Big Eyes, Big Ears and "Beautiful Junk"

Window shopping in second-hand stores has joys all its own. While regular mall shopping might reveal the toddler having a pre-nap meltdown, seniors out for exercise, or teens tracking down the latest fashion, it’s at thrifts, antique malls and flea markets that stories, histories and memories really come out to play.

Even if you’re not in the market for anything in particular, a quiet afternoon stroll perusing the shelves of a thrift or the booths of a flea market can be free, whimsical entertainment. And it promises everything from humor and happiness to a certain amount of comfortably kitschy horror. All you have to do is open your eyes and your ears.
You might hear cheers, as someone reunites with the same dishes they remember Grandma serving on 20 years ago.

Or like this weekend, a woman on her cell spent time describing in patient detail a series of vintage copper Jell-O molds to a friend. “Are you still looking for some? They have a really nice aged look to them... And there’s a crab, a fish, and some grapes... Oh, wait! Here are three more small ones! Do you think you’d want them? I’ll buy them and bring them right over...”

You might spy that couple who stands before a booth, weighing every purchase together with the gravity of international peace negotiations... Where a single kitchen canister gets the same attention and deep consideration that buying a car or signing a nuclear arms treaty might.

Walk around one of these merchandise meccas of Memories, and you might even become inadvertently educated about the unexpected. For instance, I had no idea until recently there was actually a special tool-- small wooden tongs-- to be used specifically for removing toast from a toaster. Me, I had always left it up to chance, dexterity and the electric company.
Sometimes, you'll discover others like you, wandering the aisles in wide-eyed wonder. At the UFO in Greensburg not long ago, I passed a lady going the opposite direction down their overspilling dollar shelves. Vintage glass shone with possibility. The woman turned and smiled, knowing she'd passed a kindred treasure hunter. "Beautiful junk," she said to me. It was as if it were part of some unfinished thrifting Haiku.

And I had to agree, as I scanned the milk glass, the crystal, the aged bottles; it was. Somewhere, someday, someone would give it a home.

And of course, sometimes thrifting and other secondhand stores reveal the strange and unusual. In the last week, I've seen two plaster courting couple plaques that I will not-so-regretfully fail to decorate my French blue sitting room with... Their clumsy figures and awkward paint job would probably have made Boucher reconsider the cheeky shepherd genre.

Later, I did a double-take on a baby-doll with a lamp harp jutting out of her head. Many a tot may have found mental trauma in some of the toys that have made their way to secondhand stores.

And, then there's the virtually inexplicable. Is this a human? A beloved dog? Why is it wearing Carol Channing's hair?Perhaps it is Sir Elton John in his thin days without his big glasses. Here, I'll give you a closer view so you can truly immerse yourself in The Art.
Questions abound!

(And no, I didn't buy it. I have left it at the Ohio River Boulevard antique mall for others to spy out of the corner of their eyes, stop dead in the hallway, and drag friends over to see.

Which leaves me with today's questions: have you ever overheard something entertaining at a thrift store or other treasure hunting place?

And what, do you think, this last painting portrays exactly?

Inquiring minds want to know! :)


TexNan said...

OMG, Jenn. That last is a ba-ad version of Margaret Keane's big-eyed paintings. I was never fond of them, good, bad or otherwise, but they were really popular in the seventies. (The originals are being sold now for twenty-plus thousand apiece.) Check out Keane's here: (Don't you love overlistening? My fave place is coffee shops. It offers a broader range of voice.)

The Happy Homemaker said...

I forgive you for your Sir Elton dig...but it's funny you should post about this...bc I posted about funny price tags today!Have a look if you get a chance.BTW, I'm,and didn't realize I wasn't following you until a week or so ago.I've been getting your emails since before I had a now that I have one...I'm following:)

Bee Balm Gal said...

I am fairly certain that the painting is of my late mother-in-law. It was probably done in the 1960s when she was residing in England, during her faux fox-hunting phase. Really, the resemblance is quite remarkable.

Jenn Thorson said...

TexNan- While I knew of the big-eyed paintings, I didn't know who did them-- thanks! I just keep looking at the nose and wondering why it looks so much like a dog nose. Totally throws me. :) And yes, much of the world goes on in coffee shops. A single hour can show much about humanity!

HappyHomemaker- Nothing personal against Elton-- it was the hair and the turtleneck. :) Congrats on your new blog!

Bee Balm Gal- Tally-ho, then! :) Heh, so I'm sure this is something your mother in law enjoyed over the fireplace in her den. Right next to her hunting bugle and other memorabilia. :)

Sandy aka Doris the Great said...

OMG! I was wondering who that picture reminded me of and it's Carol Channing!

Andrea said...

If anyone ever figures this painting out, let me know...I'm curious. Very odd, to say the least. I remember all of those "big eye" pix. I think that you've shown some on here before. Very 70's!

dawt said...

Charo comes to mind...goochy-goochy

Jenn Thorson said...

Sandy- Although I think Carol would probably be smiling.

Andrea- No, actually I haven't shared big-eyed children paintings before on the blog because until now, none across my path were, um, worthy. :)

Dawt- At the very least, the artist should have included Charo in the series. :)