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John Fawcett's Amazing Museum

After John Fawcett retired from the University of Connecticut, where he taught and made art for thirty-two years, he and his wife, Jacqui, moved into an old house in Waldoboro, on Maine's mid-coast between Bath and Camden. John converted most of the house into a truly amazing museum, every inch covered with toys, games, comic books, cereal premiums, and other licensed merchandise in stunning variety, along with original comic art by the likes of Carl Barks and Walt Kelly.

The abundance is the point. What the museum offers is not a systematic survey of, say, the Lone Ranger's or Popeye's permutations over the years, but rather the cultural "wallpaper" that has inspired John's own creations—which are characteristically (but not exclusively) meticulous pen-and-ink drawings in which familiar cartoon characters are transformed into incredibly detailed mechanical figures. As John has written: "My interest in this material is not so much about nostalgia as it is about aesthetics."

John was born in December 1939, and so his "wallpaper" is weighted toward the popular culture of the thirties, forties, and fifties. Like me, he read a lot of Dell comic books when he was a kid, and Dells are an important part of the museum's collection, along with such ancillary items as the premiums that Dell offered to kid subscribers (pinups of Roy, Gene, Andy, and Bugs) and a gaudy shirt that Gene Autry wore on three comic-book covers. John has bowed to more recent enthusiasms by incorporating Beatles, "Peanuts," and Star Wars items, but his heart is with the earlier stuff.

RangerHis museum is a dazzling place, with everything fitted together as intricately as the complex elements in one of his drawings or paintings. Like many works of art, the museum is hard to capture in photos; the two that I've posted here may suggest that the museum is a cluttered warehouse, and that's far from the case. It is instead a place where fascinating discoveries lie waiting on every wall and in every corner.

The museum is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday through Monday, from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. From Columbus Day until Christmas, it's open from 12 to 4 on Saturdays and Sundays. The rest of the year, it's open by appointment only (call 207-832-7398). Admission to the museum is four dollars, but the adjoining art gallery and antique shop (where John sells good stuff that the museum doesn't need) are open free of charge.You can read more about the museum at John's Web site.

[Posted August 16, 2004]