You’re so Fine, and You’re Mine.

orange-lady

When I was little, there were two semi-weekly activities that I engaged in with each of my parents. With my dad, I played on a soccer team that he coached. Begrudgingly, and with my feet dragging, I’d go out to the fields week after week (except on the frequent occasions when I pretended to be ill and got away with it) to take part in something that I generally regarded as a waste of my time. Apart from the sliced oranges and bottomless cooler of Capri Sun, soccer combined a lot of things that I just couldn’t get behind: what with all the running around, the focus on teamwork with other boys, the outdoors, the unsightly footwear. I strove to play as little as possible, and when I did play, to do as little as possible——up to and including planting my butt on the field during play and weaving delicate tiaras out of grass for myself to wear at halftime. Hopped up on orange slices, Fruit Roll-Ups, Gushers, and Capri Sun, sometimes we’d go to Subway afterward and I’d be allowed to get a sandwich filled with nothing but ham and a truly appalling slathering of mayonnaise on white bread, which made the whole ordeal moderately worthwhile in my eyes. This was the 90s, and nobody cared too much one way or the other what kids ate so long as the product could reasonably be branded as food.

On Sundays, though, there was a weekly antiques fair in a strip mall parking lot near our house that I went to with my mother, which suited me much better. Here, you were expected to move at a pace slower than a walk, which appealed to me, and you could wear whatever you wanted to. Further, my people were there, which is to say kooky old people who wanted to get chatty about even older stuff. Because I was as much a novelty to them as they were to me, we developed a nice sort of symbiosis——I got to study adults that normally might have ignored me, and they got the pleasure of my youthful company and, sometimes, a hug. I developed a series of collections——first there were dog figurines, then there were wooden boxes, then milk bottles——that I’d keep my eyes out for, and I was great at using my childhood innocence to win me good bargains. It’s hard to say no to a little gay boy with bad hair who just can’t live without a porcelain dachshund, even if he only has three dollars to offer. I was a champion, and I knew it.

Like my athletically-inclined siblings, I was a competitive child, and I think my parents always hoped they’d find a way to parlay this into the sort of passion required on a soccer field (or, for a brief period, in a hockey rink). But it never came to pass. We all have our strengths, and buying old stuff instead of playing sports is mine.

It wasn’t until nearly two decades later, though, that I’ve finally found a way to combine all the fun and excitement of shopping in the company of weird old people with all of the high-stakes, fast-moving competition of a sport. Auctions, y’all. It’s what I was born to do.

Sure, I’ve played the whole eBay game a time or two in my day, but the real thing is approximately 4,000 times better. I’ve only been to two auctions, but allow me to break it down anyway like I know anything:

1. Auctions take forEVER, which I personally enjoy. It starts off a little boring, but then you get to know people in the audience. There’s that guy who will always bid on a box of costume jewelry, or that lady who will buy anything so long as it’s rusty and serves no evident function. There are the gaggles of old ladies who go solely for the entertainment. It becomes a kind of game, anticipating how much a given item will sell for and who in the room will bid on it. You begin to ask yourself a series of questions——who are these people? what brought us all into this room? what makes you interested in spending money on that garbage?——which lets your imagination really soar about the lives of your comrades. They’re questions without answers, but they’re fun to chew over nonetheless.

2. Auctions are educational. It’s fun to learn things about antiques and what they’re worth, but way more fun to do it in the rapid-fire environment of an auction house than by reading books, surfing the Internet, or watching Antiques Roadshow on TV.

3. Snacks on snacks on snacks. I did NOT know that there was food at auctions. Because they’re so long and people love to eat, there tends to be a lot of food available for purchase, ranging from junky to——hands down——the best slice of carrot cake I’ve ever eaten.

