any at all? If you do, please let me know, because I am stumped. A patch of arugula? A cross-section of the heart? A multi-chambered bong?
Maybe it’s supposed to be a mod pencil holder, hence the pencil in the upper-left corner. Either that, or whoever put this coloring book together hates white space with a passion and felt compelled to fill it with random doodles. That’s the more likely explanation, as we shall see.
This page is the spiritual opposite of the previous one. I understand this is a dragon on an island, or something. But I have no idea what that thing above his head is. A spaceship, I guess. Or an old-timey firecracker, the kind that you pull. You know, the kind that haven’t been produced in like 80 years. In either case, I have no idea why it’s here, other than to satisfy the artist’s hatred of open spaces. That hatred is demonstrated to a ridiculous degree in this pic.
Here we see a Sopwith Camel try to land in a bucket. A bucket the size of a small girl. No small feat! Especially when that girl is defiantly happy about the pilot’s predicament. “Nope, I ain’t helpin’ you! I’m gonna sit here, arms folded, and watch you crash and burn!”
Speaking of aircraft…
Yup, it’s a Wacky Races-style biplane, piloted by a freshly shaved Dick Dastardly. He’s flying just above a spaceship that can’t seem to get off the ground—presumably because of its ridiculously cumbersome landing gear.
I don’t understand what angle is being conveyed here. The sun has to be above the plane. So this plane has to be upside down, right? Assuming that, does that mean we’re looking at this plane as it careens to the ground? Yikes.
Something else this artist has unwittingly revealed about himself, other than his desire to fill every available bit of space: He loves steam irons. Witness this tour de force, “Iron with Fish”.
Still, it can’t hold a candle to this artist’s masterpiece, “Iron with Worried Dog”.