Tag Archives: low art

Thrift Store Finds: So Cute It’s Freaking Me Out

19 Nov

Sometimes there are things (living and inanimate) that are cute,  preternaturally so, but which also have some aspect that is perturbing, or to use the popular vernacular,  an aspect that will cause you to, like, freak  out.

One good example of this phenomenon is a little episode which occurred recently, where an initially adorable scene was, upon closer inspection, revealed to be horrifying, in a kind of “Twilight Zone” -esque twist.  I was in my backyard around dusk when I heard the cry of a baby animal.  I knew that it must have been coming from the attic of a small shed that sits in a neighbour’s yard, which backs up right against our fence.  The attic area has a large hole in the back wall that various animals have chewed away, so that the inside of the shed, between a platform and the roof,  is visible, giving us a view into what has become a favored living quarters for different species of  mamas and their new litters.  The heartbreaking cry turned my attention towards the shed where I noticed there was a cute little baby raccoon, probably crying out for its absent mother, dusk being a natural time for raccoons to seek food.  I walked over to the shed to get a closer look at the little guy when the horror suddenly dawned on me; the baby raccoon had no eyes!  Nothing, not even closed eyelids or injured eyes.   Blindy, (as I dubbed him) just had smooth, unblemished fur across his face, with not even a hint of of a mark or indent where the eyes should have been.  The title of the post should give you a good idea what happened next; I kind of freaked out.  I felt so helpless and sad for Blindy.  Fortunately, its mother soon returned and they cooed and chattered happily upon their reunion. I never saw Blindy again.  But I’m still kind of freaked, though.

And so it is with that in mind that I present to you, my dear reader, a few things Ive purchased recently, that have had the same sort of effect.  These darling little objects reveal, upon closer examination, an aspect that is somehow off , like a sweet candy with an aftertaste of..the flavor is…it tastes like freaking out.

The first object is another cute animal that is freaky because of its eyes.  Only in this case, the odd part is not that the eyes are missing, but rather what their presence tells us.  It is a small vintage, ceramic figure of a dog, a dog that takes the expression “puppy eyes” to an  almost uncomfortable level:

What’s behind these puppy eyes?

Its cute, adorable even, but why is this dog so sad?  The look in its eyes is so heartbreaking as to suggest something  terribly wrong, am I right here?  Is this some sort of  a tchotchke of  an abused dog?  What kind of a person would want a figurine around that is this depressing?  Is it cold?  Hungry?  Scared?  Neglected?  Is this pitiful and pathetic expression just a cheap excuse for sentiment, the kind of pull at the old heartstrings, “Precious Memories” , “Hang in there Baby” ploy that guilts you into buying some trifle?  Because if it is,  it worked on me, and this little guy sits joylessly on my shelf, making me sad, every time I look at it.

Keeping with the theme of  freaky eyes, we will turn to another “cutesy” image with a dark side, only this time it involves that other category of little critters that will pee on your rug: children!  This is a sweet little set of  pencil leads I purchased at Value Village:

These pencil leads are freaking me out!

I picked these up because of the great graphics and colours on the package;  I love the peach background bordered by white dots, and the rosy-cheeked children holding a banner that says “pencil leads” is, to me, a marvel of graphic design.  But, look closer at the kids faces.  Was the artist that created these trying to make a comment on the dangers of lead exposure to young children?  Or am I grasping at straws here to try to create some esoteric connection between a bunch of crazy crap I bought?  Only time will tell.  In the meanwhile, lets take a closer look at what I’m blathering on about here:

They’re kind of funny lookin’.

They are pretty sweet, with their little bows at hat, but why are their eyes going lizard-like in two directions? According to the internet, mental retardation is one of the effects of lead poisoning in children.   This package seems to be covertly disseminating anti lead messages.  But this is one piece of propaganda those fat cats over at ” Big Lead” wont be able to suppress…because I’m hanging this little graphic masterpiece on my wall.

