If It’s Off the Wall, It Can’t Go On the Wall


I was driving past a yard sale in Seattle in 1993, on my way out of town. I was moving to Missoula. My ’84 Dodge Colt (which earned its nickname “Ol’ One Eye” on the journey, but that’s another story) was stuffed to the gills with everything I owned, but when I saw one of my favorite prints, the Lichtenstein diptych, “Whaam!”, for $40, I screeched to a stop. I knew I could find room.

Lichtenstein isn’t for everyone. He’s the guy who popularized the blown-up comic book style in the ‘60s. I’m not a comic book fan, I’m a Lichtenstein fan. That distinction means diddly to Mrs. Wire, who does not care for the violent imagery of “Whaam!” So now the prints reside in the garage, standing on end in a stack of plywood scrap and framed movie posters (“SpongeBob Movie,” anyone? Seriously. Contact me).

The struggle for supremacy in the wall hangings department is an ongoing concern in the Wire compound. As in many marriages, our solution is to relegate the more questionable stuff (read: mine) to the basement or the spare bathroom. Yeah, the unused extra pisser, that’s where you’ll find my three-by-two signed poster from Larry Evans’ mushroom movie. It’s quite a piece of work: dozens of colorful mushrooms bursting forth, and Larry’s big ol’ mushroom-loving mug right in the middle, daring you to join him in some mystical mycological mayhem.


This movie was as insane as you might imagine it was. Like Larry says, “You can eat any mushroom. Once.”

For those of you who know Larry, it’s obvious that this kind of image could give children nightmares. So he lives in the spare pisser.

One of our relatives is a painter, and a quite gifted one. She prefers abstract imagery, of which I am not the biggest fan. But she’s family, so we have some of her art on our walls. Upstairs. Not in a bathroom. In fact, one of her pieces currently occupies the Trump Tower penthouse of wall-hanging locations, directly over the mantel. It’s a large painting of something black and grey and white, with folds and angles and mysterious shadows. It’s either a muted statement on the secrets of our place in this dimension, or an extreme close-up of Edith Piaf’s vagina. I can’t tell.

The wall art in the prime household space (i.e., upstairs in the common living areas, not in the bathroom) is constantly shifting, as we make room to display the certificates and plaques that Rusty and Speaker are always adding to in their school and sports endeavors. (“Speaker Wire Is Hereby Recognized For Showing Up at the John Colter Elementary First Grade School Bike Rodeo”)

Hiding in plain sight among their awards is beautiful lacquered frame that bears an ornate stock certificate from the Lucky Friday Extension Mining Company. The certificate, which my mom sent me after my dad passed away last year, was issued 1965, for 2,000 shares of stock. At that time the stock cost ten cents per share. The company was eventually absorbed into a multi-national mining conglomerate, and today the value of the Lucky Friday shares has skyrocketed to seven cents. Okay maybe “skyrocketed” is not the right imagery here. Unless you’re talking about the Russian space program.


I doubled the value of the certificate by buying this frame.

We also have some old Bob Wire posters displayed, but they are in the art annex known as the Hallway. They share wall space with family photos, which you really don’t want to take the time to scrutinize when you’re heading for the bathroom or putting away clean laundry. Besides, why do I want to look at family photos? I see these people all the time.

Now, having complained about most of my favorite items being banished to my basement studio (where, honesty, I spend most of my time anyway), I am responsible for the two largest pieces of art in our house.

One is an eight-foot replica of a Gibson Les Paul I handcrafted for a Missoula guitar shop that opened several years back. The guitar was to be a part of a spectacular exterior sign, but the day before I was to install it, they called and said the shop was closing. Hang on to the sign for now, they said. I never heard from them again. So if you know someone who’s going to open a guitar store called Jammin’ Jeff’s Rockin’ Guitarville, hey, I have a killer deal for them.

The other huge piece of art is a four-foot-wide, crudely-framed print of Picasso’s “Guernica,” which I do not even know how to pronounce. Like Edith Piaf’s vagina, it is done entirely in greys and blacks. This one is much smaller than the original, which is about 24 feet by ten feet. That is bigger than an ’84 Colt.

I spied this print when Shane Clouse and I played a fund raiser show at the Grant Street Theater in Helena a few years ago, sharing the stage with Tim Ryan and Sonny LeMaire. A play had wrapped up the night before, and we asked them to delay striking the stage until after our performance. The set looked great—it was the interior of a house, complete with staircase that Shane and I used for our dramatic entrance.


Now that it’s right-side up, it totally makes sense. Uh, yeahhhh…

High up on one of the walls was the Guernica print, which I recognized because of my public education. Shane also knew the painting. It’s arguably Picasso’s most well-known work, and even though it’s butt-ugly, we admired it. After the show the stagehands immediately started tearing down the set, and the stage manager asked if one of us wanted the print.

“Yes,” we both said. There was a brief discussion, we both stated our case, and somehow he agreed to let me have it. I can’t remember the details, but I think it involved me having to run naked through the Pink Grizzly nursery at some point.

So I brought the print home like a conquering Viking bearing spoils of war, and Mrs. Wire suggested we put it up on the dining room wall. I hooked my tape measure on my belt, broke out my new laser level, fired up the cordless drill, and got that baby dead level and perfectly centered. Took me half a day and many practice holes, but it was worth it.

Three months later some friends were over for dinner, and one of them mentioned the Guernica print. I regaled them with the Grand Street Theater Shane Clouse story.

“That’s cool,” the friend said. “But why is it upside down?”

Now I’m starting to wonder about that painting over the fireplace.

   Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blog archive.


Have an off-white Christmas with Bob Wire.Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an open mind.

Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.

You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers. Follow @Bob_Wire on Twitter.


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