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Mel Birnkrant Presents:
All of the Art on this site is one of a kind, created by CHARLES PONSTINGL, for the sheer joy of it.
He intended it as loving homage to the Great Comic Artists of former days. 
The images are based upon the work of many, including some that were created by, and are
“Copyright The Walt Disney Company”. The writing and photography is “Copyright Mel Birnkrant”.

THE ULTIMATE
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        How can one decide which of Charles' carvings is his Masterpiece?  Every time something new and wonderful appears, one thinks “This is IT!”  But, in the eyes of everyone who has seen the carving below, all the others that came before it take a back seat!  They all agree, “Little Sammy Sneeze” IS the ULTIMATE!

      
   I must confess, this was another “commissioned” piece, perhaps destined to be the last.  Something resembling retirement was creeping up on me.  As far as collecting was concerned, I was running out of space, energy, and money, simultaneously.  Therefore, I stopped purchasing antique toys, and allowed myself only one luxury, a carving by Charles, occasionally.  It was clear that he deserved priority.  The time had come for a Commission, and I was determined that, as I didn’t know if it would be the last one, it had better be a good one.  So, I attempted to choose wisely.

      
   I suppose every collector has some magic moment of supreme good fortune, when they find something amazing, and on top of that, it is a bargain.  Over the years, Fate has been good to me, and I have had many such occasions.  But one that took place, 40 years ago, at the local Stormville Flea Market, was destined to play a role in the creation of Charles Ultimate carving.

        
Compared to Brimfield, Stormville was mostly junk.  It was primarily local dealers and people selling used household belongings.  I even set up there, myself, a couple of times.  That’s how bad it was!  On one of those occasions, I was digging through a box of old magazines.  Ordinarily, I wouldn’t bother examining such stuff.  As I got closer to the bottom of the box, I came close to giving up.  If the Market hadn’t been so bad, I would have moved on.  But I continued to the very bottom of the bottom, and there it was, a glorious and unimaginably rare 1904 volume of Winsor McCay’s “Little Sammy Sneeze”!  The price was fifty cents!   I kid you not!  I would have been equally as pleased if it had been $500.  Well maybe not!   But I would have bought it, anyway.

        
The cover is delicious, drawn by McCay, himself, and even superior to the fabulous art inside.  I displayed it as the background to a showcase full of Little Nemo figures.  Over the years, the figures multiplied in number, until they virtually covered up the cover.   Getting it out to make a copy for Charles was a major project.  If not for that, I might have done it sooner.
        “Little Sammy Sneeze” preceded “Little Nemo” by a year.  In each episode, the story line is always the same scenario.  When Little Sammy sneezes, the power of the blast blows everything away.  On the cover of the book, Sammy has been watching a Circus Parade, and the SNEEZE is taking place!  It demolishes an entire city block, the marchers, clowns, and animals, everything!   Even the buildings are tumbling.  These are not intended to be small toys, but the real thing.

         
So, that’s the story, and, this is what Charles created!
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         When I imagined how Charles might execute this subject matter, I was slightly apprehensive.  It would be very easy for such a chaotic scene to simply look like the carving had been broken.  But that is not the case.  Charles did this with such sensitivity that, even though, the scene is one of total upheaval, every object in it seems comfortable in its place.  And he has managed to create the illusion that the objects are in motion, flying through space.
         One thing he did that totally surprised and thrilled me was the lettering.  I had visualized flat cut out letters, possibly suspended on rods from behind.  But Charles did two amazing things:  First, the letters are truly floating.  One can look at them closely, and It is almost impossible to figure out what is holding them in place. They are invisibly connected at a few subtle contact points, and all cleverly conjoined, not glued or pegged together, but carved as all one piece.  One can peek behind them and study them carefully, and they still seem to defy gravity.

       
  Secondly, I love the way he made the letters in the word “Sneeze” bend and twist and undulate.  Nothing like that is suggested on the cover.  He couldn’t just cut them out flat, half an inch thick, on a jig saw, and then bend them, although, they look like that is what he did.  But, like everything in Charles’ carvings, they were carved that way out of solid wood.   When I remarked about them, he said that it seemed perfectly obvious to him, as they would be disrupted by the impact of the sneeze.

        That repulsive gob of flying phlegm was Charles’ invention.  It incorporates the sound that Sammy always made when he sneezed, “CHEE OW!”  Charles also managed to make it appear to be suspended in midair.  Is it attractive?  No it’s not!  (hidden pun)  But the truth is, I LOVE it!   It carries me back, full circle, to a time, 30 years before at Brimfield, when I was lying on a mattress, in the back of my tiny station wagon, admiring a carving of the Three Little Pigs, and marveling at the naive audacity of a brazen unknown artist who dared to carve splashing water out of wood!
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