Rescued Art

Amy V. Lindenberger

This thrift down in southwest Connecticut, near the Long Island Sound, revealed itself to me on my third visit. The first two times, the main thing I experienced was the dirt and confusion. Old furniture outside the back door, left to the rain. Dropped-off donations infesting the parking lot, it stuffed with second hand cars parked in crookedy fashion.

Then, the inside. Packed with people trying to move shopping carts along non-aisles almost closed by too much clothing on the racks. With the corner nook literally a pile of stuff: end tables on end with odds-and-ends fleeces tossed about, topped by pictures upside down with ripped backing papers.

And the art, they display it in the floor-to-ceiling windows, south facing so they take the full sun. We need to get there soon after someone abandons the paintings and prints to rescue them from fading in this shiny grimy place.

Then on my third visit, I saw the place differently, actually saw it for what it is: a complex, fully functioning system, having its own integrity, its own beauty. That furniture outside the back door is put out by staff at opening time (on non-rainy days) and is returned to the warehouse room at closing time. This expands the showroom space, too small inside for big davenports and sideboards. And all those cars crammed into the parking lot are happy to score a slot in this neighborhood when those out on the street have to drive around the block for endless time seeking an empty space.

And inside, the aisles are over-tight because the clothing merchandise is so chic and low priced and popular with the rich white ladies from the towers down the street, as well as with the women of the neighborhood, that the staff packs the racks to give them a look of abundance. And the squashed aisles serve the multicultural function of bringing all ladies together in search of the same silk scarf for a dollar.

As for the art, it is in the window to serve as an attractive splash of beauty to brighten up a dull block of dirty windows. This window gallery has become an iconic marketing lead for the store. A demand that art is important anywhere where people are prone to missing the beauty of a thrift store in an old second use building.

Seeing the beauty in a piece of art is much like seeing it in a grimy thrift. Like this print by Lisa V. Lindenberger. At first, I saw a picture with a scratched frame, ripped backing paper, and grimy glass. I saw “another horse” drawing. So, I set it back in the window to begin fading. But, I circled back a second time, a third time, and noticed the sweet hand-drawn pencil sketch of two tethered horses in the bottom border, a clue by the artist to the story of the larger picture above. I saw this time a background of Civil War Yankee soldiers encamped and ensconced in a debate over the next attack on the Confederates. Finally, I saw the wonderful set of three horses in the foreground, nuzzling each other in a horse debate about their next meal. For Lindenberger, these horses were more interesting, more beautiful, more important than the humans. She made art of their council, not that of the soldiers.

It took three visits to see this print and three to see this thrift shop as well.