Sunday, October 13, 2013

1-800-LEARNER

Sometimes, in order to find new things, you have to go back to places you've already been to. THIS IS HARD FOR ME. I like new things and new places.

But I knew I had to go back to this place. The junk shop located in St. Croix Falls, WI, which I wrote a post about back in June. No website, and no official name. No official hours of operation, either. A sign on the door says, "Don't Steal," and lists the number of the owner, Derek, a brilliant curator of clandestine objects who can be reached at any time of day to talk about his junk. If Derek knows anything, he knows junk. Over 10,000 items in his shop and he remembers each and every one.

I had gone back to the shop for various reasons, but mostly because I felt very strongly that I needed to go back. I knew that there was something extraordinary about the objects in Derek's shop the first time I went, but I hadn't quite realized that I may have discovered the most extensive resource for outsider art in the entire midwest (or at least northwestern Wisconsin) (or at least St. Croix Falls). When I went back this time, I regarded each and every object with extreme care, realizing that this was not just ordinary junk, but junk crafted with all the tenderness and dedication that any of my housemates and fellow Franconia artists possess. I was particularly drawn to a stack of paintings in a corner. Colorful and intricate, they bloomed in the din of the basement.


Most of them were the same style. A psychedelic swirl with suggestive figures curled into every detail. With the exception of the ones shown above, they weren't huge paintings, but small squares. The majority of them were painted on a canvas called Clayboard, but some of them were on regular paper. In fact, the paintings in one large folder revealed that many of them were applied to the back side of notebook paper, cut-up sketchbook covers, and what appeared to be messages that had been left lying around in some fictional domestic setting. Looking at the back of the paintings was almost as interesting as the paintings themselves.

"1-800-LEARNER"

"Dear Mrs. Landes, 
Would please accept this drawing
from me as a gift. In return could you do me a favor? 
Namely, please explain to my son Daniel that
he should not steal."

As I looked through the stack I realized something: I wanted one. Hence my reasoning for calling Derek. "Bug him," the shop's co-inhabitor told me, when I asked him whether or not I should call Derek about something so miniscule. So I did. Derek said I should set the paintings aside that I wanted, and he would get back to me the following Monday. I chose two, and I have been waiting in suspense ever since. 

In the meantime, I did some more research regarding something else Derek had told me on the phone. Pete Bastiansen. A name assigned to the origin of some of the junk. I was told that Bastiansen used to work for an advertising company in Minneapolis, and that all the paintings I had found had been done by him.

When I googled Bastiansen's name later that night, I got three things:
1. An article on Minnesota-based advertising art mentioning Bastiansen's name.
2. A listing for Utrecht art supplies listing Bastiansen as an instructor for a drawing class (year unknown).
3. A Live Auctioneers website selling an illustration done by Bastiansen in 1967 when he was the creative director for the Campbell-Mithun Advertising Agency in Minneapolis. 

Bastiansen has no website, no listing on MNartists, no Facebook profile, no gallery and no personal information whatsoever on Google.

I knew I had found the next artist to bother.

To be continued....

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