Jeff Zigler, Jan. 1946, 9" x 12"
Walnut Hills High, Cincinnati, OH

As many visitors to the site have noted on my "Donation" page I normally frown on obvious student exercises, but this painting has so much going for it and is so mysterious that I chose to bend the rules just a bit.

Imagine, if you will, the year is 1946 and the location is Walnut Hills High at 1610 East McMillan Street in Cincinnati, Ohio. We are in Mr. Dauterich's 10th grade Art class in a room filled with post-war 16-year olds trying to come to terms with the end of World War II and gearing up for a 25-year run of consumerism and rise in living standards heretofore unseen in the modern world. The principal, Mr. Stewart, is probably sitting right down the hall in his office chatting with a visitor from the Board of Education or making plans for this year's graduation.

Meanwhile back in Mr. Dauterich's class while other students are painting landscapes, self-portraits, and bowls of fruit, Jeff Zigler decides to push the envelope just a bit for 1946. Even though young Jeff has no idea that in another 50 years or so Cincinnati will become infamous for the police department's removal of Robert Mapplethorpe photos from the city Museum of Art, he knows that the road less traveled is filled with many rewards in spite of the challenges encountered along the way.

The spider web and hanging jester in this piece are completely enigmatic, and the cartoon-like faces remind me of works in Dubuffet's Museum of Art Brut which were painted by schizophrenics. As compelling as these elements are (including the clown makeup and bow tie worn by the presumed Mr. Zigler), I must say that it was the stack of books in the foreground which first caught my attention, including such titles as "How to be Funny", "Humor", "Cartoons", "Laughs", "Puns", "The Pun", and "Jokes".

I wish I had more insight into Mr. Zigler's thought process during the creation of this work, especially considering when it was painted. Just where did the years take Jeff Zigler, and even more intriguing, is there a 75+ year-old artistic genius/madman still with us today somewhere in the hinterlands of Ohio?

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Gallery XII