Unseen Forces

Monochrome 006 (Unfinished Etude in Blue)
Jonathan FeBland (2011) (London, UK)
Acrylic on canvas, 9.5" x 11.5”
Donated by the artist     
October 2011

The MOBA Curator-in-Chief initially assumed this minimalist piece was created by a cat walking in blue paint.

The artist wrote, "It was painted on a small easel while listening to the piano music of Arnold Schoenberg (which was found to be quite inspirational for this sort of painting). It is suggested that the work is revolved by 90° every three months."

When the Curator played a recording of Schoenberg's piano music to better appreciate the painting, his cat walked out of the room.

Southeastern Quadrant Chevron 12
David C. Commito (1993)
Oil on canvas, 20" x 16"
Purchased at a thrift store in Boston, MA
June 2009

A bright red, highly textured boomerang outlined in black appears next to the number 12 in the lower right corner of the canvas, which is otherwise painted a single shade of flat sky-blue. The viewer is challenged to grasp the true meaning of this minimalist painting, a task that would probably be less daunting with the knowledge of the relative position of chevrons 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10, and 11.

Vanishing Woman
Hannah Hamilton
Acrylic on canvas, 18” x 24"
Purchased at a thrift store in Boston, MA
September 2011

The artist combined disparate techniques such as the "vanishing point" (a perspective device developed in the fifteenth century Renaissance) and "Pollockian drips" (a mid-twentieth century abstract paint application method) to portray a womanly apparition in a tulip field.

Watch the MOBA Curator Talk about this painting.

The artist combined disparate techniques such as the vanishing point, a perspective device developed in the fifteenth century Renaissance by masters such as Pietro Perugino, and Pollockian drips (a mid-twentieth century abstract paint application method explored by Jackson Pollock), to portray a womanly apparition in a tulip field.

Christ Giving the Keys to the Kingdom to St. Peter
Pietro Perugino (1481)
Jackson Pollock (1952)

Acrylic on canvas, 60" x 60" (9 20" x 20" paintings glued together)
Found in a hallway at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and donated by Mark Troia
September, 2009

"I believe that children are our future . . ."

Who can disagree with Whitney Houston?

The Greatest Love Of All
Words by Linda Creed, Music by Michael Masser 
©1977 Gold Horizon Music Corp. & Golden Torch Music Corp.

À L'intérieur de L'oeuf
(Inside the Egg)
Illegible (Haitian)
Oil on canvas, 32" x 24"
Purchased in Sousa, Dominican Republic
and donated by Susan Tompkins-Hunt
January 2007

The French title adds to the mystique of this disturbing example of art brut.

Susan Tompkins-Hunt understands the painting to have been originally sold by a Haitian street vendor (possibly the artist) to a resort owner in Sosua, Dominican Republic for the equivalent of $22.13 plus a rum and coke. It was subsequently given as a gift to the owner of a tavern in Boston, MA, where it was displayed, coveted, and after extensive negotiations, purchased by Ms. Tompkins-Hunt. Aware that most of her friends and relatives were emotionally upset seeing A L'Interieur De L'oeuf on display in her home, she realized that MOBA is the proper repository for such a powerfully vexing work.

Twins in Utero
Michael Gershberg (1992)
Oil paint and chicken bones on canvas, 40” x 40”
Donated by the artist
March 2023

The artist offers a biologically inaccurate image of fraternal twins in utero. They must compete for real estate in the womb with amorphous blobs the artist intended to represent “birth, fertility, and death.”

ISpewing Rubik's Cubes
K. Koch
oil on canvas 24"x18"
Purchased at a thrift store in Boston, MA
May 2007

A fine example of Rubik's Cubism, this image of the classic 1980s toys emanating from a jester gargoyle's mouth can only be described as puzzling.

From: Museum of Bad Art: Masterworks, by Michael Frank and Louise Reilly Sacco, Ten Speed Press

Spewing Marshmallows
Acrylic on artboard, 20" x 16”
Purchased at a flea market in Jensen Beach, FL
February 2023

Tormented by a sinister demon, a jester disgorges fluffy cotton-like balls.

