April 22, 2010
I’m never sure if Marya Veeck asks me to participate in her art shows because I’m a friend or if she actually thinks I’m a decent artist.
I have sold all three pieces I’ve exhibited in her warm August House Studio, 2113 W. Roscoe in Chicago. Bring a treat for Beasley, her docile, wide eyed beagle that watches over the artwork.
Veeck is an accomplished artist. We’ve connected not only for our love of baseball and irreverence (her father was Baseball Hall of Famer Bill, her brother is baseball’s marketing maverick Mike) but for our appreciation of the outdoors.
Early in her career I was drawn to the oil paintings and furniture that celebrated Marya’s years in Beauvais Woods along the eastern shore of Maryland. Ill health had forced Bill Veeck to sell his Chicago White Sox in 1961 and the Veecks moved to a converted farmhouse on Tranquility Lane in Easton, Md.
“I like to use bright colors and play them off against an uneasiness,” Veeck told me in 1990. “People respond immediately to the bright colors. Someone once said people were attracted to the colors like birds were attracted to bright objects.” And birdhouses were a logical next step for Veeck. The Veecks have always embraced blue skies. Her father liked to garden and build mobiles and her mother Mary Frances remains radiant in the springtime blossoms of Hyde Park.
About 15 years ago Marya began painting birdhouses in the same engaging motif as her furniture and oils. This leads to the exhibition of birdhouses “The Return of Birds I Have Known” which opens with an artist’s reception 6-9 p.m. May 7. (www.augusthousestudio.com). The show features 125 birdhouses that range in price between $60 and $500. Besides Veeck’s birdhouse, there’s contributions from Chicago television producer Jamie Ceaser, Cindy Brashler, the wife of Chicago writer Bill Brashler “Bingo Long and the Traveling All-Stars)” and me. Again.
I’ve made a Tiki Bird House and a Baseball Bird House with aviary ready names like ex-Cubs Doug Bird, Robin Roberts and Hawk Dawson. For this show I started toying with a primitive Route 66 birdhouse until the spirit of artist Bob Waldmire took over. Waldmire was a Route 66 icon from Springfield, Ill. who died in December. His obituary made it into the Wall Street Journal and Chicago Tribune.
Waldmire was also viewed as an outcast, hippie and historian. On April 20 half of his ashes were buried next to his parent’s graves on the remote Cardinal Hill, south of Springfield. Waldmire took his last ride to Cardinal Hill in his 1972 Volkswagen bus that was the model for the character Fillmore in the hit movie “Cars.”
There’s more than one way to look at a story, which the Veecks know.
Waldmire was a bioregionist and some of his earliest drawings were of birds. He did a remarkable fine print map titled “A Nostalgic, Bioregionally-Flavored Bird’s Eye View of Old Route 66”.
Last November when I visited him in his retooled 1966 Chevy school bus south of Springfield, the first thing he asked me to do was feed his birds. There were chickadees, blue jays, gold finches, and cardinals—the state bird of Illinois.
“Birds have been one of the great highlights of my life,” Waldmire said.
So, Bob, this one is for you.
I affixed a few of the Route 66 state birds onto my robin egg blue house. I added a cut out of Bob from as he smiled and waved goodbye from the steps of his bus after our November visit. I also tossed in an image of Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket (www.chickenbasket.com) along Route 66 in Willowbrook for good measure.
You’ll also see the Eastern bluebird (Missouri), the Western Meadowlark for the 12 miles of Route 66 that flies through Kansas and maybe my favorite state bird of all: The Scisssor-tailed Flycatcher from Oklahoma. The small bird has a tail that resembles a pair of scissors, often reaching as long as 9 inches. The males are known for their “Sky Dance.” A merry dude climbs about 100 feet in the air, launches into a series of V-shaped flights and then plunges down in a zig zag course, someraulting while uttering a cackling calls and chirps. Its just like the streets of Wrigleyville after a Saturday Cubs game.
Anyway I hope you come out to see the show. My birdhouse is affordable and/or cheep.