On Route 4 in Fairfield, Ohio is a thrift store called Valley Thrift. It’s a huge building nestled near a cul de sac. When I pulled in today the parking lot was extra-busy. Don’t know why. Maybe it’s the economy. When I went into the place, I was looking for knick-knacks and trinkets to be a part of our “Small Potatoes” exhibit which opens Feb 24. It’s a show of small sculptures and paintings and I wanted to curate in a random freak-driven manner: kind of like a Hoarder‘s episode, only 10% classier.
I found what I was looking for.
I found plastic bags filled with knick-knacks and other “things” in rows and rows at the back of the store. Bags and bags and bags of it. Each of these bags had price-tags that said MISC. Just plastic bags of shit thrown together and put on display, like embryos of litter, or litters of embryos. The items within the bags did not seem to be packaged together for any reason other than they just fit into the size of the bags. That sloppy serendipity creates poetic mystery: a storybook surrealism that is both poignant and unnerving. Tossed aside toys and trophies and decanters (I even witnessed one bag filled with an ancient can of Right Guard and three fake strawberries) broadcast a symbolic message. But the symbolism has no attachment to the actual world we live in.
When grouped together like this all that crap starts to sing really scary songs in unison.
You get to thinking.
Why is this bag 99 cents, and this bag 49 cents? Why did somebody make these objects? Why were some of them mass-produced? Why did somebody originally buy this shit? Why oh God why?
You start getting overwhelmed at the immense, scattered nothingness of it all:
- All the crap you give to people as gifts
- All the toys from Happy Meals
- All the sad little lessons you never wanted to learn
- All the thoughts you think when you think you are not thinking
- All the day-glo bobbleheads
- All the nightsweats
- All the pill bottles
- All the ash-trays
- All the words you never say but still form in your head and keep because there’s nowhere else to put them and they never get erased
- All the phone numbers you’ve ever had
- All the lint from your dryer
- Etcetera, etcetera…
It’s all here at Valley Thrift in neat little baggies, priced to move.
I asked the guy at the check-out how this works. Who puts this into bags? Who prices it? He told me people who work here go through the donations and set aside stuff nobody in their right minds would want to buy. “We make goodie bags out of that,” he said. “It’s better than throwing it all away.”
And I got to thinking about art too. About all the art that never goes anywhere. Never gets put into museums. All the art stored in garages and sheds and attics. Art that never gets canonized or even sometimes gets to see the light of day. People making art, continuing to make art, in a world overflowing with it.
“It’s better than throwing it all away.”
Here are some photos of the stuff I bought, soon to be featured in “Small Potatoes.” Enjoy.