An I For an Eye
A. LivLaing Bradford (2001)
Acrylic on canvas, 30" x 20”
Purchased at a thrift store in Boston, MA
March 2008

The woman/tree unquestionably is crying out for help that will never come.

Her morphing, arborescent figure, faceless and in shame, is reaching upward for sustenance while a torrent of tearful eyes cascades about her, threatening to bury her in her own psychosexual drift.

                                    Guest Interpretator: Steve Herman

The Scientist
28" x 36", mixed media
Left anonymously at MOBA
May 2007

Latex gloves and bodily fluids add color to this piece that depicts a laboratory experiment gone horribly awry.

The inspiration for this piece was an illustration from Andreas Vesalius' seminal anatomy text from 1543: De Humani Corporis Fabrica.

Watch the MOBA Curator Talk about this painting.

From: Museum of Bad Art: Masterworks, by Michael Frank and Louise Reilly Sacco, Ten Speed Press

Retch Like an Egyptian
Alia J. Gala
Pastel on paper, 12" x 16"
Anonymous donation
June 2017

This is a disturbing image of an Egyptian doubled over in pain, throwing up colorfully. The X-ray box clearly shows the source of his discomfort, and the black smoke from the pyramid indicates that a new pharaoh has not yet been chosen.

The artist made this painting while in art school, and was surprised and delighted to find it in Museum of Bad Art: Masterworks.

From: Museum of Bad Art: Masterworks, by Michael Frank and Louise Reilly Sacco

Leonardo (1977)
Oil on art board, 10" x 9"
Purchased at a thrift store in Boston, MA
November 2006

A man with short hair is depicted among seals, snakes, and other creatures sharing his bright red facial features. At first glance, we expect him to be uncomfortable or threatened. But these creatures smile and cuddle. There are no nightmares here - just the happy dreams of friendly forces that make life more pleasant.

From - Museum of Bad Art: Masterworks, by Michael Frank and Louise Reilly Sacco, Ten Speed Press

Dissent from the Pedestal
Robert MacLeod
Oil on canvas, 30" x 36"
Anonymous donation
May 2007

Infuriated and distraught about the state of the world, the iconic Lady of the Harbor has come down from her traditional perch, bemoaning the fact that, despite global warming, her day in the sun seems to have passed.

From: Museum of Bad Art: Masterworks, by Michael Frank and Louise Reilly Sacco, Ten Speed Press

Sad Lady Liberty
Oil on canvas, 36" x 18"
Purchased at a thrift store in Boston, MA
September 2010

Forlorn with the belief that the tired, poor, huddled masses were no longer welcome, dejected Lady Liberty joined a traveling circus to make ends meet.

Liberty and Justice
Acrylic on canvas, 24” x 24”
Donated by Al Rivera
April 2016

Painted after the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001, this painting is reminiscent of Judith Clutching the head of Holofernes. teary-eyed Lady Liberty celebrates her victory over the enemy and hopes peace can return to the city.

In other news, her jaundiced bald eagle has caught a large fish.

Judith Clutching the Head of Holofernes
Cristofano Allori (c. 1611)
Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

Drilling for Eggs
William F. Murphy
Oil on canvas, 30" x 30”
Purchased at a thrift store in Winston-Salem, NC and donated by Karen McHugh
June 2007

Green alligator flames dominate the foreground and a bright pink sky provides the backdrop for this disquieting depiction of a color-altered future in which eggs, a renewable resource, have replaced traditional hydrocarbon fuels. The artist is saying, in no uncertain terms, that unless we learn to conserve our priceless resources, the yolk will be on us.

From: Museum of Bad Art: Masterworks, by Michael Frank and Louise Reilly Sacco, Ten Speed Press

Prosthetic Claw
William F. Murphy
12" x 20", oil on canvas
Purchased at a thrift store in Winston-Salem, NC and
donated by Karen McHugh
June 2007

Inspired by the film Jurassic Park, many have speculated about the possibility of using traces of fossilized dinosaur DNA to produce a living Tyrannosaurus rex. Advances in cell-engineering techniques have led others to speculate about the possibility of using stem cells to grow human tissue. One scientist, Dr. Jose Cibelli, went so far as to secretly clone his own DNA inside a cow egg.

