Is it Kitsch or a Catch?

As a pseudo-artist myself, surrounded by a community of artists, I have traditionally found kitsch rather hard to stomach. Especially in large doses. However, yesterday, as I spent the afternoon perusing the many, MANY booths at the Canton Flea Market, I felt a certain solidarity with the community of craftsmen there and the simple, unassuming humanity that was exhibited in even the lowliest of their wares.

Sometimes it was the most ridiculous, the most kitschy of all the displays that made me stop and smile. That brought to mind images of country farmhouses and family gatherings. They were, perhaps, not as justifiably artistic as “real” art, but they were homey and comfortable, silly and nostalgic.

Maybe I am losing my standards in my old age, but I had more fun photographing these amazing examples of Americana surrounded by funnel cake trucks and snow cone stands, than I would have had in a stuffy gallery quietly making judgements about the authenticity of an abstract modern work (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

There was also something amazing about seeing an entire community come together to create something so immense. Every street anywhere near the downtown square was lined with booths and booths of craftsmen selling their wares. Proud of their merchandise because it stood apart from all the Made-in-China, Big-Box stuff we buy everyday and fill our houses with.

Customers and vendors alike partook in the frenzy of people eager to find something to give during the holidays that was not like everything else they already have. Something unique and hand-made. And kitsch or no, it was lovely.

And what did I bring home from this festival of craftsmanship, you may ask? I found three little gems that made me very happy:

Hand-made wooden toys! (And yes, I did buy my 2 1/2-year-old son a gun, and he LOVES it!)

A vegetable peeler hand-made in Switzerland, that I succumbed to buy after a very good salesman gave me a demonstration ;)

And a very long string of freshwater pearls that I could not resist at their $10 price tag.

And on the long walk back to my car, I couldn’t help but take this photo which demonstrated the intense southern-ness of the town in which the market took place. I don’t even know what chitterlings are, but I’m kind of afraid to ask.

Bon appetite and happy shopping!

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Just Singin’ and Dancin’ in the Rain!

I came across this quote recently that resonated with me in a big way:

In trying to find who the quote was attributed to, I quickly discovered that it is a rather clichéd saying that can be found on such kitschy items as pillows and coffee mugs, calendars and cookie jars. But as I have said before, often times things are clichéd for a reason. Because they express or embody something that rings true for so many of us. This is certainly the case here. Life is full of storms. We cannot avoid them. They come and go and hopefully they make us stronger. And, to quote another cliché, often when it rains it pours. In those times, when we feel completely flooded by the storms life brings, it is all too easy to wallow in a nearby puddle. To spend more time whining to our spouse or coworkers or friends then we spend trying to find a solution. I am as guilty of this as anyone. But this simple little quote is a reminder to stop sitting on the sidelines, safe and dry, waiting for things to get better and start making them better. Get out in the thick of it and turn an affliction to joy. Don’t drag your feet through the water and wish things were different, dance in it. Jump and shout and scream if you have to, but dance!

Embracing the Clichéd

In today’s society, where individualism is hailed as one of the highest virtues, we are often afraid of being too clichéd. The phrase, “That’s such a cliché!” is used as an insult. But sometimes I find myself wondering, is it really such a bad thing to be somewhat predictable, normal, or even unoriginal? Some things are clichéd for a reason. Because they have stood the test of time and multitudes and still hold true. I’ve taken flack from plenty of friends and sometimes my own alter-ego, for my desire to move to the suburbs. And I must admit, the individualistic, young, and still edgy side of me cringes at the idea of moving into a cookie cutter, “stepford” neighborhood, with picket fences, matching roof lines and tiny trees. But not all the suburbs are so scary. And some things are more important than being in the middle of it all. Like my son’s education. I certainly see the value in sticking it out and fighting for better education in the city rather than fleeing, but I will not use my son’s future as a weapon in that battle. And then there’s crime. Does staying put and risking the robbery of my possessions and possible harm of my family help bring crime levels down in the city or should we just move to where it is safer? But considering these things makes me wonder if I have been too quick to judge others in the past. Most of the suburbanites have probably had similar lines of reasoning that brought them to where they are today. Most of them probably have histories and lives every bit as interesting as mine, or more so. And yet I have been guilty of looking at them and thinking, “What a cliché!” We are taught from such an early age to never judge a book by its cover and yet we fight judgementalism well into adulthood and old age.

Yesterday, as my son and I were downtown enveloped in a sea of people who had gathered to celebrate Independence Day, I found myself looking around at all the faces and imagining the stories behind their eyes. We are all on wildly different journeys, and yet, too often we tend to approach people as though they should be in the same place we are. The whole event for which all these people had come together was, in and of itself, an incredible cliché. Americana at its finest. There were flags and people in patriotic attire, face painting and glow sticks, catfish and burgers, and an orchestral band playing “Yankee Doodle.” There were kids everywhere and frazzled parents trying to keep up with them. There were lawn chairs and lovers making eyes at each other. And of course, there were fireworks. But there was something beautiful and calming about the cliché. So many different people, from different walks of life and in different places in their journey, coming to celebrate the same thing. And celebrate it in the same way it has been celebrated for generations. It may be a cliché, but it is a damn good one and I’m happy I was part of it.

There are hundreds of paths up the mountain,
all leading in the same direction,
so it doesn’t matter which path you take.
The only one wasting time is the one
who runs around and around the mountain,
telling everyone that his or her path is wrong.
~Hindu teaching