By Michael Rutschky
Published on February 13, 2008
Visitors to the Anna Lamar Switzer Center for Visual Arts this week will notice that a small ceramic pot has been placed on the front desk of the department alongside a printed note asking for donations from the public. According to the letter, the donations will go towards the purchase, transportation, exhibition, and storage of a unique collection of art. The letter and the pot are both from Professor Warren Thompson, who began the fundraiser as a means to aid him in a special endeavor.
Thompson has recently stumbled upon a classic collection of 1950’s black velvet deer paintings in a random want ad. The collection consists of five paintings, and is being sold for $15. In order to help him secure the purchase of the collection and retrieve it from its current owner Thompson began taking contributions from students and faculty members. Although he’s asking for donations, Thompson says that the drive itself is mostly tongue-in-cheek.
“It started out as collecting from the faculty, then I put that jar out there,” said Thompson in his office at the Visual Arts building, “and then I came up with the idea that if you donate a dollar you would get your name in the catalogue. We’re just having fun.”
The style of velvet paintings was very popular in the 1970’s, when they were being mass-produced in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The art form is now considered to be kitsch, a type of art that is tasteless and inferior to the point of being tasteless and inferior in an artistic way.
“The deal with kitsch is it’s viewed as a legitimate form of art,” said Art History Professor Patrick Rowe. “The idea is that it is so bad, so tacky, that it’s cool.”