Prosthetic Claw portrays the unexpected results in this ethical boundary-stretching field of interspecies cloning. The central figure's immaculate white shoe contrasts with the grotesquely poor grooming of the hand, which is depicted in a universally understood gesture. The artist seems to be saying that these experiments will result in a giant "goose egg". The heavy-handed image is marred by a clumsily executed background of straight-from-the-tube oil paint colors that have become all too familiar to the MOBA curatorial staff.

From: Museum of Bad Art: Masterworks, by Michael Frank and Louise Reilly Sacco , Ten Speed Press

On Vacation in Italy
Robert Muldrow (Brooklyn, 2007)
2ft x 3ft, oil on plywood
Donated by the artist
April 2008

Mr. Muldrow writes, "Upon coming home from a fantastic vacation in Italy, I found my houseplants in a state of decline and extreme thirst. They were in sort of plant hell. This painting represents what I inferred were their feelings of suffering, neglect, and loneliness as well as my feelings of guilt and regret."

Japanese bonsai grand master Saburo Kato maintains, ". . . the most important sound is the footsteps of a bonsai trainer coming to care for his tree. This bond is very similar as the commitment between mother and child to nurture and guide the tree. The most important aspect of bonsai is the bond that exists or is created between a bonsai and its owner-trainer. We can only create true friendships if there is a gentle courtesy, respect, and justice. We can only seek peace if we are at peace with ourselves!"

Everyone at MOBA feels terrible for Mr. Muldrow, who clearly was devastated in the realization that he had broken a sacred bond with his plants. He has reportedly been coming to terms with his loss, and has reportedly begun leaving his house for short visits to the grocer and the dry cleaners. There are, however, no vacation plans in his immerdiate future.

The MOBA curatorial staff was drawn to this image for its emotional power as well as the straight-from-the-tube background colors almost identical to Prosthetic Claw.

Germ of an Idea
Oil on canvas, 22" x 36"
Purchased at a thrift store in Boston, MA
May 2008

Note the similarity to Aim 2.

Aim 2
Lloyd Graham, 2006

Invasion of the Office Zombies
Jenna Cathyla
Oil on canvas, 24" x 30”
Purchased at thrift store in Boston, MA
April 2003

This haunting scene draws us in subtle hints of capitalist morals. Note the Cleveland bill gracing the crooked floor. Does it foreshadow a new denomination that drives us all to the broken jail-cell window to throw our disembodied heads to the street?

From: Museum of Bad Art: Masterworks, by Michael Frank and Louise Reilly Sacco

Johnny McGrory
Ceramic sculpture, 11" x 14" circumference
Donated by the artist

With the innocence of an extra terrestrial, his arms in a straight jacket, his flat cap a mortar board as testament to his wisdom, the little red man cannot be quieted while something has been left unsaid.

All Things Must Pass
M. Brown, 1995
Tempera on wood and sheet metal, approx. 8" x 30"
Purchased at a thrift store in Boston, MA         
December 2007

This intriguing piece of outsider folk art illustrates the history of Western Civilization. Advances in technology from traditional hand tools to machines during the Industrial Revolution led to dramatic changes in the socioeconomic and cultural life. Today, as inflated fuel prices (this is clearly a diesel powered semi-tractor trailer truck) affect the world's economy and pollution (represented by the smoky exhaust) is global, it is time to move into the Postindustrial, or Information Age. The raw speed implicit in the image of the truck reminds us that, even with a double yellow line heading into a curve on a hill, we will be passed.

Love is Being Out on a Limb Together
Oil on board, 21" x 24.5"

Japanese in its simplicity: American in its text, this valentine in blue is a tribute to the poster poems of the 1970s.

Lulli, Fowl, and Gravestone
Michael Frank (1971)
8.5" x 11", watercolor on paper
Donated by the artist (MOBA Curator-in-Chief)
June 2007

This work was presented to Lulli in Copenhagen and subsequently returned to the artist in New York soon after. The significance of Lulli and the objects portrayed was important to the artist at the time but was, unfortunately, erased from his memory long ago.

