Summer 2016 Roadtrip


I did it! In January of this year I, as Gadora Wilder, set out to create a little adventure for myself. In between jobs, and wanting to discover a different way of utilizing my skill set upon my return, I set forth on a month-long adventure to see some of the US. Specifically I aimed to get on the road, drive through mountains with wind whipping my freshly shorn hair, talk to interesting people, see new towns, dip my feet into unknown waters, and return a little better for it.


One of my goals was to be wildly open to happy accidents, not on the road of course, but while on it. Discover vibrant small towns simply by asking people in the previous one. Learn about these communities by the stuff they discarded in architectural salvage yards, Habitat for Humanity ReStores, and such.


I would marvel at every outstanding specimen of a tree I passed often turning the car around to get a closer look. Along the Appalachian, Great Smoky Mountains and a few spots along the way I found them. And waterfalls, and secret caves, and babbling brooks, and sulfur pools, and places we often take for granted. Often I was alone.


In the end, I had my adventure. It has moved me. And it was grande. My 12 year old Mazda 6 Wagon performed like a champ. *A special thank you to Mike at Austin Automotive Specialists for ensuring I was set for success. She (The Paiger) carried me to places where I’d leave her safety to sit and stare at the sheer beauty of it all.

Road trip by the numbers:
4,983 miles covered
$491 spent in gas
33+ random new towns ventured into
29 days on the road
11 State lines crossed
10 steel arch bridges traversed
3 trees hugged
2 covered bridges marveled at
1 terrifying white-knuckle rain/hailstorm
0 speeding tickets or arrests…

In Search of Miracles…


Gadora is back and readying for a monumental solo road trip across the South and up along the Appalachian Valley. I’m zigging and zagging 2,000+ miles towards Washington DC from Austin during the month of July. And though I’ve planned certain stops in uncertain towns, I look forward to the tiny divine (and monumental) discoveries, both inside of me and outside of my old cranky wagon.

I will talk to strangers – engaging townie folks who offer unsolicited advice on where to find the best coffee, dipping spots, up-cyclers, community do-gooders, etc. There’s a zillion ways to slice a road trip: in search of the best hamburger (tho- not in my case), roadside oddities, best hiking trails… etc. I aim to focus on “happy people doing their thing” – and if their thing happens to create some kind of art, or conversation, then I yearn to make their acquaintance.

Scott and Jen

Enter MNAE. Museum of Natural and Artificial Ephemerata. An Austin roadside attraction, if you will, along the East side of town where the urban landscape is rapidly changing. I’d discovered their in-home museum whilst looking for local oddities (= genuine humans who unapologetically do their thing). A friend was in town so I thought this the perfect “tester” outing – there’s safety in numbers – a prep for grandeur on the open road. We arrived, as did a handful of other folks, to the lush surroundings of a welcoming couple (and museum’s curators): Scott and Jen. A few minutes early we were encouraged to mill about their outside garden and help ourselves to the early bloomers on the mammoth fig tree. Don’t mind if we do.

Jen w Wall

Once inside our host Jen jumped right into our welcome. No house rules (I mean, the museum is IN THEIR HOME). No formalities. Just a lovely welcome. While her children handed out our program, and a free postcard, Jen got busy showing us around. We started on The Celebrity Collection. There was one strand of Willie Nelson’s hair. George Bush Sr.’s Chocolate Eyeball. Marilyn Monroe’s Last Smoked Cigarette. And a few random items from famous folks I didn’t even know. Jen gave us a story about each of the artifacts. And paused for our processing.

Curiosity Wall

We moved from there to the Naturalia and Artificialia collection (only needed to pivot slightly to the right). The wallpaper alone was worth dissecting a while. This collection was the stuff of fairy tales. A Narwhal Tooth Replica (didn’t the Narwhal have a horn?), a raccoon penis bone, the Contraband Stalagmite from a Missouri Cave, a decaying vinyl leaf from Disneyland and a pink flamingo “rescued” from a dumpster outside of the Smithsonian. A real flamingo head, with a rod in his neck. I couldn’t stop staring at it.


A reflection of Penny and I in hallway just off main (and only) room…


The Urban Phantasmogoria wall was pretty r-a-d. A piece of melted glass from the first World’s Fair – London’s Crystal Palace Carte de Visite (and an informative story about it’s origins), Incubator Air and Infant Nightie from Coney Island’s Incubator Baby display, replicas of Siamese Twin Fruits, Barnum’s Organ Grinder Monkey Skull and so much more. The collection was varied, but Scott wove the pieces together. The curation is tight.