That last paragraph is a perfect segue into another item containing a cute representation of a deformed child.  The girl on the package for this  “Bath Glove” seems a rather cruel choice of subject, considering her anatomy would preclude her from even using this particular product.  In fact, the girl illustrated seems to be wearing a modified version of the product in question.  Also, although she is illustrated in a demure pose with her hands across her chest, she still somehow fails to preserve her modesty.  The sophisticated colour scheme and cute illustration will distract you at first from what I’m talking about:

Masterful colour choices!

But, wait for it…

Now really, what the heck is that supposed to be?

The rest of the drawing was going so good, but it seems like whoever made this just gave up when it came time to do the hands, and just put a blob of a mitt on the end of one arm (remember, this is supposed to be a bath glove) and some weird flipper thing on the other.  Now, I don’t mean to be pedantic, and granted, there are five appendages there, but just scribbling them all in there does not make a hand.  But I guess the makers of this cheap “Bath Glove” did something right, considering I bought it, wrote about it, and will probably keep it for the rest of my life.

And so, to bring this post full circle, back to where we started, on the topic of raccoons, I present this last item, a photograph from a Snow White on ice performance, circa 1950s.  This was part of a set of  publicity photos depicting a revue containing a medley of popular stories, performed on ice.  This particular photo shows Snow White, surrounded by some performers in animal costumes, including a raccoon.

Snow White and her animal friends

And perhaps this is just some sort of psychological projection that reveals more about my paranoia than anything, but if you ask me, those animals look pretty sinister:

AHHH!

AHHH!

AHHHHHH!

AHHH! The eyes, they’re so cold, and dead.

It’s no wonder that children are often seen crying in pictures next to costumed characters like this.  And for us adults, I think the movie  Donny Darko has probably ruined us for ever again seeing people dressed in giant animal costumes as cute , especially rabbits.

Well I hope you have enjoyed another episode of picking apart commercial products and old ephemera down to the minutest of detail, Miss Lady Heart style.  Next time you see something cute, take a closer look, and if you think about it too much,  you can probably freak yourself out with it too!

Dog Figurine, Pencil Leads and Bath Glove purchased at Value Village, 6415 Victoria Dr, Vancouver, BC

Random Collections: Princess Lovely’s Doctor Beautiful Dream Bride Pretty Set

13 May

I collect little cardboard-backed dress-up sets that are aimed at little girls.  I am usually drawn towards vintage sets, but occasionally I will buy a new set if it has those elusive qualities that I’m looking for.  What makes them so appealing to me are the graphics and names, but also, as a sculpture/installation based artist, I enjoy the box-art installative aspect of the sets, with the small arrangement of plastic fun composed under molded plastic.  I usually keep the set intact, but sometimes what is featured is so enticing that I try to find a second one so that I can open one of them and wear the accessories.  Here are a few of my favorite ones.

Fashion Girl

Check her out!

This is one of the newer ones that I have, probably dating from the 90s.  I love that the sides are drawn to represent film perforations or sprocket holes, adding the dimension of “movie star” to this “fashion girl”.  The silhouetted girls to the left of the film girl have a very Bond Girl, or even Gem and the Holligrams-esque feel to them.  The jewelry is of course hideously ugly and tacky, but the overall effect is so great.  This is the type of thing that I frame, or just hang unframed, as a piece of pop culture art.  This set was purchased at Value Village, a local thrift store.

Fun-n-Games

Great colours on this one, called Fun-n-Games.  It’s a little green haired girl with red bows-mirror.  And, you can look in the mirror and brush your hair with a green comb.  The little pink nail polish bottle is hollow and doesn’t open but it has a cute little sticker that says “Bright Star” on it.  This probably dates from around the 1970s.

Pretty Set

Good name, good graphics!

I love the name of this one, Pretty Set.  It’s sweet and simple, but it also sounds like a state of mind; get this toy, and you’ll be pretty set.  This dates from the same period as the Fun-n-Games set and like the Fun-n-Games set it is a mirror backed by a face, in this case a lion, for some reason.  I love the drawing of the little girl, and the giant pink barrettes in the set, but as I could not find a second Pretty set, I could not open this package and wear the barrettes, leaving me less “set” than I thought I would be, despite assurances to the contrary implied by the name. This and the above set were purchased at Ontario Specialty, a local store that specializes in dead-stock vintage toys and fun.