From: Museum of Bad Art: Masterworks, by Michael Frank and Louise Reilly Sacco

Sandy Winslow
16" x 20", acrylic on canvas
Donated by the artist

Three eyes are better than one: all the better to see you with, my dear.

Reef Garden
36" x 36", Mixed media on masonite
Acquired by Scott Wilson from the Salvation Army Store

Here we are, witnessing the staging of a subaqueous musical extravaganza. On a silent cue, one pulsating incubator bursts, hurtling an anxious and curiously aged little merman upwards to the unknown world above the surface. The dancer stares, hypnotizing the viewer. We find ourselves forced to stay -- feel the music or drown.

18" x 24", Acrylic on canvas
Rescued from trash

Bloody cloud bursts in an otherwise clear sky, frothing nostrils as the bovine beast dives, lemming like, and misses the phosphorescent, oily, swimming hole. 

Swamette's Secret
Acrylic on canvas, 30" x 20"
Acquired by Patricia Deardorff and Leigh Weesner from a thrift store

Calm clear shapes, multiple repeating patterns, a thickly textured aura and little red shoes come together to conceal or reveal the eternal complexity of simple truths in this exploration of the human psyche.

Swamette's Secret has been featured in the phenominal "I Just Can't Stop" exhibit.

Tables Have Turned
24" x 18", acrylic on canvas
Acquired from trash

The anger screams from the canvas, the dysfunctional family fumes after fury's exit left. 

Marker and paper on cloth, 20" x 16"
Purchased at a thrift store in Boston, MA
May 2007

From: Museum of Bad Art: Masterworks, by Michael Frank and Louise Reilly Sacco

Blue God
Acrylic on canvas, 30” x 36”
Purchased at a thrift shop in Ft. Lauderdale, FL and donated by Stephen Nonack
March 2016

A great blue spirit watches over a tropical paradise featuring magnificent frigate birds, scarlet ibises, a red octopus, a precooked lobster, tropical fish, and sunken treasure.

Board to Death
Oil on wood panel, 18" x 24”
Purchased at a thrift store in Boston, MA
September 2007

Unable to complete their game of chess because they cannot move their arms from within their sleeveless robes, Death and his adversary slouch dejectedly near a mountain precipice. By wrapping the figures in hooded robes, the artist neatly avoided the challenges of depicting the human form.

The anonymous painter of this work firmly shut the door on all normative painterly decisions about composition, color, texture, symbolism, metaphor and most other preoccupations that attend the conventional modernist role of the artist as the privileged purveyor of an intuitive creativity shepherded by a genius recourse to tact and taste.

Guest Interpretators: Pio and Elizabeth

Illusion or Confusion
Steve Whitehurst (c.1967)
Oil on canvas, 24” x 11”
Donated by Shirley Whitehurst
March 2017

The artist depicted floating aquatic daisies surrounding the reflection of the sun in a pool of rippling water. The viewer is left to ponder who is lurking in the foliage.

Death is Beautiful
John Kim (1991)
Mixed media on canvas, 10" x 20"
Purchased at an antique store in Warrensburg, NY
September 2018

The artist wrote the title on the reverse side of this macabre work - proving once again that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Hide and Go Seek
Acrylic on canvas, 12" x 14"
Purchased at a thrift store in Corpus Christi, TX,
and donated by Gerald Lopez
August 2015

The young girl who is it slowly counts to ten, unaware of the surprise waiting in the forest.

Rodin Rainbow
Acrylic on canvas board, 10" x 14"
Purchased in a thrift store in Boston, MA
June 2014

While all his friends have found love, can't help but wonder whether the rainbow is a harbinger of a change in his luck.

The Kiss
Aguste Rodin (1882)
Musée Rodin, Paris 

The Thinker
Aguste Rodin (1904)
Musée Rodin, Paris 

Feast of Fools
30” x 15”, Acrylic on canvas
Purchased at a thrift store in Boston, MA
December 2014

Lunch is served, but nobody seems to care.