4. Of course, finally getting to bid on your item is, like, the most exciting. There’s a whole strategy to it, but there’s also the exhilarating moment of actually getting to do something that could have real repercussions. This is where the competition side comes in. In a way, you’re always a winner: either you win something at a semi-reasonable price that’s a little higher than where you pledged to stop bidding, OR, if things get really out of hand, you still have the opportunity to bid it up, out of spite, to the point where it’s no longer a good deal and then let your competition take it. It’s a little immature, maybe, but I did this to a set of six outdoor chairs and I don’t regret it for a minute. Those bastards can take them, and I can sleep easy knowing I made them pay too much.

5. Sometimes, there’s something totally crazy that comes up that wasn’t listed in the previews, and it’s fun to see people react to it while you also consider maybe buying it. The first auction I went to, between a Victorian chair and a platter of assorted glassware, they sold LAND. Like acres and acres of woodsy land with a creek and a modest waterfall. The other information about it——exactly where it was located, whether or not it had municipal water, the projected property taxes, whether it was cursed——these things never really came up, but it was still fun to think about. It ended up selling for only a couple thousand dollars. Where else can you buy your own waterfall for that, I mean really?

In short, I love auctions. I need to stay away from them due to the state of my bank account, but I also love them.

This is how the elegant painting in the photo above came into my life. I spotted her during previews——a period before the auction begins, in which attendees are encouraged to view the available items face to face. She immediately attracted my attention, an object nestled in that fun space between pretty and ugly, between uniquely beautiful and incredibly tacky. In an auction filled mostly with Hudson Valley antiques, the audience let out an audible laugh when the auctioneer read aloud the provenance: Russian, painted in 1997. Bidding started at $100, as usual, but quickly dropped to $10 and worked its way back up once the first interested party lifted their card. But it was I who eventually won out somewhere around the $60 mark, a price that elicited several eye-rolls and chuckles from onlookers.

But just LOOK at her. She’s like a Matisse, but without the talent, originality, or vintage. I love her gaudy frame. I love her vacant eyes. I love her perfectly round bosom and the inescapable fact of her garish, Snooki-level orangeness. I love that she traveled across continents and ended up with me. Sometimes I buy questionable things and immediately regret them, but we’re a few weeks into our relationship and I still treasure her presence in my home. She’s everything I never knew I wanted, but could not live without.


61 Comments

  1. You’re being too hard on that lady! I like her. She’s very Gauguin-esque.

    I want to go to auctions with you.

  2. Is she a big bad red bare-naked woman or a little bad red bare-naked woman? Can’t really tell the size of her but she’s phenomenal! Good choice. Can you post her dimensions? In the frame of course.

    • She is…medium-sized, I guess? In the frame, maybe like 18″ x 24″? Maybe a little smaller?

  3. You and Anna nailed it with the Matisse-Gaugin-Snooki references. She is indeed gaudily splendid, and oh, that color combination! So trendy yet so timeless in a dacha kind of way and so much more than a paint-by-numbers babe au naturel. I did NOT need to know about the allure of auctions, young man! But go you, for spotting the affordable winner. What room is she adorning?

    • Right now, the second guest room (the one with the drop ceiling upstairs)! I would have shown a wider shot, but the room is a horror show. I’m glad you like my orange lady!

  4. Thanks! I like her.

  5. I like that painting. :) Great find!

  6. She looks like she has implants, and her head is TINY, I love it. You could sell her on etsy for much more tomorrow. Great score, and great post!

  7. oh my god your childhood of reluctantly participating in soccer and having an interest in porcelain dachshunds is exactly like mine.

  8. This is one of those instances where people are gonna go DANIEL YOU ARE A BORN WRITER.
    And they’ll not be wrong.

    • My thoughts exactly!

    • I was thinking the same thing.

      Daniel, you should take the last paragraph of your entry and make it into a little educational placard below the art. (Like what you would see at a museum) I think it would add just the right touch of crazy funny wisdom!

  9. Love it. Matisse is my favorite and I did a double take when I first saw your post.

    Nice find!

  10. She immediately reminded me of Gauguin as well. Where is she going to hang out? Pun intended.

    • I don’t know yet! There’s a nice wall in the upstairs hallway that is a good size for her. Right now she’s in that “middle bedroom” adjacent to the old upstairs kitchen, which we stuck a bed in and are calling a guest room.

