Friday, February 11, 2011

Total Recall

First a word of warning, this post is probably going to be long and rambling and furthermore it will probably only be of interest to myself, so, if you are inclined to continue reading please note that you have been warned.

Have you ever had a series of events quickly come together that answered a nagging question?

Question really isn’t right, what I’m trying to express is a feeling or desire that has finally been answered, or quenched, closed.

The desire in question is “Where does my inspiration really come from?”

That’s a whopper, something I’ve been thinking about for many years.

Many people comment on my style stating that they know it’s my work before they see my name attached.

That’s cool but I’ve always been unable to pinpoint the exact source of the inspiration…until now.

Where to start?

A couple of days ago I posted photos of my troll concept that I submitted for our city’s annual summer sculpture series. The short story is that I hope to be selected to create a sculpture to be displayed in our downtown during the summer of 2011. I posted a clay rendering of my troll concept on my Facebook STOLLOWEEN page and on HauntSpace.

One of the Hauntspace members commented on my post stating:

“This reminds me a little of the claymation work done by Will Vinton, or Aardman Studios (Wallice and Gromet.) If he was sticking out of a small streetrod, and holding a shifter, I'd also be thinking of the old "Wierd-0h" model kits. Good job.”

This was a nice comment and I agreed with the Aardman Studios reference especially seeing that I’m a fan of Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run but I had to google “Weird-Oh” model kits because I had no clue.

Google faithfully returned numerous images of the Weird-Oh model and my brain sort of had a mental orgasm, the gears were turning and my way-back machine zoomed back to the late 1960’s.

Turns out that Weird-oh model kits were made by the Hawk Model Company in the early 1960, the Weird-oh line was a series of dragster and hot rod caricatures.

Looking at the photos of the goofy caricatures triggered something in my mind, something familiar and something important.

Let’s back up again, this time lets go back 40 plus years.

Hang on; fasten your seat belts because things are going to bit bumpy.

I was born in 1963. Fact.

I have a really good memory of my childhood from age three and up. Fact.

For the first three and a half years of my life my parents lived in a house trailer and I can remember many details of those years.

I remember the pink bathroom, yes pink tub, sink and toilet.

I remember the gifts I got for Christmas like the plastic Poky and Gumby characters I got from Santa.

I remember the toys I got out my Trix cereal box.

I remember putting a plastic sailboat toy in the oven much to my Mom’s dismay because it melted all over the place when she turned on the oven.

I remember the dog we had at the time. (Dutchess)

I remember the first swing set my Dad assembled and surprised me with.

And much more.

The year before I started kindergarten at age four we moved to Reed City, Michigan, my parents bought a large 5 bedroom farmhouse which became our home for the rest of my childhood.

This brings us to the late 1960’s…sometime around 1967 or 1968.

During one of our trips to downtown Reed City with my Mom I remember going into one of the dime stores.

Reed City had two at the time, a Ben Franklin’s Store and another called Stars.

I remember buying three brightly colored plastic figures from Stars.

My memory is hazy here at best…all I can recall is that they were modeled after different careers, brightly colored and I loved them.

Red, green and blue.

Yes I loved them.

The hazy images of these toys have popped up in my consciousness from time to time over the years and while the details have always been sketchy the emotion has always been one of fond admiration.

Which brings me to now.

The comment on Hauntspace which referenced “Weird-Oh” models tripped the switch.

The images struck a chord or more accurately hit me over the head like a sledgehammer.

There they were, grotesque caricatures with buggy eyes and drooling mouths opening my subconscious like the San Andreas Fault after an 8.5 earthquake.

My mind was spinning.

This was close, these were in the same family as my fuzzy memory of those brightly colored plastic toys that I wanted…no….need to see again.

Google is God.

Google provided me with the directions, the needed information, the compass to answer the nagging question of “Why do I do what I do the way I do it?”

The search inquires included “plastic toys 1960”, “Hawk Models”, “Marx Toy” and finally the holy grail of all searches, “Nutty Mads.”

Approximately 30 minutes later, the google search engine returned the images that have eluded me for decades.

“Marx Toys Nutty Mads”

There it was the end of the rainbow, the information that confirmed and brought my memories into focus … the Nutty Mad toys by Marx Toys.

Silly, exaggerated and grotesque but at the same time the most beautiful images I have ever witnessed on my computer screen.

These were it.

Three grotesque caricatures that would influence, shape and motivate me from the sloshy depths of my subconscious.

“Donald The Demon” and “All Heart Hogan” and “The Doctor”

There is a lot of interesting history regarding the people behind all of the toys mentioned in this post and I’m sure it will continue to be an ongoing interest or obsession if I am to be completely honest.

For now I can take a deep breath and rest assured that I now know where the root of my inspiration stems.

This whole story boils down to some cheap five and dime figures acquired in the 60’s.

Will this change anything?

What does it mean?

Nothing will probably change other than the fact that I can now connect the dots and provide some sort of explanation for the look of my designs.

I’m done, end of story.

Now I’m going to go savor those two words that I’ve needed for such a long time.

Nutty Mads.

Further Information and photos :

Wikipedia Nutty Mads

Old Model Kits


Ebay Listings

Please note that images of the Weird-Oh model kits and Marx Nutty Mad toys are not mine, I claim no ownership. The images were only used to illustrate the story, the posted links are the sources of the photos used.


Pam Morris said...

that was interesting--really! and when I looked at the pics of the toys, I can definitely see the connection between them and your work. I have no idea what influences me really; in fact, I don't even know if I have a style! it's very cool that you have discovered that thread that you can follow back through the years.

Dave the Dead said...

Too cool Scott! I really thought you were heading for the Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's "Rat Fink" character...(actually i was holding my breath as I read thru your post hoping that was it...big influence of mine, although it doesn't show in my work so much) I do see alot of similarities to your work there, so if you feel you are still missing a key element to the memory, perhaps there is something there for you.

Thanks for sharing the journey of your eureka read!



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