Jon and I went to Walla Walla last weekend. My sister-in-law and her boyfriend have opened a great little fresh fish market called A Fish on Land, they offer Walla Walla's freshest fish and oysters and other seafood delights. During lunch they serve really amazing fish and chips. The town was fine. Cute. Quaint. Small town-y. I couldn't live there, but it was nice to visit and go to the farmer's market and drive around to the wineries. I thought I had Walla Walla figured out and then we found the absolute highlight of the trip: the Museum of Unnatural History located at the Black Door Gallery on the town's quaint little main street.
We found the three-room museum in the upstairs of a bank building and walked, unsure into a black door that said, "Open." There, a bearded older man stood looking at his guestbook. After gasping and gaping and being delighted with just the entryway's displays, I asked him if he was the artist. He replied, "Yes, if you call this art, I am the artist."
Well, it is art and the artist is Gerald Matthews. While we were there he sat quietly on what looked like a very old director's chair, green accounting-style visor obscuring his eyes. When we asked him questions he didn't say more than was necessary. He seemed almost zen however, an air of "crotchety" swirled around him, that of an old man so mad at the establishment, if he started talking about it he might never stop ranting. His art is a mix of collage, sculpture, folk art and pop culture. A small sampling of the pieces includes decrepit dolls' bodies arranged in shadow boxes with tiny animal skulls, a tray of antique keys, tiny cut-outs of the Bush administration's faces put on oldy-timey clown figurines, clay angels with clunky big feet. The pieces are wry, creepy, political and bizarre. He was very friendly and humble and asked Jon to send his digital pictures if he didn't mind.
I asked him if he ever sells his art and he pointed to the wall of framed photos hanging in background of the picture shown here and said, "I sold those ones and have been trying ever since to get them back. There's no reason to sell! The only reason would be for my ego and these pieces couldn't fetch a price around here to do anything for that for me, so no. I don't sell anything." As much as there are several pieces that I would be eager/proud/lucky to own if he ever sold anything, I kind of like the idea of this genius hiding upstairs of the bank and being the coolest part of Walla Walla.