Blue Face – Green Pepper
Naomi Palmer
Oil on canvas, 18” x 18”
Rescued from trash in Cambridge, MA and donated by Julia Fleet
May 2009

A mystical blue figure is depicted gazing at, and perhaps conversing with, a dream-like chili pepper dragon. The  shadows should be noted as a tool to determine the source(s) of light, which may provide clues to the location of the scene. Unfortunately these projections do not supply determinate answers, but the chili’s shadow does conjure a childlike joy in its giddyup seahorse, gallop-‘n-go, pony-on-a stick nature.

Guest Interpretator: Julia Fleet

Moon Jellies at Night
Acrylic on canvas, 24" x 18”
Purchased at a thrift store in Boston, MA
January 2021

Seven death masks litter the floor, while iridescent moon jellyfish swim around classic ruins under a colorful constellation of stars and planets. One of them wears a necklace featuring what may be the key to understanding this bewildering tableau.

A scholarly fan of the museum observed that entasis (swelling of classical pillars) is well captured here (point D).

Modern examples of entasis include classic Coke bottles, bowling pins, and Mrs. Robinson's leg in The Graduate.


A Gathering of Scarecrows
Bob "Grandpa" Roots
Donated by the artist
March 2017

The artist depicted himself painting en plein air in a field full of hay bales. He decided to enliven the scene with an imaginary convention of frolicking off-duty scarecrows. Crows were welcome to join the festivities.

Birthday Forks
Oil, photograph, & paper on canvas,
Found in sidewalk trash in Cambridge, MA and donated by Chris and Sarah Dewart
May 2010

New Years Bagel
Mari Newman
Mixed media collage, marker on paper, 20" x 16"
Donated by the artist
April 2009

Smiles abound as one of MOBA's most prolific artists celebrates her favorite nosh.

My Barbies
MarI Newman
Mixed media
Donated by the artist
September 2006

One of the most prolific artists represented in the MOBA collection share some toys from her personal collection: Java Barbie, Teethy Barbie, McDonalds Barbie, and Blacklight Barbie.

Fast Food and Dessert Barbies
MarI Newman
Donated by the artist
September 2006

The artist combined iconic American images that should remind us to make good gastronomic decisions as we gather with friends and relatives for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Forty-Two Pounds of Poop
MarI Newman
Donated by the artist
September 2006

Ms. Newman’s sense of humor and composition are evident in this photomontage, in which she set out to break “all the rules” (including the basic “5-7-5” rule of haiku). She employed a palette of bright colors similar to her Fast Food and Dessert Barbies, but chose a more sophisticated palate by adding carrots, apricots, and soybeans to the uncooked bacon in the frame around the central figures of a toy dog and half-peeled banana. The blue basset hound is understandable, while the relationship of the smiling banana to the theme of the piece remains mysterious.

Fast Food and Dessert Barbies
Mary Newman

The Curator-in-Chief is aware of the stinging criticism of fans who suggest that MOBA is possibly “losing its way” by accepting work:
1. created by a “collected artist”,
2.that may be well conceived and
3. may show evidence of rational use of color, space, and technique.

He likes this piece, believes that it rocks, and remains confident that MOBA is the proper venue to exhibit it.

Celebrate July 4th
 Nancy Alain
Collage of oil paint and paper on canvas, 18" x 24”
Donated by the artist
May 2020

Artist’s Statement:
I was living in war torn Bujumbura, Burundi, 2000, and missing the parades and celebrations back home, while dodging bullets and rockets launched between the Hutus and the Tutsis. This is an homage to my homesickness made with what was available at that time, a few tubes of paint and an Oriental Trading Company mail order catalogue full of images of decor for sale to a proud nation on it's birthday. I added the tomatoes, because there were none any at the local marketplace.


Norman Wallace
Oil on canvas, 16” x 20",
Purchased at a thrift store in Boston, MA
September 2009

A young boy ponders the flapping wings of a distant bird shortly after the impact of a flapjack on the side of his head. The delicacy of the bird's flight is a subtle counterpoint to the delicacy of the pat of butter still embedded in the hitherto airborne breakfast item.
                                                                                                                                              Guest Interpretator: Joel Srebnick

Lilo Gin Arte
Watercolor on paper, 12" x 9"
Purchased at a thrift shop in Boston, MA
October 2013