Wayne Amerine
Authentic Turtle Shell

Oh Boy! Toys & Games: The EASL Benefit Exhibition & Auction, November 11, 2000


A personal story + pictures © 2000 by J R Compton


I'm a big fan of EASL ( the Emergency Artists Support League ). Years ago, I donated a color-this page ( of the stupid cows downtown that The City pays more for every year than they fund the Dallas Museum of Art ) for EASL's second coloring book. And the year before that I got every page of their first book autographed by those contributing artists in some bookstore.

Two years ago next April, I cemented my deep feelings for them, when I got out of the hospital after nearly killing myself ( punctured lung, severely lacerated liver, and splintered spleen ) in an auto accident.


Charlotte Ware - Quality Time
linoleum cut, approximately 3' tall

I was in utter shock when I got the bill from Baylor Hospital for more than $50,000 -- more than I've earned in decades. I applied to EASL for assistance, and that's what I got.

Thanks to a letter-writing campaign by their Social Worker to my many creditors, most of them dropped my bills entirely. EASL can only donate $2,500 to one person in any one year for emergency medical bills. But that check, sent to my surgeon, whose bill was more than double that amount, allowed him to cancel the balance. Instead of being in debt the rest of my life, I've slowly paid off the few hundred dollar balance.

Rick Maxwell - Bad Dog, wood
Photograph by Reinhard Ziegler

I have known other recipients. But it is always anonymous, so I won't tell you any names. But you probably know at least one artist who's been helped by this fine organization. I know at least six.

So when they announced this toy show and sale, I was eager and excited to help any way I could. For the life of me, I couldn't come up with a toyful concept for a piece of art. But if taking pictures and puting them here on the web helps in any way. I'm for it.

I suspect most of the works were delivered after work hours Tuesday, but I got there mid-afternoon and was lucky enough to find the back room where toys were accumulating, filled with bright daylight, which is so much nicer to photograph art under than tungsten bulbs.

It's not a competition, of course, it's a benefit show. But I've already got some favorites. When I first got the long list of artists involved in this exhibition, I sent out E-mails requesting that artists whose E-addresses I knew let me visit their studios and digitally photograph any completed toys and games.


Paul Rogers Harris
found sign

An early favorite -- and still a strong contender — is artist and independent curator Paul Rogers Harris' superb Nice Toys Don't Kill found art piece. Which, of course, is neither a toy nor a game. But it's still got plenty of impact, as you can see above.

Simple and direct, befitting work by a long-time graphic artist, former museum director and oft-times teacher, this piece is the end of a box, with the words already printed on the tinted paper, which Paul found, then framed. He was not entirely certain EASL would take the piece, since it fits none of the categories, but he needn't have worried. It's a great addition to the show.

Wayne Amerine, famous for his cows, has a tiny one of those in the show. But he's also got a fine little, bright yellow, spotted Authentic Turtle Shell, which certainly looks like a toy. I like that it was delivered in such an appropriately decorated box. Most of the work I saw were in rather ordinary cardboard boxes.

Another early E-mail responder was my friend Norman Kary, whose works I loved visiting at his garage studio. The puzzle game abvoe is called From One End to the Other ( 2000, wood object ), The title pretty much describes what the green-handled, self-framed all about. He'd been practicing with it, of course. And he deftly rolled the tiny blue ball to this mid-way position by twisting and tilting the field of red holes. I told him I could have placed the blue spot it anywhere via Photoshop. But he wanted to do it authentically.



I'm not sure what this jam of brightly colored Super Heroes, attached with a wide, black strap, to the translucent blue robot behind, is all about. But I've always admired Roberto Munguia's work and especially his fine sense of colors, so this enigma fits right in to what I know of his body of work.

Speaking of color sensibilities, this Checkerboard by early Fair Park area urban pioneer John Abrams, is lush and practical. Unlike many of the so-called toys and games I saw, this game board is far from delicate. It is sturdy, and the checkers themselves are likely to last through many an active game. Plus, the board is remarkably light. The pieces are form-fitting and easily kingable, as shown on the left above.

I haven't seen Joan Zalenski's Booby Train ( 1969, ceramic, mixed media, 5-1/2 x 26" ). This picture was provided by EASL, and it was probably also shot by Reinhard Ziegler. But I suspect it is more for show and tell than for pull-toying around with. It is difficult to imagine some child having too much fun with this choo-choo.


Two early entrant fishies caught my eye. Above is A Coy Carp Named Ivan Is On The Line ( oil on wood, brass, cord, 7 x 18 x 4" Photo courtesy the artist ) by David Newman, whom I have always identified as a fine, fine arts photographer and more recently appreciated as a webguy extraordinaire.

Then comes swimming up this fish-shaped and colored paddle by

Ann Ekstrom - Marbles I, 2000,
oil on linen, 16 x 20 inches - detail


Photographs and stories © 2000 by J R Compton. Artwork copyright 2000 by their artists. All Rights Reserved. Commercial use or redistribution in any form, printed or electronic, is prohibited.

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