The Economist and Melvin McGee

It may surprise you that I’ve spent quite a bit of time contemplating the world of art, yet I have absolutely no expertise whatsoever.  Art can be music, literature, dance, sculpture, or paintings.  It can be modern, abstract, impressionistic, or classical.  Paintings are my favorite.

I’m so dumb about art that I can’t even list the criteria I use to judge a painting.  During my leisure hours I’ll stroll into a gallery whenever I see one.  There is usually a kind person who politely asks, “I’d love to help you; what type of painting are you looking for?”  My answer is always the same; “When I see it, I’ll tell you!”  You see, for me, good art is what I like…period.  I don’t care if anyone else likes it, or whether the critics like it.  If I like it and I can afford it, I’ll walk out of the gallery with it under my arm.

About 4 years ago I discovered a young artist at the Powderhorn Park Art Fair in Minneapolis.  His name is Melvin McGee.  Unlike most of the artists around him, Melvin’s booth was full of people and he was well-groomed, as if he had just come home from military duty in Iraq.  Melvin was surrounded by booths containing “artists” of unkempt appearance, looking like starving hippies.  These are the fair trade, organic food folks who just returned from a frac sand protest and just can’t wait to vote for Obama again.

Among the hippies sat Melvin, quiet and unassuming, his booth full of crazy, whimsical paintings.  He gave me his business card and I looked at his website www.melvinmcgee.com after returning home.  Later that year I bought the original of his painting titled “The Den”.  I wouldn’t buy everything Melvin paints, but I’m absolutely crazy for some of his stuff!  Over the past four years I’ve purchased three more original McGee paintings; “Bacon” (above), “Goodzilla”, and “Roscoe Street“, along with prints of other McGee paintings.  I buy his originals whenever I can afford them because I want to support this man and his career.  I figure that if I buy his originals I’m kind of a “Melvin McGee Patron of the Arts!”

Melvin lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin with his wife and children.  As far as I know, painting is his livelihood and he’s doing quite well, thank you!   A former Marine who’s served in Iraq, he’s my “All-American Boy Artist.”  The cool thing about Melvin is that he’s not sucking tax payer money from the National Endowment for the Arts; he’s creating paintings that people want to buy.

As an economist I view my relationship with Melvin and his paintings in very simple terms.  He sacrifices his valuable time and creative talent to create oil paintings.  In return, I take some of the money that I have earned and pay him for his efforts.  When we walk away from the transaction he wins and I win; otherwise there would be no sale.  Isn’t art wonderful?

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7 Responses to The Economist and Melvin McGee

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  6. Steve Kools says:

    Like you I am not a person who understands how to define quality art other than “hey, I like that”. Unfortunately, I rarely found art that filled my sole criteria until Melvin McGee’s artwork caught my eye at a Green Bay coffee shop. I now own 3 originals (Mink Drink, Old Bones and another that is unnamed as it is an early work done in pencil that my wife particularly liked) and a couple of prints also. I enjoy our past conversations and his unique perspective of the world. Everyone should educate themselves about what he has to offer.

  7. Steve Kools says:

    By the way, I am an Economics major from Lawrence University in Appleton. Interesting?

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