The (fine?) art of thrift stores

Posted by Jenny in Book Report, Grab Bag | 4 Comments

When I think of the phrase “thrift store photos” I usually think of the weird kind of pictures you can sometimes find while thrifting. Here’s one stellar example:


(More of that good stuff here.)

Of course, “thrift store photos” can also mean photos depicting thrift stores. I found this link to a recent exhibition of thrift store photos by Brian Ulrich via the ever-fabulous Ars Longa site. The shots are great, ranging from the colorful to the kinda gross.

The exhibition reminds me of a little book I got for Christmas, Thrift Store: the Past & Future Secret Lives of Things. If you’ve spent much time in thrift stores, many of the photos in the book may seem altogether familiar, perhaps too familiar: stacks of board games, necklaces hanging on hooks, lonely dolls … all the kinds of things you come across when perusing thrift store aisles, shown here in one small dose after another until you almost feel like you’ve been in the thrift too long. According to her bio the author/photographer, Emily Larned, is an “avid thrifter,” and the book includes a few short essays about the nature of objects and how they are used, valued, and discarded. The kind of stuff you get to thinking about after your 500th thrift trip or 8000th yard sale.

As far as thrift store art, there’s plenty of documentation out there on artwork that was purchased in thrift stores. I was first introduced to this “genre” via Jim Shaw’s mindblowing 1992 book, Thrift Store Paintings. (After discovering the book I was lucky enough to get to see an exhibit of some of the paintings in San Francisco, similar to the one pictured here. That stuff is even scarier in person.)

Online, you can visit the PSB Gallery of Thrift Store Art and the Hi Art Thrift Store Art Gallery for more scary thrifted paintings than any one person should probably stand to take in. I’ve also seen a few recent examples where people have taken thrifted artworks (sometimes original, sometimes mass-produced) and then altered them to stunning effect (like the examples shown here).

Now, what about paintings (or perhaps scarier, sculptures) that show thrift store scenes? That’s something I haven’t managed to stumble across yet. But I’m sure it’s only a matter of time …

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