  11. This post reminded me of the first time I went to an estate sale/auction. My Grandma’s cousin, who never married, collected nearly everything. He had so much stuff at the end of his life that his niece had an estate auction that lasted 3 weekends. People came from other states. Antique dealers up and down the coast showed up. It was glorious. We’d bid on lots (boxes filled with random things) and then trade with others sitting around us. Juice glasses for this vase, sure! When a framed antique tintype of my Grandma’s childhood home came up for bidding, the auctioneer seemed to be ignoring my Mother’s gesturing, focusing solely on two dealers in the front row. Though I’m sure it’s not auction etiquette, I finally stood up and yelled to get his attention, fueled by the excitement of bidding and the fact that it was sentimental and we were family. You can be dang sure we walked home with that framed picture! I’m so glad you’ve discovered the thrill of auctions.

  12. Your experience playing soccer as a kid is EXACTLY my experience playing soccer as a kid, right down to the flower tiaras (but minus the Capri Sun, I don’t think we had that in Canada in the ’80s). I HATED soccer. I hated (and still do) playing team sports. I would plunk myself down in the grass and pick flowers, or do cartwheels…. Anything to pass the time and also avoid being hit in the head with the ball. I always got hit in the head with the ball during any team sport….

  13. Can we please be best friends? Auctions have always been so incredibly intimidating to me. I’d really like to learn the auction ropes from someone who gets so much enjoyment out of them. You make them sound like fun!

  14. I love her! I can picture her hanging by a claw foot tub with a chandelier hanging above it, ya know, just to give her the extra bit of glitz. She’s also the exact kind of painting my mom would love and I can totally picture her picking it up at a street art fair in SoCal and being so proud. Great find!

  15. Well, obviously I need to google “action Seattle” and find some sucker to go with me. The possibilities!

  16. Also “AUCTION Seattle”.

  17. Am I the only one who think her face looks like Kim Kardashian? Tony Perkins (aka Norman Bates) was at the first auction I ever went to. Years later I worked at an auction in Oregon that was auctioning of a huge lumber mill, inventory, machinery, building and land. Although I was a real hippie tree hugger at the time, I learned a lot of respet for the men and women in the business who were bidding on everything.

  18. She’s pretty fabulous, got a charm to her that’s hard to pin down. Maybe it’s her smile? I’d love to go to an auction in the US. Everything here in the UK is crazyballs expensive.

  19. Oooo, I love real life auctions! I used to work at an auction company when I was a (poor) student. You wouldn’t believe how many mid-century Scandinavian beauties were soled for NOTHING! And I didn’t have any money, or any space to put stuff in so I could bid for anything myself… I used to see those lounge chairs, lamps, coffee tables and writing desk get sold (or not sold – due to lack of interest!) and cry a little inside… Now I can never find stuff like that any more.
    Anyway. Congratulations to you for finding this lovely orange woman! That color-combo is kind of awesome.

  20. I love it!!! I totally get where you’re coming from too. Several years ago when I was still freelance and really broke, I spent the $8 I had in my pocket for groceries on a painting at a thrift store instead (and ended up eating oatmeal and ramen every meal for the next week, lol.) I still have it hanging in my bedroom, and still love it more than ever. No regrets. :) https://scontent-a-sjc.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn2/8529_743231391205_6406237_n.jpg

    • What a cool score you made with this one, worth every skimpy meal for a week. I really, really like it.

    • That’s one great painting! Good for you for spotting it and deciding to go for it!

  21. My weakness is online estate auctions. All the pleasure, none of the getting dressed.

    • Yes! Today at Bonhams the auction was Montana Dueling Dinosaurs and Distinguished Fossils. You can get anything on the web…

  22. Daniel, your writing is wonderful. I hope you soon get the book deal (or at least, inspiration to write some memoirs) that you clearly are headed for. I just wanted to say I totally called it before it happens. Or maybe it’s already happening, who knows.
    I love your blog.
    Love,
    A mid century stuff and other random stuff collector in Seattle.

