It was Sunday and we were determined to find something Montgomery-ish to do. Despite our general aversion to charming and useless household decorations and brightly colored things with ribbon on them (a.k.a. much of rich folks’ visions of “Alabama art”), we soldiered forth to the Mulberry shopping district’s annual Holiday Open House. It seems to be a sort of stroll-n-shop, and all the stores were offering some kind of treats to munch on, from sugar cookies to suspicious-looking dip to tiny bottles of water.
Now, a discourse on the entire concept of the Southern Rich Lady Gift Shop is proper for another post. But you need to know that sort of thing to fully appreciate the Mulberry Shopping District and the Holiday walkabout. It’s the aging sorority girl who has always been told that she is creative, opening up a shop of her handbags and “Bless This Mess” signs. It’s the wife of the coach needing a place to invest the family money while “keeping busy” and thus stockpiling a collection of antique stuff that could go on an end table in a beach house. It’s the old lady who collects angels or roosters or kitty-shaped candles. Know the place?
We learned about the open house at our monthly neighborhood association meeting, where a neighbor passed around a postcard that talked up an art show called “Cloverdale Relics” at an establishment called In the Mood. This seemed cool to us – the postcard described an artist that was building stuff from ‘found items’ in Cloverdale (our neighborhood) in unusual ways. We are very interested in art made from found items, and especially appreciate the idea of capturing the spirit of a neighborhood in this way.
Which might go a long way toward explaining why we were so epically saddened by what we found at the gallery. Which is really more of a gift shop. This was evidenced by our conversation with the owner who told us that she buys from artists who “sell to gift shops all over the nation.” The artist in question evidently sells to any number of exotic locations – Cape Cod, Aspen, Key West – a claim that, once we saw her work, seemed both highly dubious and depressingly likely.
Quotes from “classic rock” bands painted in pastels on planks? To hang on the wall of what? Your lake house? Your intellectual property law firm that you run to sue artists who steal lyrics from bands and sell them as “art?”
What do you even say about something like this? Sure, it’s great that someone found some wood siding in Cloverdale and wanted to do something with it. But painting a candy-colored peace sign? That’s the thing? We saw one sign that said “Old Cloverdale” and another that said “Sweet Home Alabama,” and everything else in the “show” could have been put in any other tchotchke shoppe in the world and pronounced “absolutely precious” in any variety of regional dialects by ladies whose appreciation for Pink Floyd or the Rolling Stones was probably rather limited in the first place but is now deepened in the sticky honey nostalgia machine now busily re-purposing The Sex Pistols and The Clash for the charming wall art of our coming twilight years.