Posted by: mew | August 24, 2009

The Juicy Details

I did it!

I went on the first Artist Date for this course.  And I hope I do them all.  I had such an amazing time.  In fact, it was hard to come back down to earth and resume “normal” life afterwards.  I found myself thinking, “This is why I resist.  Because I would like to live this way all the time.”

Here, I’ll take you on a little pictorial journey of what I found – inside and out.

Trippy thingamajig found in thrift store #2.

Trippy thingamajig found in thrift store #2.

My goal was to go to two thrift stores, possibly three, and to spend at least two hours and not more than $10.  I was sure this was a bad idea in the first thrift store I entered.  A volunteer was outside, inspecting the wares, and told me I’d parked my car in the wrong place in an accent so thick I needed a translation from one of his co-workers.  Generally, I’m pretty good at the accents, so this bothered me.  And then he proceeded to follow me inside and track me throughout the tiny store, when I was quite visible from the checkout counter the whole time, repeatedly asking me if I was looking for anything specific or needed help.  This behavior, combined with the whiny-sounding Christian pop/country melange played at earsplitting volume for the enjoyment of all the shoppers, meant that I was in a hurry to leave — about 20 seconds after I’d walked in the door.

Already my Ego was saying, I told you to stay home and do the dishes.  This was a bad idea.  You’re gonna regret it.

But then I spotted an old thesaurus with yellowed pages perfect for altered art, a stack of scratched-up LPs just clamoring to be baked in the oven and repurposed as coffee-table bowls, and a bunch of bookends that we desperately need.  I still got out of there quickly.  Just with my arms full.

The second thrift store was so much better.  It was not organized neatly.  No.  My favorite room was encircled by long tables with a piece of notepaper pinned to each wall listing a blanket price for everything piled there.  This is where I found the bizarre aqua tiki god shown above, and also located cute salt & pepper shakers in the shape of green bell peppers, which tempted me even though I am severely allergic to green bell peppers.  (We don’t have shakers, and I thought it would be funny.)  I also found a bunch of paperback books for a quarter each.

And I overheard a conversation between two ladies with the thickest Southern accents it has been my privilege to hear… EVER.  And I’m from ’round here, y’all.  (Okay, maybe not from SC, but pretty darn close.)  Something about that conversation was charming and yet dreamscape-like, so that I wrote it down when I got home.  It definitely needs to go in a book.  It got me thinking about the South.  Me and my roots have a kind of love/hate relationship.  It’s complicated.

Third thrift store was rather a wash except for some cool “Chinese” fans made of actual fabric and wood, with the wall hangers broken (easily fixed) and some tiny water stains on the fabric.  Anyone who knows me well would realize the water stains just rendered these more desirable.  I like things that show their age.  I’m a huge fan of wabi sabi.

Which means I like rust, for instance.   I’ve admired various rusts all around town but not had the courage to go on and photograph them.  Afraid it was undignified.  People might decide I was weird.  There were some dumpsters out back of the thrift store — and I almost turned down their lure, but gathered up my courage and slipped back there with my camera.

Lots of good rust (and mold!) sightings, and then this little scene:


At the time, I couldn’t quite figure out why it attracted me so.  Later, I realized it reminded me of this painting, which I used to have a huge poster of in my bedroom.  I realize it doesn’t seem to have much to do with the faded metal above.  But that is what washed back to me in that moment, with quite an emotional charge.

Landscape and Five Houses by Malevich

Landscape and Five Houses by Malevich

I’d brought it back from my sophomore year abroad in France.  “Les Cinq Maisons,” by Malevich.

I’d learned that year in an art history class that Malevich basically completed the whole modern art movement.  His work came at the bottom (or top, depending on your perspective) of a deconstructionist wave.  Human art had followed a sort of rolling energy wave, my teacher said, now warming up to his topic and speaking so rapidly and fluently that I had to concentrate all my being on understanding him.

First, artists tried to come closer and closer to nature, learning from trial and error what worked, how to manage perspective and shadow and a zillion other things.  The idea was to copy reality.

Then the wave crested and artists began to put themselves back into the artwork.  This is where it became interesting for me.  It wasn’t just what was out there, but what was in here, in the artist’s heart and mind, that showed up on the canvas now.  Naturally, this led art farther and farther from reality.  It became unmoored from its anchor in nature.

And Malevich, according to many French art historians, finally severed the link between art and reality.  We’d crested (or troughed) that wave, too.  What was next?  Nobody knew.  There was no guiding principle left, not constructing, reconstructing, or deconstructing.  Or rather, you could do any of those, if you wanted to, or all of them.  Visual art was finally free now.

Needless to say, I was in love with Malevich and spent some of my last pocket money on this poster and these two others:


Doppelzelt by Klee


Max Ernst's "Was fur ein Vogel bist du?"

Obviously, my dorm room looked a little different than the average once I came back to the States.  (Monet was by far the fave.)  I wasn’t too terribly worried, however.  In fact, compared to later on, I was positively awash with confidence in my own taste.

I hadn’t remembered that particular version of me with anything approaching clarity in years.  Over a decade maybe.  And to be honest, I’m still not sure how all this came bubbling to the surface from staring at a faded pinkish-red container.  Suddenly, I just knew I wanted something of that girl to join me here & now, in this quite different life.

