Pyrography As Very Bad Art


For more than 25 years, every working day WC walked past a candidate for Worst Art Ever.

"His Last Battle," by William Beltzeler, 1920; pyrography on moose hide

“His Last Battle,” by William Beltzeler, 1920; pyrography on moose hide

Yes, that’s moose hide, and presumably the artist, William Beltzeler, has absolutely no sense of irony. In 1920 it probably would have been made with an electric wood burner, but perhaps not. But the drawing is burned into the moose hide, not painted on. It’s pyrography, apparently.

The detail is impressive, in an awkward way.

"His Last Battle," Detail in center of work

“His Last Battle,” Detail in center of work

The moose hide fringe along the bottom of this piece is, as it were, the pièce de résistance. The proportions of the animals is pretty bad. The bottom half of the leftmost wolf is missing. Any moose with hips that skinny would already be dead. A older moose in mid-winter would like have shed his antlers. A display of a moose being improbably kills by a wolf pack, created on moose hide, with moose hide fringe. It’s pretty bad. But, hey, it’s art, right?

And WC wants you to imagine you are a lawyer, walking to the courthouse, going by his thing, hanging in the elevator lobby of the Key Bank Building. At one point, WC asked building management why such a tasteless, tacky exhibit cluttered the hallway of an office building. Management explained to WC that it was the property of the late Bill Stroecker, that Stroecker loved it, wanted it to hang there and owned enough stock in Key Bank of Alaska that he was going to get his way. When Stroecker died in 2010 WC had hopes the moose hide would leave, but that didn’t happen.

Every artist has his patron, WC supposes. But, sheesh.

Perhaps a reader can advise if this . . . creation . . . is still in the Key Bank lobby downtown.