Dream Bride

This set, Dream Bride, I found in a sad looking grocery store in New York City, and because I loved the giant heart necklace inside I bought three sets.  This necklace is probably the best thing I’ve seen in one of these sets.  About the size of a woman’s fist, the plastic heart has a clear plastic heart shaped bubble in the middle that has a little plastic flower inside, making this an installation within an installation.  It’s installation to the power of 2 for those who prefer mathematical terms.

The giant heart necklace

Princess Lovely

I love the name and the confused ideas presented here about what a princess is.  Instead of a crown or scepter, there are heart shaped sunglasses and comb and mirror.  This type of super pink-girly-princessy fluff is like being a drag queen for little girls, in that it represents and caricature of girlhood.  It’s interesting as an object that packages tropes of modern pop girlishness.  This set I also purchised in NYC, from a street vendor.

Doctor Beautiful(!)

This is the only brand new set in my collection, which I purchased at a dollar store close to my home.  I think this one is the funniest in terms of the confusion over what it is trying to be.  It seems that it is partly an aspirational type toy for girls, in the style of Barbie’s career dolls which put Barbie in such lofty positions of astronaut and travel agent, to teach girls that they too, can be professional working women.  But much as with the real Barbie brand career dolls, the precedence of looks over brains is still painfully evident in the styling, packaging and marketing of the toy.  Taking a closer look at the image of “Doctor Beautiful” on the top right of the package, we see just how many disparate elements this figure is cobbled together from:

What is this supposed to be, really?

Basically, they’ve put a off-brand Barbie like head onto an illustration of  Disney’s Sleeping Beauty’s body, and then rudimentally added a doctor’s stethoscope onto the face.

Sleeping beauty in her pink gown, which she evidently later lent to Doctor Beautiful for her toy package photo shoot

And the final non-sequitur of this toy set comes in the form of this sticker, seen on the toy stethoscope:

The sticker on the stethiscope

Why is there a little manga/anime nurse girl sticker in this set?

Well, thanks for taking my guided tour through another of my random collections.  Hopefully, my enthusiasm has rubbed off on you, dear reader, and you will be convinced to start yet another Lady Heart approved, random collection!

Fashion Girl set purchaised at Value Village, 1319 Bloor St. W., Toronto

Fun-n-Games and Pretty Set purchaised at Ontario Specialty, 133 Curch St., Toronto

Doctor Beautiful Puchaised at Dollar Wise, 1901 Yonge St., Toronto

Comic Books: Classics Illustrated, Animal Stories

10 Apr

I have a small but valuable collection of  Classics Illustrated comics that are a wonderful resource for typographic, illustrative and narrative inspiration.  For those who are not familiar with this publication, as the title implies, Classics Illustrated were a series of comics published in the 1950s which sought to interest children in reading the classic novels by illustrating them, comic book style. These comics provide an easy and fast route to seeming like a well read individual, as they summarize books as long as Anna Karenina into a digestible 48 pages or less.  But, like a school essay cited only with Wikipedia, Classics Illustrated will probably leave some holes in one’s expertise on the subject, and a lack of  any direct text to quote.  While the drawings within can be hit and miss, some of the issues have beautifully drawn and rendered covers, especially the ones that depict animals.  Here are my favorites:

"Bring 'em Back Alive" By Frank Buck

Isn’t this a beautiful illustration?  The colours and the action suggested in this cover make it look so compelling.  I never read it, but I think the good people at Classics Illustrated have given you most of what you need right here, no? Who will come back alive, man or beast?