Where the heck have these prints ended up?  I can’t tell you.  They might have ended up with he-who-shall-not-be-named after the divorce.  Too bad.

But if they are lost to me, it need not mean *she* is lost to me.  My younger self, who had such assurance that things would work out and she would realize her dreams.  I think she’s still there, mostly intact, although generally locked in the basement.

Here’s another dumpster telling me what I need to do with the instruction not to play:  REBEL.


From there, my artist child actually talked me into going to see if we could walk along the railroad tracks.  She’d been wanting to do so since we moved to Seneca – way more than she wanted to visit any thrift shop.  My sister, while visiting last spring, said, “Ooh, can we walk down to the tracks from the side of that bridge?” and I laughed, wondering if it’s a family thing or maybe a Southern thing (??) to want to walk down a lonely stretch of railroad track cutting through an overgrown tangle of vines and trees.  Either way, we’d desired it, all of us, but I’d not done so since puberty.  Adults just don’t go wandering off down the tracks; do they?

A man stopped me while I was photographing the scene below, and I got the impression I was being viewed as a potential domestic terrorist, since I was standing near a national guard armory.  Oops!


I put on the thick accent and the dimples and told him I was just trying to photograph kudzu to show my friend in Australia who had zero experience with this ubiquitous plant.  (I did not use the word “ubiquitous.”)  He laughed and told me to warn them not to plant it Down Under.  He was actually quite a nice good ol’ boy.  Yet I felt I’d been rumbled, so I tried to find another angle to climb down.


I couldn’t get to the tracks from this direction, either, although I did figure out, just as I was driving over the bridge, where I could join the tracks to walk down this leafy canyon.  Next time, perhaps.


Another memorable visual from the Bible Belt.  I actually like the rather stylistic navy blue elephant on the side of the ancient-looking headquarters of Seneca’s Republican party.  He’s kind of jaunty.  (Probably going to stay well away from the inside, however.)

I was absolutely dripping with sweat by this time, having spent a lot of time out in the blazing midday sun, returning to a car baking in its parking space.  On a whim, I decided to use the rest of my $10 to indulge my artist child in a treat she’s rarely had since school days:  a coca-cola icee.

Oh, my God, it was good.  So cold, so sweet.


I went home and dumped all my purchases on the armchair and just stared at them, and slurped my icee.  I felt light.  Fired with enthusiasm and ideas.  Excited and expansive.  I had a big grin on my face.


It was a wonderful date.



  1. WOW! what a date! I love your pictures and story about your day. I think it is great when we go OUT THERE and venture out…we then have something to write about! 🙂

  2. so awesome! your first date was way better than mine 🙂 i’m a sad 1 for 4 so far. i really need to get on track.

  3. Thanks for the kind words, ladies.

    Teresa Lynne, you are so right. How are we gonna write if we stay cooped up in our houses and offices and stuck in our ruts?

    Alisha, give yourself a little credit. You started the journey all by yourself and stuck to it — while pregnant, too. Well, I give you major kudos and hugs, whether you do or not. Besides, reading your blog posts about doing the first chapters was part of my inspiration for beginning again with TAW.

  4. I didn’t do my artist date and now after reading about yours I’m sorry I didn’t! You seem to have had such an amazing day with lots of insights. I love your photos….I like rust, too!

  5. What an awsome first date!!! Yours has inpired me to put more effort into mine.

    It was so much fun reading about it. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  6. So good to hear that someone else likes rust 🙂 We can make our own special tribe!

    These kind words from my fellow artists mean so much to me. I’m so grateful you commented, Janet and Michelle.

    And thank you all.

  7. y’all did a bang up job of y’alls arty date honey chile!! Dont you LOVE kudzu> In a small Mississippi tiown ther is a state owned building” VEGEATION CONTROL < Department iof Agriculture.. abandoned and coverd with kudzu,,i swear !
    What great post.. i am off to read again about the artist and art movenment..i was just looking a painting by Connie at Dirty Footprints of singular , low horizon buildings

    a great daye , I went along every minute with you

  8. First I was going to say I wish I had been with you … then I realized, I almost was thru the way you shared it here.

    You are just delightful … finding so much pleasure in these small things, I love it.

    And ummm, 10 bucks would not go that far in 3 thrift stores here! I am jealous.

  9. A wonderful artist’s date, Meredith! I thoroughly enjoyed you taking us along for the ride ~

  10. Soooo fun! What a fantastic AD! Love the pics of the kudzu & railroad tracks. Are those glass herb bottles– a whole set, that I see from your thrifty meanderings?!?! OOoOoOo! What a find! For someone who was dragging her feet about her AD, you sure did a darn good job of it, once you got out the door!

  11. love the container picture… playfulness rules, rebel 🙂 sounds like you had a good time on your artist date

  12. Oh my! This Artist Date was incredible!!!

    I definitely admire you getting out there to photograph your journey. Many times I have avoided photo ops just because I’m afraid what others will think. You’ve definitely inspired me to get out there with my camera and snap to my hearts content 🙂

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