“Where did you get them?”
“Aaaa, aaaa…well, me and Schwartz and Flick and Bruner,… walking back of the…” I’m trying my cute face. Every one of us in our life has a cute face, the lovable face that elicits the sympathetic, “Oh, it’s alright, Jeanie.”
“You got these out of the alley?”
“From the back of Dr. Goodman’s office?” Dr. Goodman is the dentist who has this collection of teeth, and every day, he throws it out in the back. And we four are the first to bring his evil home to roost.
My mother picks up the phone and gets his number from information and dials it. “Dr. Goodman, come over here and get your teeth. My son has boxes with two-pounds of your teeth here. He says he got them back of your place. Will you come and get them? They belong to you and I don’t want them in the house.”
Fifteen minutes later a man with a white coat comes up the walk and knocks on the door. My mother opens up and says, “Take your teeth. My son brought them home. You should have a better place to put your teeth.”
“Thank you, ma’m.”
She says, “By the way, call at Mrs. Schwartz, two doors down.”
Twenty minutes later me and Schwartz and Flick and Bruner are standing under a streetlight. Schwartz turns to me and says, “Did you tell her?”
“No, she found them.”
Flick says, “Now where are we gonna get more?”
END OF TOOTH STORY!
In the Ethnic and Tourist Arts book of 1976, the article by Mari Lyn Salvador begins, “Molas .…are the appliqued front or back panels of a blouse that is part of the traditional dress worn by Cuna women. The art of mola making has developed within the last hundred years, combining the creative utilization of new materials and processes (cloth, scissors, needles) with the traditional art form of body painting.” [I understand that the Western missionaries had discouraged the women from exposing their naked, painted breasts, leading, happily, to a new art form.]
In a small, government-run indigenous-art store in downtown Bogota, I encountered a large pile of molas. I liked them, and noted that they seemed “authentic,” in that they appeared to have been cut out of what I assumed were the blouses of which they had been a part. (They were not made for tourists and boutique habitues.) The edges were frayed, unfinished, unlike what they would have been if they’d been made and bound neatly for commercial sale. Then I noted something else: the main, background cloth color, often red or black, was somewhat faded, while the edges (that would have been covered by the main parts of the blouse) were considerably darker. Of course, the exposed parts had faded over time by being exposed to the sun! This is especially noticeable along the top edge of the turtle piece. These molas hadn’t been manufactured in a factory, they had been made for personal use and worn long enough to have naturally faded.
These were the real thing. I would buy several.
Most were about 15” X 17.” But a larger one stuck out.
I found that it was 17” X 25.”
I pulled the large one out of the pile and noted that it was far more subtle in its colors. It was gentle and not contrasty in effect. Compared to all the rest, it seemed much older, much more faded. It was more elegant and I immediately liked it a lot. Only much later, back home in New York, did something else strike me. Was it simply that the maker was a far more subtle craftswoman in her color selection? I also noted that on one of the four sides, one side was even more faded than the others. Why? How could one part of the same cloth be lighter? It took some time, but then, all of a sudden, I put all two puzzlements together in one grand assumption that I have the pleasure of seeing on a wall back of several pre-Columbian pots on a shelf!
Looking especially along the far right and bottom edges
of the main, faded background cloth
(pale gray, previously much darker or even black),
one can see darker parts of the cloth
that had been protected from the sun.
This mola is much bigger because, I’m sure, it had been made and worm by a much larger woman. She would have been broad and large-breasted. And the half that was more faded had been on top where, more directly exposed to the sun than the lower that was a bit more covered by the shading protuberance of her breasts. How elegant the effect and how elegant (in its minor art-world way) the solution–some of the subtlety and elegance was not planned but was a natural, utilitarian happenstance.
Not on a level with discovering a previously unknown Rembrandt,
but still a bit ARTSY-worthy.