You've likely been to a few modern art museums, if not several. But no matter how many MOMAs you've been to, you probably have yet to encounter the one that recently arrived in Half Moon Bay.
That's because while this museum may pay homage to the regular rotation of Kahlo, Dali, Pollock, Warhol, Hockney and a healthy dose of the Impressionists, it does so with its own twist.
Somehow, the Koala Museum of Modern Art (KOMA) has managed to slip in several of their own kind of marsupials in all of these artists' classic works — encouraging the most ardent modern art aficionado to look just a little bit closer.
Frida painted one of her self-portraits with three monkeys. But at KOMA, the guy over her left shoulder has been replaced with a koala. Tempted to breeze past Grant Wood's American Gothic for the umpteenth time? Don't walk so fast — 38 small animals are hidden somewhere in that scene. And who's backstage charming the bevy of Degas ballerinas?
Half Moon Bay Patch wanted to find out just exactly how the koalas found their way in the paintings in the first place — and how local art lovers might be able to take a look at KOMA's collection firsthand.
While KOMA's curator Monsieur de Rigueur was not available for an interview, he sent his alter ego and Montara artist Nancy Margulies to speak with us instead.
"This whole project started when Joanne Ehrich asked me to do a book about koalas," Margulies said. "She asked me what I could do that was fun and interesting for people not already enamored by koalas."
The project was no creative stretch for Margulies, who has been producing educational art in several forms including comic books, illustrated poems, and a one-woman performance show in San Francisco based on her experience working in art therapy with deaf individuals in the state prisons of Illinois and Missouri. In the show, she takes on identities of several deaf individuals including a man accused of murder and a prostitute.
Ehrich, the owner of Half Moon Bay publisher , has already published over a dozen books about the fuzzy gray animal from Down Under, and is currently working on related games for the iPad and iPhone.
"I had the idea to create a modern art catalog using scanned photos of the original paintings that I would then manipulate," Margulies said.
Using Photoshop, Margulies added in a generous helping of koalas that matched each painting's texture to each work of art.
The resulting KOMA catalog is a humorous yet educational look at a selection of well-known works including those of Georgia O'Keefe, Gustav Klimt, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró. Margulies' additions to these paintings are detailed, yet blend in with the original in a seamless finish. Each painting is accompanied by an opinionated commentary which gives readers a sense of the story behind the artist from KOMA's tongue-in-cheek perspective.
Working off and on, the pair completed the project in December 2011 after just six months.
"Joanne reviewed everything I wrote," Margulies said. "She contributed to the evolution of the idea and loaned me her art books and encouraged me...she thought the text was very funny."
Margulies is currently exploring ways in which the book can be used in educational settings.
"I’m thinking there might be a way to use this book to introduce kids to modern art in a fun way before they see the real paintings themselves," she said. "I'm also looking to see if I can get the book in college bookstores."
Those interested in viewing KOMA's collection — in two-dimensional form, no less — will be able to do so on Feb. 25 at at Princeton's Harbor Village from 12 p.m. - 3 p.m., when Monsieur de Rigueur (aka Nancy Margulies) will be there to introduce the catalog and sign books. To get a sneak peek at who you'll be meeting, take a look at Monsieur de Rigueur's photo in the media box at right.
Copies of the Koala Museum of Modern Art Catalogue (originally released on Feb. 17 by Koala Jo Publishing) will be available at the Feb. 25 event for $14.99. For information, call Harbor Books at (650) 726-4241.
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