Archive for February 26, 2013

Artist of the moment……Calvin and Ruby Black….Possom Trot Amusement Park

Calvin Black was born in the year 1903. After marrying in 1933 to Ruby, the couple bought land in the mojave desert of California. The couple made a small amusement park that showcased the amazing wood carving skills of Calvin Black. Eventually the property hosted dolls shows and had wind driven merry go rounds.

Here is the famed amusement park on the couple’s California property, Possom Trot. See many of the artist’s unique wood carvings. His wife was in charge of making and designing the costumes worn by the dolls.

The Black family spent the era of the Depression in the deep south. The family decided to head west to California and bought some land sight unseen via an advertisement they saw in a magazine. The parcel of land was in the Mojave desert. The couple opened a rock and mineral store that didn’t do so well. To attract customers Calvin started to build the dolls and construct them to appear to have movement. As you can see in the clip with the older woman riding a bicycle.

Calvin used found wood from fallen telephone poles or from the many fallen redwoods on his property.

Mr. Black spent some time in the circus and whilst working for the circus found his wife Ruby. With his big tent experience  he even installed tape recorders into the dolls and gave some of the dolls more movement by adding rods to move their limbs. Calvin made the voices and brought the characters to life. The couple had no children, and the dolls became their family. The dolls were left gifts that customers seemed to think fit their personalities like perfume.

The dolls themselves are very interesting for the fact that here is a work of art that sat for many decades in the middle of the Mojave desert and was exposed to many natural elements that you would think would destroy the dolls over time.

The pieces of Possum Trot seldom come to market. Many dolls are priced between the 5,000 to $15,000 range. Occasionally you may find a sign or something like that available for $2,000 to $5,000.

Calvin Black passed away in 1972. His wife Ruby passed away in 1980.

The couple is a great example of Americana, and what used to get people excited to travel on route 66. Other artists that work with recycled and found would be Goeffrey Gorman who makes wonderful lively animals from wood and other found materials.

A link for Gorman’s very unique and entertaining website:




Artist of the moment….Robert Mangold

Robert Mangold is a minimalist artist that was born in Tonawanda, New York in the year 1937. His parents were both employed his father working at an organ factory. His mom worked in the garment industry.

Mangold has worked in many mediums including woodcuts and aquatints which can be found between one and three thousand dollars. His most expensive works are originals in acrylics which can fetch up to 602,000 U.S dollars. Pencil works can reach up to $80,000.

Often times Mangold will work in a series executing paintings and works on paper.

In this clip we visit the renown Pace gallery for a show given for the artist in 2008.

Mangold is held in high regard by other artists who collect his work. One such artist is Robert Kushner, the fantastic painter of floral scenes.

Robert Mangold also married an artist, his wife is Sylvia Mangold. The couple live and work out of Washingtonville, New York.  Here is an example of one of her tree paintings.


The couple had a son James who went on to work in Hollywood as a screenwriter and film producer. Another son named Andrew Mangold who is a musician.

For his artistic education Mangold attended Cleveland Institute of Art. He went on to earn both a bachelors and masters degree from the art program at Yale University.

In this clip we revisit the great PBS series Art21. It has brought featured many artists including Mark Bradford and  Julie Mehretu. Robert Mangold is featured.

If you enjoy minimalism make sure and check out my post on Donald Judd. Judd was born in the year 1928 and passed away in 1994. Here is a great example of Judd’s minimalist work.


An art story that features many minimalist and modern artists would be that of Herb and Dorothy. Herb was a postal employee and his wife Dorothy a librarian. The couple bore no children and spent Dorothy’s salary to start an art collection that lasted their entire lifetime. The couple amassed such a collection they donated 5o works of art to each state. Its a great documentary if you get the opportunity to see it, don’t pass it up. When visiting their rent controlled apartment in New York city watch where you sit, there might very well be an original Frank Stella artwork lying on the floor!

A clip featuring the couple touring the many New York galleries. From the documentary film on the couple.

Another artist working in a minimalist style with basic geometric shapes making wonderful art would be Julie Mehretu. Mehretu was born in the year 1970 and below is a wonderful example of her work. Mehretu paints and also makes large scale installations.