Sporting Art

I don’t care for the kitschy stuff: retriever puppy chewing on a duck call, pheasants flushing before a 1950s pickup, old timer sleeping on the deer stand while a big buck steals his lunch. I can’t say it’s bad, of course, and I think it’s mostly unpretentious. For one thing, it must sell. If you’ve been to a Ducks Unlimited banquet or the gifts section of a Cabela’s store you know what I mean.

But I’m not immune to all of it. I have a David Maass print that came from my grandfather. It is a stormy morning of bluebills decoying, dark and blue, whitecaps and wind-bent cattails.  It calls to mind unholy-early wake-ups with good friends and a wet chill and roaring wings and the press of “is it light enough yet?” anticipation in the pre-dawn.

And a Jake Keeler original watercolor hangs before me as I write. It is a impressionistic salmonid face that reminds me of the cruel and invincible Chinook salmon that beat me ten to one, overall, even while in their last days or moments on earth, dying but still strong and needing to prove it, overwhelming spirit overflowing those small, sandy northern Michigan streams.

But until bumping into Josh DeSmit at a recent art fair I’d never been arrested by a piece of art. Not sure how else to describe it and I don’t expect anyone else to understand — unless you, too, have had your twelve-inch fly eaten by a dark green northern musky on an October river, oak leaves rimmed with frost falling to the leaden mirror of a reflected overcast, heavy flannel shirt smelling of last night’s campfire and mouth tasting of last night’s whiskey. Probably helps that mornings lately have been cool enough to suggest the end of summer and this, also, stirs something deep in my psyche, something very much related to changing leaves and muskies.

Maybe that’s a sophomoric take on art appreciation: being moved by imagery that happens to literally depict a specific memory. But that’s okay with me.

In any case once I had picked it up — Josh says it’s a hand-pressed hand-colored linocut print — I wasn’t setting it back down except for the tense five minutes it took to find an ATM, not having planned to need cash.

Now, where to hang it?

For more on Josh DeSmit’s unique take on classic sporting art, click here.