The Scandalous World of Art

Edvard Munch, The Scream

 On May 1, CPL is hosting a program on The Art of the Scandal: Thefts, Vandals and Forgeries.

 Well, that’s nice, you say, but art doesn’t interest me.

Are you sure about that? Everyone loves a good mystery, and high art is probably the most mystery-filled subject there is. Anything with that much crime circling around it means there is a bank vault of money involved. 

There are many sides to fine art – the talent side (no one disputes a da Vinci, but you can start a fight over Pollock), the artsy side (the use of light and dark in paintings creates mood and movement that symbolizes man’s desire to control the universe: discuss), the history side (Phoenician art of the 18th century BCE shows a developing amalgamation of influence of the entire Mesopotamian region), and the rarity side (there are more Roman statues than there are da Vincis). We can discuss the purpose of art, of man’s desire to create, of the abstractness of art that leads back to man as the only animal who creates art for art’s sake, despite our knowledge that apes will draw and paint for pleasure, and that elephants, dolphins, and rabbits can be taught to paint as a behavior. It often boils down to one thing: 


The price of fine art (paintings and drawings, as opposed to jewelry work, sculpture, enamelwork, etc) has a few things going for it. First is rarity – many of the greatest paintings are hundreds of years old. They are one-of-a-kinds, and not a lot of them have survived. There are only 15 authenticated da Vincis known – as opposed to 400 Rembrandts. A second consideration is fragility – light, moisture, and age can cause ancient paintings to crack, flake, and fade (Van Gogh liked using red lake pigments, which fade rather quickly). The Mona Lisa is not painted on canvas, but an old board. A third thing is authenticity, and here is where the art world goes to pieces.

Salvator Mundi, by da Vinci

Because of the money involved in fine art (Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi sold for $450 million dollars), as in too many movies, everyone is out to steal or fake originals. Forgery rings have been around for hundreds of years – one of the biggest was by Han Van Meegeren in the late 1930’s, a talented artist who sold more than $30 million in fake Vermeers to the Nazis. In 2004,  Xiao Yuan, the Chief Librarian at an academy of fine arts, stole more than 140 paintings in his care by carefully replacing them with his own copies – only to find some of HIS copies stolen and replaced with less-skilled replacements. Forgeries (actually, they’re called counterfeits, since legally only documents can be forged) are so rampant (about 50% of the market), Sotheby’s bought their own forensics lab to weed out fakes

Modern fakes are often easy enough to spot – today’s paints and canvases and even brushes aren’t the same as the 1500’s, and simple chemistry will find them. But what if the work copied is of modern origin – say, a Picasso, or a Warhol? Because of the modernity of materials, it is incredibly difficult to prove authenticity. 

Conan the Barbarian, by Boris Vallejo

Questions still arise, though, as to what constitutes an authentic work of art. That 450 million dollar da Vinci has had so much restoration that there is more paint by restorers than by da Vinci, so is it still genuine? If a student of an artist (Rembrandt, Renoir, Reubens, etc) is so talented that a professional art historian/critic cannot tell the difference, how are you defining fine art and value? Where does the value lie – in the skill, the history, the age, or the subject matter? Why do we so value Edvard Munch’s The Scream (of which four originals exist, two of which were stolen), yet not value Boris Vallejo?

Art, by its very interpretational nature, is a scandal.

Art of the Scandal is an on-line program sure to peak your interest. You can sign up for the attendance link here.

10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know You Can Do at the Library

Sure, everyone knows you can check out books, audiobooks, movies, and music but did you know you can learn how to use a computer? Put on a puppet show with your kids? Take a cooking class? Today’s libraries are full of a wide variety of interesting, fun, and even unusual things to do.

Here’s a small sample:

  1. Watch a Movie. For free. silver_linings

We show movies nearly every week at our library. From classics like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Some Like it Hot to blockbusters like Divergent and Frozen, you can watch a wide range of shows. BYOP. (Bring Your Own Popcorn.)

Love the movies? We have DVDs and Blu-rays available for checkout and an ever-growing streaming video collection from Overdrive.

  1. Build with Legos

Builder’s Brigade occurs twice a month. (Check out the Builders Brigade blog.) Kids and their parents get to express their creativity by building amazing Lego creations, which are then displayed in the children’s room. And for those who cannot wait for Wednesday afternoons to roll around, we have a stash of Legos always available at the Children’s Room at the Lego table.

If you are looking for some creative ideas for Legos try The Lego Ideas Book: Unlock Your Imagination.