  23. I love auctions. We recently had a very interesting one near us where the contents of the farm were sold (including live cattle) and then a couple of weeks later the whole farm was sold. At the first auction, I was too slow and missed out on a few things that I really wanted. When we went back for the preview on the farm itself (not that we were in the market; we’re just nosy neighbours), I saw the items that I wanted were still in the barn. The buyers hadn’t taken them after they bought them. Of course I asked about them and the owner gave them to me for free! I posted the story at http://homeon129acres.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/what-once-was-lost-now-is-found/. They’re not quite as polished as your painting, but that’s the beauty of auctions. We find things that speak to us.

    Oh, and my bidding strategy is to never be the first one. I try to wait until about half way in. I find the price that the auctioneer starts at is usually the close to the price the item will eventually sell for.

  24. Oh my, I think she is wonderful in so many unexpected ways. Bravo!

  25. Haha, cool find.

    I’m totally going to start hitting up some auctions. Seems like an awesome time.

  26. Excellent score! i immediately thought “bad matisse” upon viewing, but it’s a very fun painting! and as someone who has had a fair share of items framed, that frame alone would easily cost you $100, empty, so definitely feel vindicated in your $60 score. adore how your new home is shaping up. given how awesome your brooklyn apartment is i know, in time, your home will be gorgeous and perfect for you.

  27. This is the BEST. She’s dang fetching, Daniel. I love the quizzical tilt of head plus her doll-face vacancy — you could tell her anything! I’m especially partial to her stretchy Gumby-esque right arm. It’s as if all the heavy-lifting happens with the left one. Super sweet buy!

  28. Funny a naked lady in the Gay Gardens. This post also explains why the picture of your first room away from home looked like a well thought out room in an old people’s home from the 70’s (you posted a picture of it once). I find it funny how things I slightly like (they do nudge me in a certain way) can become so loved while sometimes things I adore can over time become less and less interesting and personal. I love the last sentence, sometimes things just happen that way.
    Have a wonderful day.

  29. Yeah! Anna and Jessica are so right about Gauguin, but besides Matisse and Gauguin, I see some Modigliani in the knowing/wistful expression and size/ side angle of the head, not to mention the sensual anatomy. Quite a find, I hope this muse graces your home for years to come. And great writing as ever!

  30. Long time lurker first time commenting. First let me say I love your blog and really look forward to your posts. I am amazed at your talents you are truly a rock star in your decorating and writing. Great stuff. As for the painting I so would have bought that too. One because it’s awesome but two because I never been to an auction and anything I bid on and got would be cool. Cheers from canada!

  31. I love your medium-little lady painting! Great find and your home is a great place for her! I love auctions, consignment stores, flea markets and antique stores, too!

  32. Love your writing Daniel! I think the unspoken lesson from your auction experience is that getting this snookie/mattisse lady painting adds so much more character than buying a piece from West Elm or Ikea – nothing wrong with those places but by layering in pieces that have a story like your auction finds or your granparents’ Eames lounge chair your homes become much more a reflection of you and that is what makes a house a home. Good work.

  33. Only one person said Modigliani?? For shame!
    It is very this, and very nice.

  34. Perfection.

  35. I can’t stop staring at her. What a stunning face! The colors…!! What a score.

  36. Auctions are great — why were people down on your lady friend? To each his own. If you’re ever in NW CT on a Thursday, the Golden Gavel can NOT be beat — it’s got all you listed (snack bar, crazy ladies — representing, silver collectors) PLUS at the end of the night, you can bid on the contents of long buffet tables filled with boxes — it’s for the flea market dealers, but man oh man, for $5.00 you get yards of old stuff in mysterious cardboard boxes. It’s so great!

  37. Love the painting (and her boobies!).
    I went to my first auction as a teenager and ended up spending more money that day than I had ever spent, collectively, in my entire life. The rush is awesome, smell is amazing, and history to die for. Thankfully I never get too caught up in the bidding (cough broke cough) but if I get crazed enough, I’ve approached some winners in the parking lot after the auction, attempting to offer them more money for their lot. Yup. Black market parking lot deals. Welcome to my life.

