The Gallery

by | Jul 23, 2012

I’m down home for my annual visit. On a whim I drive over to visit with an old friend, but she isn’t around. I don’t want to head straight home again, so I decide to take a little trip into town.

Maybe I can pick up a souvenir or two.

I bought a big pewter starfish on a leather choker from a local store a few years back and I love it. It goes with everything and I still get compliments when I wear it. I stop into the store and spend a while poking around the jewellery and other interesting items they carry. There are some earrings made out of buttons that I like, and the thought crosses my mind that I could make them myself (I’ve been toying around with the idea of making jewellery forever). But nothing else catches my eye. To be honest, the inventory doesn’t seem to change much from year to year.

I head further into town and park down by the boardwalk. It’s quiet. I sit by the water for a while.

It’s a small town. Really small. But they have a few shops, so I walk up the street and pop in and out, smiling at the proprietors and thanking them as I leave empty handed. “Just looking, thanks!”

There’s a gallery across the street. I’ve never been inside. I don’t really know much (anything) about art, and I’ve always let it intimidate me, but I realize how silly that is. It can’t hurt to look. Besides, the sign says they have photography and jewellery as well.

The gallery is in an old Victorian house, which is pretty common for small businesses around here. I open the screen door and enter the porch. I don’t see any other shoppers, just the man working there, and I smile and say “hello.” He’s friendly, but seems to understand that I just want to look around and leaves me to it.

I’m a self-conscious shopper. I don’t really like shopping all that much, and I have some deep-seeded guilt (from who knows where or when) about spending time in a local shop without buying anything. It’s like I’m afraid I’m wasting their time by if all I’m going to do is look. I know it’s silly, and it’s not like I let the guilt actually make me buy something I don’t want (my frugality is much stronger than my guilt), but I still feel it whenever I’m browsing. I don’t feel the same way in a mall or a chain store, only in little independent shops.

I quite like the photography here. It has a maritime feel, mostly scenery. The prints are duplicated many times over in a variety of formats and sizes, but they’re good. As I pick up a matted print I notice that the photographer’s bio is on the back. I recognize the man tending the store as the photographer himself.

There are a number of photos taken in and around dilapidated old houses. Not too unusual, as there are quite a few of these around the province, but my favourites are the ones containing personal effects. There is one of a chest of drawers reflected in the mirror of a vanity that I find interesting, and another of two dresses hanging on the wall, complete with tattered wallpaper and peeling paint.

As I’m admiring the dresses the photographer speaks up, “I was really startled to walk into that room and find those dresses hanging there.”

I imagine. I nod. “It’s strange what people will leave behind. I also really like the one with the vanity and chest of drawers.”

“That was a house out on the Bay of Fundy. I wanted to go back to take more pictures, but some local kids burned the place down.”

I shake my head. Damn teenagers.

“Did you notice the one with the doll?” he asks.

“No.” I hadn’t. He leads me over to another print. It’s incredibly creepy. An ugly clownish doll sitting on a chair in a hallway that seems as it’s about to fall down around him.

“This family built another house closer to the highway and just carried all of their belongings down to the new place, leaving behind anything they didn’t want. I asked them why they left those things, and they told me they didn’t need the chairs and their daughter never liked the doll.”

“It’s kind of creepy” I decide.

“That’s what I thought” and we laugh.

I nod to thank him for sharing his story with me. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes a few words can provide you with a story that leads to a thousand other images.

I continue to wander around the gallery, checking out everything and decide on a 5X7 print of the vanity reflection photo plus three magnets (including one with the two dresses) that I think will make lovely gifts. I bring them up to the cash register.

“I guess you like the abandoned and decrepit ones?” he asks, grinning.

“I guess I do. I’m feeling particularly abandoned and decrepit myself these days.” I smile, and try to look as cheerful as possible, but I wonder if he notices the sadness in my eyes as he rings up my purchase and asks me where I’m from.