  1. Play MinecraftMinecraft

Log in to Minecraft on any teen or Children’s Room computer and start trying to build (and survive) the Minecraft world.

Want to become a really super Minecraft player? You can borrow The Ultimate Player’s Guide to Minecraft from the library.

  1. Schedule a computer lesson

We offer one-on-one lessons for beginning computer users. If you need help learning to navigate the Internet or would like a basic course in email or how to use Microsoft Word, contact our Reference Department to schedule an appointment. It won’t be painful. We promise.

If you can’t wait, you can peruse Teach Yourself Visually Android Phones and Tablets or Kindle Fire HD The Missing Manual

  1. Go to a concert

On various evenings and weekends throughout the year, talented musicians and singers perform in the Mary Baldwin room. All concerts are free and open to the public, courtesy of the Friends of the Library. Check out our Calendar of Events for upcoming shows.

In between shows, you can find nearly every type of music in our collection from The Magic of Lang Lang (classical piano) to Diary of a Madman (Ozzy Osborne)

  1. Try an Exercise Class Fitness

From Zumba for Kids to an introduction to the martial art of Hapkido, the library hosts a variety of fitness programs throughout the year. It’s a great way to sample an exercise program before actually enrolling.

Don’t know what to try? Check out Fitness for Dummies, which describes a variety of exercise programs from cardio training to yoga.

  1. Change Your Lifestyle

Learn to mediate. Hear about the benefits of detoxification. Enjoy an evening delving into the characteristics of introverts versus extroverts. Talk to a professional decorator. Learn about nutrition.

Some good titles to get you going: Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening or The Clean in 14 Days Detox

  1. Join a Drum CircleWorld Groove

Children (and adults) can learn the fundamentals of music while playing interactive rhythm games with drums and hand-held percussion instruments from around the world. And have the fun of making a lot of noise in the library!

If you love world music try the Putumayo Presents World Groove CD.

  1. Food, Food, Food

Attend cooking classes and demonstrations. Meet cookbook authors and local chefs. And samples, samples, samples. Learn some new cooking skills, discover new recipes, and try out tasty treats.

While you’re at it, you can also peruse our cookbook collection, which offers everything from America’s Most Wanted Recipes to Weber’s Big Book of Burgers.

10. Grab a Cup of Coffee

Or tea or even a cup of hot chocolate. Our coffee bar has something for everyone. And what could be better than sipping the hot beverage of your choice while browsing for a good book. Or movie. Or audiobook. Or CD. Or graphic novel. Or…

Well, you get the idea.

At the Library: Books and Bunnies

If someone asks me what I do as a librarian, I know just what to say. I get to hold bunnies.

Tika the GeckoTo be specific, I held a lovely bunny named Milkshake. He and his brother Truffle were visiting the library as part of Story Stars, a program from Teaching Creatures. Rae, the presenter, read two stories to the kids, one about a bunny and another about a gecko. Milkshake and Truffle then made their appearance along with Tika, the leopard gecko.

Tika was small and spotted and not afraid of the crowd at all. She crawled happily over Rae’s hands and then delighted everyone by eating a snack of live mealworms.

Truffle the BunnyMilkshake and Truffle hopped around on a small tarp in the center of a circle of young children. I did my best to take pictures and learned that the phrase “quick like a bunny” is not just a myth. I have several nicely blurred images of two rabbits scooting across the floor. I did, as you can see, manage to get one nice shot of Truffle.

But then came the highlight of the program. Rae picked up Truffle to let each child have a chance to pet him. I got to pick up Milkshake.

I had never held a rabbit before. I had seen rabbits, petted them, and looked up information about them, but never got to hold one. He was soft and warm and surprisingly solid in my arms, just like a newborn baby.

I am a librarian. I provide information. I can navigate online databases. I am a social media maven. And I get to hold bunnies.


To take a look at upcoming programs at the Cheshire Public Library, check out our Calendar of Events.

This Week at Cheshire Library

Here’s just a sampling of some of the goings-on at the library this week – check our Event Calendar for even more!

MONDAY Nov. 18:

4pm – Reception in Honor of Retiring Assistant Director Maria Poirier-Brandriff

TUESDAY Nov. 19:

4pm – Thanksgiving-themed storytime


7pm – Jewelry Jam


7pm – The Art & Science of Hapkido

FRIDAY Nov. 22:

2:30pm – Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card tournament


2pm – Fab Film Saturdays – Wreck-It Ralph (rated PG)