Totally Exquisite Paintings from the Museum of Bad Art (MOBA)

Totally Exquisite Paintings from the Museum of Bad Art (MOBA)

The Museum of Bad Art (MOBA) is dedicated to art that’s “too bad to be ignored”.  Well known to Bostonians, MOBA has three locations, one in the basement of the Somerville Theater, another in the basement of the Dedham Community Theater and the third at Brookline Access Television. Both galleries in the theaters are conveniently located next to the rest rooms, as their website carefully points out.

I had never heard of the MOBA until recently and once I saw some of the paintings I was stunned that this museum doesn’t have the same prestige as a MOMA, MET or the National Gallery. Anyone can do a bad painting, but it takes a special talent to produce such inspiring, evocative bad art. And to curate an entire museum dedicated to the best of bad art takes a very special eye and mental constitution –  my hats off to curator Michael Frank and the rest of the MOBA staff.

Here are some of my favorites.

“He Was a Friend of Mine”, Jack Owen


I teared up a little when I first saw this touching depiction of eternal friendship… a cat remembering his beloved canine friend, while presumably humming the old folk tune “He was a Friend of Mine”.  But then I thought, what if the feeling wasn’t mutual? Is the dog dead and in heaven, or vice versa? I realized then how complicated this painting really is, and this is why I loved it so much.

“Lucy in the Sky With Flowers”, Unknown

My parents once hired a German baby sitter/ house keeper when I was a kid. Her name was Mrs. Polzer. I was stunned at how similar she and Lucy look – their hair, dress, black shoes, glasses…even the raw shins.

Mrs. Polzer passed away when I was in high school, God rest her soul. This painting perfectly captures how I imagine her in heaven.

“Reef Garden”, Hassmer

Reef garden
“Reef Garden” is playful, yet intense. This painting immediately evoked  an underwater reimagining of the 1984 hit “Splash” but with Ricardo Montalban and Grace Jones playing the Tom Hanks and Darryl Hannah roles, respectively.

“Sad Baby”, Anonymous

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe red captures the tumultuous world Sad Baby must live in. The gigantic red bow perhaps signifies a great burden she carries on her head (or maybe it is the burden).

I wonder whether she is sad because she looks like John Goodman.

“Woman Riding Crustacean”, Anonymous

The MOBA curator suggests this painting might be inspired by “Debra Winger riding a mechanical bull in Urban Cowboy (1980)”.

Personally, it inspired the question “What if Red Lobster opened a strip club?” The picture of a lobster and the words “Fresh Fish – Live Lobster” on the current Red Lobster sign could be replaced with this painting and the words “Fresh Fish – Live Girls”

Head from Hell”, Tina Thomas

Bauberini Faun
The unbelievers will be sent to Hell and forced to eternally teabag the Barberini Faun. If Ronnie James Dio and Erasure could have collaborated on an album, I’m certain this would be the album cover.



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