FROM THE BOOK
Preview by Eve M. Kahn of the New York Times
is excerpted below:
"Four years ago Harris Diamant, a sculptor and art dealer in New York, bought an album cobbled together from early-1900s invoices for services rendered. The service provider was a mental hospital in Nevada, Mo. The lined pages are stamped 'Board of Patients Must Be Paid in Advance.'
On about 140 sheets, an unidentified artist, probably a patient, drew eagles, saw blades, chairs, wide-eyed men and women, garden plans, circus menageries and railroad engines with headlights protruding on wires.
One drawing has a misspelled title, 'ectlectrc pencil,' so Mr. Diamant hypothesizes that the artist called himself the 'Electric Pencil'
. More than that he has not been able to determine, despite consultations with historians and a detective.
The album had turned up in 1970 in a trash heap in Springfield, Mo. It was about to be broken up on eBay when Mr. Diamant bought it for an undisclosed sum. After futilely trying to persuade a museum or collector to keep it intact, Mr. Diamant will start selling the sheets for $12,000 each at the Outsider Art Fair … in New York.
Mr. Diamant has published a book, The Drawings of the Electric Pencil
, and is still puzzling over them. Why is a chef named 'Thoes. Gingr. Snaps' and a man in a bowler hat labeled 'Went Democratic?' The artist hand-numbered the pages, but did he or she want them kept in order?
'Perhaps there is a narrative,' Mr. Diamant said, 'but I can't read it.'"