Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Evel Knievel- Daredevil of the Paintbrush!

I'm all for showmanship,  PT Barnum exaggeration, hustler hullabaloo and sideshow promises in the selling spiel. I've been know to use words like "masterpiece," "sold out," "award winning," and "abs of steel" when describing certain things in my life, but childhood superstar, the mythical Evel Knievel, took his well earned daredevil bragadoo and tried to put it to use in the world of art. It ended like some of his jumps. Not that well.
''I can probably paint as well as Charlie Russell and Remington; I know I can paint as good as Van Gogh and some of those guys'' was one Evel's lesser claims.
Not that I'm breaking any "60 Minute" investigative news story (more likely it's a "who cares?" revelation), but I'm pretty sure not too many folks believed the hype.
After he burned through between $30,000,000 to $200,000,000 in earnings (depending on Evel's mood in telling the story) there wasn't much looming on the horizon. Toy endorsements choked after he assaulted his former press promoter Shelly Saltman for writing an unflattering book (who was awarded $13,000,000 in damages) and, in 1983 at 44, age made him give second thoughts to body shattering cycle landings. Also in debt for back taxes, he started to market what he said was his first love, painting.
Except, as far as I can tell, it seems that was never love # 1, 2 or even 176.
"The Legend's Corporation" bought lifetime rights to (now bankrupt) Evel's artwork (and his image, life story and film rights). "He's a helluva promoter," marvels Legend's president, steel magnate Gary Schreiber. "If he can promote this art one-hundredth as well as he promoted his motorcycle stunts, then we'll make a lot of money."
Here's the "expose," his life-long friend Jack Ferriter was a successful painter and Evel's "art teacher," which, by comparing the two, looks like Evel's contribution was to sign his name after Ferriter finished another of his trademark scenic wildlife pieces (which is all the more obvious since Jack's art directly follows Evel's art in the catalog).
But that's just for some of the art. To my untrained eye, (maybe it's somewhat trained) it looks like 3 or 4 different artists could have lent a paintbrush to create these.
If he did any, it would possibly be a few done in the same naive style, "Upside Down", "Birds Fly, Why Can't I?" and maybe "The Red Rooster."
Of course, the main thrill in getting a print would be to go in the $250,000 souped up Evelmobile, a customized bus and trailer packed with his own pictures (and those of the other Legend's artists) in a cross-country gallery-hopping tour for the Legend's Corporation, to see the man himself while purchasing the art. 
Eventually this endeavor collapsed and a $5 million forgery and breach-of-contract claim was brought by The Legend's Corporation, which, it seems, is still going on today.
Bad news for investors, but luckily (for you) these can be found on ebay today for less than the original price.
Maybe Evel Knievel was just ahead of his time.
Like being the Grandfather of Extreme sports, he could have also been the inspiration for artists like Jeff Koons and Mark Kostabi, where the "art" is just the hiring of artists to make the art. Your job is to spell your name right.

The captions also have that naive feel. My favorite mixed message sentence is under "Birds Fly, Why Can't I?"
The paragraph ends with, "We all know when this little boy jumps from the garage roof that he will drop like a sack of rocks, and probably be embarrassed again, but how would any of us know that?"

Life with Evel must have been quite the thrill ride, because the most heartwarming anecdote they could come up with to make the painting "Eagle and Prey" near and dear to our hearts was relating the story of how his little daughter told Evel that he had put too much blood on the rabbit in the eagles talons. "Evel became upset and he painted more red paint blood on the rabbit and then he threw and water and brush into the air, and he hollered at them, "I worked on this painting for three years, don't tell me what to do! The name of the painting is now 'The End of the Easter Bunny's Ass!'"

Evel's "teacher" and pal, Jack Ferriter.
Fun Fact- he 
did the lettering on the "Sky-Cycle" Evel used in his abortive 1974 Snake River Canyon jump! 

"Time to Roost" is credited to Jack Ferriter and "Peaceful Flite"  is credited to Evel Knievel. I'm guessing one of them painted both. There should be a series of mystery books written about my investigative prowess! Or a TV show! Now I just hafta come up with a clever catch phrase. Maybe, "And that ain't no butler!", "That's a ham and cheese sandwich Mildred!" or "It's completely natural not to wear clothing!"
I'll work on it!

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