I’ve been thinking a lot about my day spent in the window Housing Works thrift shop, watching the visual designers do their thing. I’m worrying over how to make it into a piece of writing, asking myself that totally annoying but essential question: what’s the story here?
I think the subject has inherent appeal–the windows are visually arresting, a coherent statement assembled from many random parts. The displays are created in a real-life TV Trading Spaces kind of impulsiveness, they are done in impressive volume, the designer is clearly talented, the money raised is substantial, the funds go to a good cause.
That alone might be enough for a certain type of a story, but for me, it feels a little whispy. Since I first lit on the subject, I’ve thought of it as a quintessential New York story. Window displays are so much a part of our pedestrian life (by which I mean, life led on the feet, not banal) and the objects that are donated seem to me to say something essential about the neighborhoods where the thrift shops are located, and neighborhoods have always been what gives a city life and personality.
It seems to me that it’s meaningful that the thrift store on the Upper West Side receives a donation of a rococo French clock, that the store in Chelsea gets chandeliers in profusion, that the store on 23rd street, in my neighborhood, gets a big framed painting with voyeuristic themes and an enormous chipped vase. It seems important to divine the message behind the donations, the meaning of the objects that our neighbors, living anonymously behind all of those glass windows, have deemed no longer useful, yet perhaps valuable to another, yet not valuable enough to sell.
What might be really interesting to me here is what we ultimately do with all the stuff that we spend our lives accumulating and organizing. Although we don’t like to think about it, everything that we own will ultimately end up either in a trash heap or in a thrift shop like Housing Works. I suppose I like the idea that some of that stuff ends up as Found Object art in a window display.