Stop Resisting!

hearsay

This past Sun­day, I went to an art tour of Hearsay at the LosJo­Cos Gallery, host­ed by Cindy from Cart­wheel Art and Hadley from Atlas Obscu­ra. This exhibit was all about art explor­ing urban leg­ends. The cura­tor and sev­er­al artists were there to speak to us about the pieces, too.

If you know me, you know I am fas­ci­nat­ed by the weird, so this was right up my alley. Although every piece was eye-grab­bing, one sec­tion par­tic­u­lar­ly engrossed me — Gregg Gibbs’ work sur­round­ing The Hands Resist Him.

the_hands_resist_him

If you are unfa­mil­iar with that piece, it is more com­mon­ly known as the “eBay Haunt­ed Paint­ing,” and is very well doc­u­ment­ed. Gregg is a very enter­tain­ing speak­er, and I am not sure where truth ends and show­man­ship begins, but here is how he lays it out:

In the 1970s, an artist named Bill Stone­ham was look­ing to make a name for him­self so he walked into the Fein­garten Gallery, the most pres­ti­gious in Los Ange­les at that time. Chuck Fein­garten, the own­er and deal­er, was so impressed with his work that he brought Stoneham’s port­fo­lio on the spot, set him up with a stipend to pro­duce two paint­ings a mon­th for a year, and offered him a one-man show at the end of that year.

Over the course of the year, Stone­ham pro­duced The Hands Resist Him as one of those required paint­ings. It is said that he was inspired by an old whale­bone carv­ing of a human hand with a poem etched into the palm.

whalebone-hand

The artist also said that the boy is a self-por­trait, the hands rep­re­sent the demands of oth­ers, the door a veil between worlds, and the doll a guide for pass­ing back and forth.

When it came time for the show, The Hands Resist Him was the only paint­ing to sell. This is where the strange cir­cum­stances of the paint­ing seem to begin. Sup­pos­ed­ly, the buy­er, art deal­er, and art crit­ic at the show all died with­in a year. (Accord­ing to Gibbs, though, the deal­er died almost a decade lat­er, and the art crit­ic did die with­in a year, but due to can­cer, which he already had been diag­nosed with. The buy­er, John Mar­ley, famous­ly played Jack Woltz — the man who wakes up to a horse head in his bed in The God­fa­ther, also lived for many more years.) Rumors aside, Stone­ham was so upset after the show, he quit the art scene and moved to the Bay Area to work for George Lucas, includ­ing on Howard the Duck.

After the death of Mr. Mar­ley, there is a dark peri­od where the painting’s prove­nance is not clear. The sto­ry picks up again when a “pick­er” finds it in the trash by the Brew­ery Arts Com­plex and takes it home. Sup­pos­ed­ly, he dis­played it in his liv­ing room, but it upset his moth­er because at a cer­tain time of day, the light­ing made it appear as if the doll/girl pulls a gun on the boy, and he dis­tances him­self from her with­in the paint­ing. He sells it in a garage sale to the famous eBay sell­ers.

The eBay sell­ers, of course, claim that they felt a pres­ence around the paint­ing at night, heard the fig­ures argu­ing fol­lowed by a gun­shot, and then the boy comes out of the paint­ing. They claim not to believe in ghosts but ask for a “bless­ing” on their house after the paint­ing is removed. At this point, there are all sorts of sto­ries about peo­ple expe­ri­enc­ing strange phe­nom­e­na pure­ly from the dig­i­tal pic­tures of the eBay list­ing, includ­ing print­ers catch­ing on fire when peo­ple attempt to recre­ate it, and even a wom­an claim­ing items on her desk would move on their own after she set the pic­ture as her desk­top back­ground.

Gibbs claims to have gone to see the paint­ing — the eBay buy­er is an art deal­er in Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, and still has it. He said that he asked a Michi­gan para­nor­mal soci­ety to inves­ti­gate the paint­ing, but they “could not find any­thing con­clu­sive” and he did not expe­ri­ence any­thing out of the ordi­nary when he saw it. Stone­ham was con­tact­ed short­ly after the eBay sale and said that he had for­got­ten all about the piece, and it was not super­nat­u­ral to his knowl­edge.

Thanks to the sto­ry going viral, though, Stone­ham was com­mis­sioned to do two fol­low-up paint­ings, Resis­tance at the Thresh­old

resistance-at-the-threshold-william-stoneham

and Thresh­old of Rev­e­la­tion.

threshold-of-revelation-william-stoneham

Nei­ther have had any strange occur­rences attrib­ut­ed to them. It has also inspired works by oth­ers, such as Nico­la Verlato’s The Haunt­ing of the Haunt­ed Paint­ing,

the-haunting-of-the-haunted-painting

my per­son­al favorite piece from this exhibit.

What do you think is the truth? Is The Hands Resist Him real­ly haunt­ed? Is the eBay list­ing an elab­o­rate hoax and/or per­for­mance art piece of its own? I’ll have to see for myself next time I’m in Michi­gan.

UPDATE: I wrote about anoth­er piece at the show.

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