Who will buy these clowns?

As he paws through local thrift and antique stores, your Crap Archivist often finds himself marveling at — and purchasing — works of art that exemplify the vision and talent common to this great city. But these are not those works. This week, Studies in Crap presents three terrifying pieces from the walls of Kansas City’s resale shops.

Probable title: “Clown Without Hope, Arms”

Medium: Oil on canvas

Artist: Signature is too blurred to decipher.

Location: Waldo Antique Mall

Price: Originally marked $95 but offered at half-price

Like so many of us, this despairing fellow finds himself afloat in a plush chaos of blue. But he is the very manifestation of that chaos, its fullest realization. There is no clear demarcation between the clown’s contours and the void itself. The grisly gash of a mouth extends wider than something plausibly human, and the eyes, in their heaviness, communicate a simple plea: Please do not paint me. Note the dual sets of eyebrows, the first an autumnal orange and the second like the scribbles blotting out redacted names in declassified FBI files.

Probable title: “Clown Decapitated on Pillow”

Medium: Oil (and sadness) on canvas

Artist: “Raymond”

Location: Westport Antiques

Price: Originally marked $95 and also reduced to half-price

Another limbless horror, also in a color-coded miasma matched to the subject’s outfit. This glum fool, though, at least enjoys the luxury of definition because artist Raymond has gone to the trouble to distinguish subject from background. Still, like most painters of circus performers, Raymond makes the agony of existence his chief thematic concern. Here he suggests the disgust that some drab flower might feel if it were to bloom into a grease-painted harlequin. Or how the cold shudder might feel if a dough boy — such as Pillsbury’s — were to look down at his foot and discover that he has stepped in clown.

Probable title: “This Room Is Not a Restroom”

Medium: Magic Marker on poster board

Artist: Someone with access to a lot of disinfectant

Location: D.A.V. Thrift Store, Kansas City, Kansas

Price: Not for sale

Which is worse? Stepping into clown or stepping into the foulest of human waste? This is one of many conundrums facing the visitor to the closetlike book department in the rear of this thrift store, a nook as bleak as the monochrome vacuums of our first two paintings. This time, the chaos resolves itself not as the face of a clown but as a warning that could only make sense in a world gone off its moorings. The sign reads: “Notice! This room is not a rest­room! If you need to use a restroom, PLEASE go across the street. When this room is used as a restroom — your health & all others who enter is at risk.” Other questions this work suggests: What poor soul is it who is literate enough to read this sign yet is unable to figure out that this is not, in fact, a bathroom? And if it isn’t a bathroom, why are there books in it?

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