  38. I too love many questionable things that are somehow too awesome to be as ugly as they should be. We call them “fabulously tacky” at my house and they are my very favorite thing to find–partly because I never know when I’ll next find one or what it will be. That looks like a great fabulously tacky painting. Good score!

    (BTW-My husband is not a fabulously tacky fan. For some reason he never quite gets the “fabulous” part. It’s very sad.)

  39. A really nice post, Daniel. I really like the painting.

  40. “We all have our strengths, and buying old stuff instead of playing sports is mine.” I’m with you on that one :-)
    And what a lovely find. I love you red lady.

  41. Awesome – all of it! The snippet of the past, the Snookiness, the ham sandwich with mayo.

  42. She needs a name,
    to bad Bare Naked Lady is taken!

  43. i spent the majority of this post on pins and needles, thinking you had somehow managed to get your hands on a MODIGLIANI, where upon my brain would have EXPLODED. sorry for the caps, but…. modigliani is my favesies.

    i’m still just incredibly jealous that you have an attractive modigliani knock off. treasure it, daniel! treasure it!!!!

  44. I love auctions! I’ve been going since I was little (many many years ago). Growing up a farm kid, it was pretty much expected someone would retire and their would be stuff up for sale. I think I started bidding on my own at twelve. I believe the first thing I bought were some serving dishes that were given to my great great aunt when she married. They were downsizing and moving into town. I deeply suspect I caught looks from others, being a kid and buying dishes, but I still have them this many years later. I still have fun at auctions, and was raised to be a force to be reckoned with when there is something I want/ need. I have also done the bastardly bidding up of something, and I don’t think I’ve ever been caught yet. I like finding out who the antique dealers are and messing with their bids.

    Have fun! Auction sales in Saskatchewan are still the same now, and as there is one in Saskatoon on Saturday, I want to go.

  45. heheh what I love a lot about your Snookie-coloured Mod-Mat-Gau is her head ducking to stay in frame. She is lovely. I like the idea of putting a description card below … with a NSF (not for sale) indicator.

  46. I like her – great colors! The auctions I go to are the weekly general sort but luckily I have discovered “lot alert”- you list the types of things you are looking for and get sent a list with pictures a day or two before. That way you are not spending so much time and only go in for viewings when something you need comes up.

  47. This post genuinely made me laugh. Especially the bit about “Who’s gonna buy this garbage?” I think you did fairly well for 60$. It’s an original oil painting, and it appears as though it was done by a fairly talented artist. It’s not my cup of tea, but the colours are bright and fun, and it’s the kind of piece that could “work” just about anywhere (maybe not a kid’s bedroom though, haha!)

    I actually had quite a but of fun buying several old oil paintings for dirt cheap (10$ a pop) a few months ago. If you feel like it, you can read about it and see photos here: http://my1923foursquare.blogspot.ca/2013/09/antique-auction-finds.html

  48. ooh – love it! I have been to several auctions over the years. My grandma was a antique dealer/buyer/lover so I learned all sorts of things from her. She was very honest and abhorred “tricksters” at auctions. Once, she told me to look at this particular man – he slipped a “important” piece into a box of junk. Of course, he bid on this box of junk knowing full well it held the treasure he put in it. Rainy days are good for getting good buys. I hate it when the big dealers come – they have stores and usually outbid everyone. The old farm auctions are the best. It is fun, it does take FOREVER – I waited all afternoon on a LeCreuset big oval pot with lid – barely used. I got it for 8.00 – have used it for 15 years!

  49. This was wonderfully written.
    And she’s quite lovely.

  50. I am a new reader, and have really been enjoying your writing style. You made me want this questionable lady today! Hah!

  51. What is it about porcelain dachshunds? I feel like it’s a right of passage – you must buy one at a flea market at some point during childhood.

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