When I was in 6th grade my father retired from the Navy and eventually got a job working for Octameron, a very small educational publishing company that focused on college admissions. The office was a small two-story brick building in the now very hip Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, VA. Over the years I would visit, sometimes helping with the shipping department downstairs and then running upstairs help with some mindless office task.
On the landing of the stairs hung this tall narrow print called Fool’s House by Jasper Johns. On this version his name appears below it along with all one needed to know about viewing it at the Hayward Gallery on the south bank in London for 60 pence. Little did I know then that London and art would become two important things to me. I always liked this print. It was realistic, broke the rules, felt playful and kind of funny with all the items labeled. It feels calm and messy at the same time. It has depth. It has stories.
Years later I was on an occasional tour through the East Wing of the National Gallery and there it was on the wall. I spotted it from a distance. I was thrilled but as I got closer, I was shocked. The broom really was a broom and the cup really was a cup. My sixth grade self had thought all these years it was just a very realistic painting. After the reality fully sunk in, I learned to like it even more. I love how it seems the broom was used as a giant paint brush on the canvas. Perhaps it is only fitting that it is called Fool’s House, because it now hangs in this fool’s house and here is the photo to prove it.