Below, a selfie in their black-lit bathroom. Complete with glow-in-the-dark space men and blow fish hanging from the ceiling.

Flourescent Bathroom

I got the sense – or at least strongly suspected – that much of what our Curators said stemmed from their fantastical imaginative reappropriation of items pulled from dumpsters, found in between the pages of random books, artifacts handed down from the museums originators Mercury Curie and Rasputin Zaplatynska (aka Rolls Joyce, Jr.), and so on. I chuckled through their stories bc I thought, wow, y’all are GOOD. On the way out, under the fig tree, we stopped to canoodle one of their cats. Jen approached and said she was once a famous hoop-jumping kitty, but has long since retired. Mmm-hm. Right. We’re certain this sleeping cat was all about that. 


It wasn’t until writing this post that I found the above pic. It put everything else into perspective.

MNAE Front

Thank you for opening your home, and our minds.


“The Museum was founded by Mercury Curie and Rasputin Zaplatynska (a.k.a. Rolls Joyce, Jr. ) in Tucson, AZ, on November 7th, 1921, in the early afternoon, during a monsoon storm, as winged ants took to the sky. Their goal was to explore histories and forms of collecting, with an emphasis on preserving endangered modes of collecting (saintly relics, wunderkammern, and dime museums in particular) — a sort of zoo for museums. Although the original curators passed away in the 1940s, the current curators, Scott and Jen Webel (Scott being Zaplatynska’s great grand nephew) reopened the museum in Tucscon in 1999 before moving to Austin, TX, in 2001. In Austin, we began curating community themed exhibitions to expand on our signature displays in the impermanent collection.”

Pot-bellied piggy planters…

Spring has sprung: the birds in The Gardens happily chirp and the few blades of grass are greening. And with each day that passes past winter, Gadora’s thumb turns a little less brown. My stoop beckons a spring-time make-over. Since I’m an apartment dweller, and avid vegetarian, only makes sense I have some fun with container gardening. And what better way to dress up my “Spinster Gardens” stoop than a whimsical, and ridiculous, piggie planter to house delicious herbs and what-not? Gadora’s got a sense of humor and this seems a perfect time to flex it. Google to the rescue.

First up? A leggy terracotta planter from Fired by Guatemalan artisans, this one-of-a-kind vessel would make any herb a little spicier.

Leggy terra cotta planter, $59.
Leggy terra cotta planter, $59.

Etsy’s Fruitflypie offers this adorable yellow piggie planter. The ceramic swine was poured from a 60s-era mold and is fired with a glassy lemon yellow glaze. Happy little planter! And if your own green thumb is rather questionable, the pig is also available in a piggy bank.

Fruitflypie ceramic pig, $34.
Fruitflypie ceramic pig, $34.

Another from FruitFlyPie as seen on beautifullycontained.

FruitFlyPie as featured on Beautifully Contained, NFS.
FruitFlyPie as featured on Beautifully Contained, NFS.

Check out this snarkier ceramic bisque with terracotta glaze piglet from seller EnchantedMushroomLand. Also from a vintage mold, the seller refashioned a piggy bank into this planter.

Enchanted Mushroom Land, $18.

Also on Etsy, BloominHappy2009 has a starter piglet with air plant, technically a Tillandsias, up for grabs. $10 is a teeny investment to live high on the hog.

Silver planter from BloominHappy2009, $10.
Silver planter from BloominHappy2009, $10.

This aged pig planter, by Cyan Design, is pretty pricey but he’s a little porkier than the others at 24″ wide.

Aged pig by WeGotLites, $360.
Aged pig by WeGotLites, $360.

If you’re still uncertain you’ve got the goods to keep a plant growing out of a hog’s hide, there’s always this option. The fool-proof Chia Pig. As Gadora recalls, it’s as simple as spreading a few seeds on the back of your sow, giving it the occasional water… and viola. In 1-2 weeks, you’ll see the fruit of your labor.

Chia pig from Amazon, $22.
Chia pig from Amazon, $22.

A haiku.

Two thousand thirteen
full of possibilities…
You will be my year.

Alter to 2013.
Alter to 2013.

