Beauty, Eye, Beholder

by cowboylands

“…the beauty of things that can’t be known for sure.”

Mining Equipment (Throat Obstruction Demo), Mining Museum, Silverton Colorado © 2008 es

These words absolutely do not address the queasiness I feel when I wonder about the motivations of a certain plumber-cum-Republican mascot. Instead they describe the Museum of Jurassic Technology, a larger-than-life cabinet of wonders beside an L.A. freeway. I haven’t had the pleasure of dipping into its collection of radiographs, objets d’Napoleon, micromosaics, and absolutely dense notes that can only be deciphered if you are letting go of all preconceived notions and simultaneously holding on to them for dear life. But I am reminded of the MJT when I dip into objets d’West at small museums on main streets throughout the western states. 

Gambling Table, Idaho Museum © 2008 es

I find items of touching delicacy, such as a tiny pair of white gloves, sitting close to grotesques like a grinning mannequin festooned with the spaghettied wires of a hair waver.

Mannequin, Oakley Historical Museum, Oakley, Idaho © 2008 es

On one shelf, a framed shadow box could hold dark butterflies and flowers. When I peer at the strangely fuzzy wings and petals, I see that the loops and curlicues are made from human hair, which had been—a small, typed card reads—tatted, crocheted, and prepared by the family of a man named George Page Whittle. The hair art of the nineteenth century has its odd, strange (and creepy) beauty. 


Hair Picture, Oakley Historical Museum, Oakley, Idaho © 2008 es

Hair is at once the most delicate and lasting of our materials, and survives us, like love. It is so light, so gentle, so escaping from the idea of death, that with a lock of hair belonging to a child or friend, we may almost look up to heaven and compare notes with the angelic nature-may almost say, “I have a piece of thee here, not unworthy of thy being now.” 

The Godey’s Lady’s Book of May 1855


2 Comments to “Beauty, Eye, Beholder”

  1. I just watched Appaloosa, have you seen it, what did you think?

  2. Just saw it! With Kerry, actually. An interesting movie in many ways, and I’ll be posting about it. In direction and script it’s a throwback to the stolid, solid westerns of ’50s and ’60s. Also, I like the tender relationship between the men that doesn’t veer into snarky sexualization. And some super duper western porn at the end–those fuzzy closeups of rope and saddles and whiskey glasses and guns and chaps? oh. my. gawd.

%d bloggers like this: