Jul 012011
 

Handsome Is as Handsome Does

Here is another pug painting of mine, and nothing is so true as the caption. I left the Nestle’s wrapper lying out in its “model position” after I’d finished the painting and Pippin could not leave it alone. Fortunately, the chocolate bar had been pulled out.

As I paint lately, I’ve been listening to audio books. For this painting, the book was Lost In Shangri La by Mitchell Zuckoff, the story of a downed WW II plane in the mountainous jungles of New Guinea. A WAC and two soldiers survived the crash and made a harrowing hike, in spite of grave burns and injuries, to the sweet potato field of New Guinean tribesmen who had never before beheld Caucasians and thought they were spirits. The valley was hitherto undiscovered, as late as the 1940s — actually there had been an exploratory expedition earlier, in which one tribesman had been killed by the white men, but it had been relatively unpublicized — and resident tribes were living in permanent strife and cannibalism.

Fortunately, the tribesmen they encountered categorized only two groups, Perpetual and Historic Enemies, on the one hand, and Non-enemies (read Everyone Else), on the other. Since they were unknown, the Americans were accepted as Non-enemies and neither killed nor eaten. It’s the story of courage, comradeship, among the Americans, and generosity and humor on the part of the Guineans. For example, the Guinean men all wore penis gourds, without which they never appeared in public — I was listening to the audiobook, without pictures, so I can only imagine. A group of paratroopers, who had landed to provide medical assistance and protection to the survivors had such fascinating complexions and hair, that the Guinean men who’d seen them land, walked up and began touching them on the arms and backs etc, thinking their pale skins were clothing. They were apparently fascinated for hours and kept up the investigation until the Americans had had enough and concluded that the Guineans must think they were women! So, they all took their pants off to prove they were male, thinking this would put a stop to the petting and maintained this state of undress for for a couple of hours. Well, the Guineans were never in any doubt about the paratroopers’ gender, but they were scandalized by their lack of modesty. So here were two groups of people, never able to exchange an intelligible word to each other, each thinking the other group was crazy!¬† The mystery wasn’t cleared up until years later, when a few surviving individuals, who remembered the spirits who’d descended from sky, were interviewed by the author. The paratroopers never knew what fools they’d appeared to a more modest, if largely naked, culture.
It’s a great story and all true. I highly recommend it.

Handsome is as Handsome Does, 8×10, $350 USD