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Deep thinker


The N.C. Museum of Art's Rodin exhibition is an impressive collection of bronze and marble statuary with an informative exhibit guide. But I was surprised to learn that the Rodin Gift Shop was lacking a guide of its own, leaving art lovers to wander about with little sense of the featured items' significance in Rodin's career. True "Thinkers," then, will be wise to consult my version of the Rodin Gift Shop Guide.

Auguste Rodin, born to middle-class parents in 1840, would soon realize his true calling: barbecuing. The "I Think It's Done" barbecue apron (1851) is considered Rodin's preeminent foray into fire and metal work. His "Thumb And Index Finger Salt-And-Pepper Shakers" (1855) are of a piece with his "Fist Paperweight" (1856), all recognizing the utility and beauty of the human hand.

However, a notorious lighter-fluid accident in 1858 would confine Rodin to his home for nearly a decade, forcing his attention from nature to the office. The "Rodin Computer Mousepad" (1860) and "Rodin Screensaver" (1861) are remarkable not only for their clarity of line and utility of purpose, but for their anticipation of PCs by more than a century.

Rodin's confinement also paved the way for his obsession with muse and mistress Camille Claudel. Their many meals together were the inspiration for his "Thinker-Shaped Pasta: Food To Think About" (1865), and it was for sun-worshipper Claudel that Rodin created his "Get Bronzed" beach towel, "Rodin Frisbee," and "Rodin Clear Plastic Lunchpail" (1867).

But Rodin's ill-fated line of "I Think I'm Thirsty" bottled water (1869), polluted with bronze shavings, is believed to have initiated Claudel's descent into insanity. And it was an early version of "The Thinker Temporary Tattoo" (1870) which appears to have driven her over the edge. The tattoo would not come off, no matter how hard she scrubbed, and her forlorn cries of "Bon Dieu, enlevez ce con de mon bras!" ("Jesus Christ, get his fat ass off of my arm!"), were well documented by sanitarium staffers.

Rodin remained a devoted partner, cooling Claudel's fever with the "Thinker Cardboard Fan on a Stick" and trying to distract her from her misery with his "Think Rodin Yo-Yo" (1872). Regardless, she spent the last 30 years of her life in an insane asylum. The pain of losing his mistress and muse resulted in Rodin's most heralded piece, "Squeezable Thinker Stress Toy In Blue Rubber With Neanderthal Face And Moe Haircut" (1875).

Rodin also went on to make a whole bunch of statues. Checkouts are to the right.

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