2012 shaped up to be a good year. Rich with friends and family. We added a new member, my nephew, whom I loved before we ever met. 2013 included adventure. And surprises. Some heartache – but nothing insurmountable. Food discoveries. Lots of laughter. Loads of skating. And all while in good health. I am grateful for each and every day and experience I had in 2012.

For 2013 I will wish and work for much of the same. It will only get better. I’ve enjoyed connecting with friends about what they’ll do to ensure a great new year. Resolutions. Eating black eyed-peas. Alters with fruit, water, coins, etc. For mine, Gadora opted for a 3D visual of my resolutions and set to work pulling the bits together. Hung in the entry of my kitchen there will not be a day I’m not reminded of what I want out of 2013. Each item placed on my alter with meaning. A black and white snap of me holding skates. In 2013 I will skate more. Sand for travel. I will see more places. Seeds for growth. A Prosperity Frog, a gift from a new friend. I will create more wealth. His and Her tea cups ready for filling. I am open to love. Brushes for creativity. I will spend more time creating. A heart for continued good health. And the converted-building drawing Gadora believes one day can come to fruition. Looking good already.

Two thousand thirteen
full of possibilities…
You will be my year.

Post-election Aristo-crap…

Nothing seems to split a nation like some good ole’ fashioned politics. So tonight, exactly one day after a narrowly re-elected 44th President, Gadora pays tribute to some creative Americans who valiantly exercise their right to peddle their artsy politico crap. And while we’re a nation divided, both sides of the camp get in on this equally. And while politics are indeed serious business, let’s relax for a minute, shall we? And take a romp around Etsy.

Mitt Romney ceramic party cup

The last few months of Politicking drive you to drink? LittleChairPrinting‘s ceramic nod to an iconic brand allows you to toast your candidate while enjoying your favorite libation. Though Romney wouldn’t join in if it were the adult variety. 

"OH YEAH" politically charged acrylic mixed media.

Ever since Gadora’s discovery of Dada artist Hannah Höch, in Madrid’s Museo Reina Sophia, I’ve entertained an affinity for mixed media. The moment I spied this piece from Achristocraft, I belted my favorite political anthem…. “America F- Yeah!” Obama— now THAT would have jazzed up your supporters prior to your acceptance speech.

MITT FOR MUTTS: Mitt Romney Dog Toy People Will Love
Mitt for Mutts

Mitt for Mutts is one of four dog toys in Annika Sandback‘s series, “Throw Them to the Dogs!” “Grab the politician who drives you crazy and THROW HIM TO YOUR DOG! Or, keep him for yourself!” Turns out Jada (pictured) didn’t like Mitt for Mutts one bit. “A real beauty from Brooklyn and all muscle, Jada tried her best — without success — to rip him to shreds. Guess she heard about the dog on the roof!”

Bow-Wow Barack.

Rather sacrifice the incumbent? (See Bow-Wow Barack above.)

Enemies Enemy - Original Painting
Enemies Enemy by Jon Stich

Jon Stich is quite the gem. For this 18 x 25 acrylic painting he simply offers, “Five of the Republicans competing for the 2012 ticket, all guised as Batman villains.” His Isaac vs. Romney is pretty incredible too.

Obama Vs Zombies 2012 8.5x11 digital print - Use the code WEAREDOOMED for 15% off
Obama vs. Zombies.

With that, it’s only appropriate Obama gets his play time. Thanks TinaSeaMonster for sharing your handy work. Bam!

Tribute to Michelle Obama
Klimt-inspired Michelle Obama

Let’s not forget about our lovely First Lady. For $8,000 (yep, that’s with three zeros), you could proudly display this massive Klimt-inspired tribute to Michelle by New York City artist Hannah Laufer-Rottman. “Oil on canvas – 52 x 35 in. Have any questions?”

Yeah. That’s right.

I prefer the more simple art. Graphic in nature. Something more in line with this succinct print from Checker Press. Yep, ain’t no party like a Democratic party.

Faces of Obama - A series of 6 busts
Faces of Obama – A series of 6 busts

This Christopher Genovese guy is mad genius. I can’t get over the detail. He doesn’t give up much in the way of technique or inspiration. But you’re looking at a “Hand painted series cast from an original clay sculpture. Individually numbered and signed.” Kudos.

Sure, there’s a lot at stake during any given election. We get heated. We take sides. It is a grand responsibility for us all. And while I may not agree with your candidate, nor you mine…. We are in this together, folks. This is OUR great nation.

And in the end I ask you…

Why can't we all just get along T-shirt