John Fawcett's Amazing Museum
John Fawcett retired from the University of Connecticut, where he
taught and made art for thirty-two years, he and his wife, Jacqui,
moved into an old house in Waldoboro, on Maine's mid-coast between
Bath and Camden. John converted most of the house into a truly amazing
museum, every inch covered with toys, games, comic books, cereal
premiums, and other licensed merchandise in stunning variety, along
with original comic art by the likes of Carl Barks and Walt Kelly.
The abundance is the point. What the museum offers is not a systematic
survey of, say, the Lone Ranger's or Popeye's permutations over
the years, but rather the cultural "wallpaper" that has
inspired John's own creationswhich are characteristically
(but not exclusively) meticulous pen-and-ink drawings in which familiar
cartoon characters are transformed into incredibly detailed mechanical
figures. As John has written: "My interest in this material
is not so much about nostalgia as it is about aesthetics."
John was born in December 1939, and so his "wallpaper"
is weighted toward the popular culture of the thirties, forties,
and fifties. Like me, he read a lot of Dell comic books when he
was a kid, and Dells are an important part of the museum's collection,
along with such ancillary items as the premiums that Dell offered
to kid subscribers (pinups of Roy, Gene, Andy, and Bugs) and a gaudy
shirt that Gene Autry wore on three comic-book covers. John has
bowed to more recent enthusiasms by incorporating Beatles, "Peanuts,"
and Star Wars items, but his heart is with the earlier stuff.
museum is a dazzling place, with everything fitted together as intricately
as the complex elements in one of his drawings or paintings. Like
many works of art, the museum is hard to capture in photos; the
two that I've posted here may suggest that the museum is a cluttered
warehouse, and that's far from the case. It is instead a place where
fascinating discoveries lie waiting on every wall and in every corner.
The museum is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday through Monday,
from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. From Columbus Day until Christmas,
it's open from 12 to 4 on Saturdays and Sundays. The rest of the
year, it's open by appointment only (call 207-832-7398). Admission
to the museum is four dollars, but the adjoining art gallery and
antique shop (where John sells good stuff that the museum doesn't
need) are open free of charge.You can read more about the museum
at John's Web site.
[Posted August 16, 2004]