I love the concepts for these covers, like this one for example.  The wolf  looms large over a scene of a lone rider, galloping across a terrain at sunset, the fiery transition from the sober day to the mysterious night.  The animal’s angry yet thoughtful face suggests a presence  not only as a haunting memory, but perhaps as a psychic state as well.  Is the tile an allusion to a journey of inner discovery? Is to know a wild animal really to know one’s self?  I guess I would have had to have read this thing to see if what I’ve said here has anything to do with the content of the story.

"Wild Animals I Have Known" By Ernest Thompson Seton

 

 

Here is another cover with a lovely, colour saturated scene of a majestic animal, in contemplation during the hazy pink and orange lit final act  of another day.

"Fang and Claw" By Frank Buck

Cats, whether wild or domestic, seem to have a kind of dignified and important air about them, like they contain within them the cumulative memory and knowledge of cats who’ve lived and died some tens of millions of years ago.  When I look at this cover, I imagine it’s a modern cat, looking over a prehistoric landscape.  Perhaps the author, Frank Buck had a different story to tell, but I’m not really sure though, quite frankly.

And in another wolf centered story, and the only comic featured here that is based on a story I’ve heard of, White Fang is the the story of sled dog that can’t be tamed.  He is the fearless leader- of- the- pack yet too- wild- for- his- own- good archetype character that so many teen heartthrob movies capitalize on today.  Is there some correlation between White Fang and that wolf character in Twilight, for instance?  Or is was that line of thought just a lame excuse to be able to put Twilight in my tags in a transparent attempt to attract the teen market to this blog?

"White Fang" By Jack London

I hope you have enjoyed these covers as much as I have, dear reader.  And though I never got around to actually reading these super-condensed versions of the classic books, I think that the above ramblings never the less prove that some intellectual activity did result from the efforts of the creators of Classics Illustrated.

All of the above comics were purchased at BMV Books on Bloor St W., Toronto

BMV Books, 471 Bloor St. W., Toronto

Random Collections: Pantyhose!

8 Apr

I have many random collections of things, as I mentioned in my introduction.  I like to save things like plastic rosaries, Whitman books ( a series of cheap, cardboard books, published in the 1960s), old clothing tags, baby-doll nightgowns, vintage crackerjack prizes and much more.  It is my desire to share these collections with you, dear reader, in the hopes that we can bond over what might be a shared passion for the mundane.

In this post, I would like to present for your approval a new collection I began recently, a collection of pantyhose packages.  (Three items is a collection, right?)  What links these particular pantyhose packages is that they all have a cut out in the shape of a woman’s leg in the cardboard that allows the pantyhose inside to be seen, giving the customer an idea of just what these hose will look like on themselves, an amazing marketing innovation that elevated these pantyhose from merely an item in a store to item in my heart!

The first pack is of a pantyhose style that every woman covets for it’s chic style and youth bestowing properties: The knee high, semi-opaque beige stocking!

I love the suggestion of pairing these with a short (or no) skirt and black high-heels.  Thanks, Watson”s.

As surprising as it is that someone donated these to charity, I actually found these at  Value Village.

Value Village, 1319 Bloor St. W. Toronto, and others

The next set has a name I find particularly attractive: Lady Rose.   The “Sheer Elegance” of these “One Size Fits All”  pantyhose are also best paired with black heels, according to the package:

This pair I found at my favorite convenient store, Sherwood Variety.  Along with an awesome selection of old stickers and toys, I’ve purchased a few old household and beauty products that, like a fine wine, have become more beautiful and valuable with time (in my opinion).  The actual pantyhose have been lost to time, leaving only the cardboard cover and opened plastic wrapping to carry on the hose’s legacy, a fact that didn’t stop the good people at Sherwood Variety from displaying the item for sale, or selling it to me for $4.99.  Money well spent, if you ask me, especially during these difficult financial times.

Sherwood Variety, 2547 Yonge St., Toronto

And finally, The last item in this small collection is this lovely, pink “Beauty Sheer” pantyhose “The Hosiery of Quality”, if you must know.  The typography and the sensual curve of the legs really caught my fancy when I saw these at Gadabout, a wonderful vintage store on Queen St. East.  This pair was what started my interest in collecting more pantyhose packaging.  Like the others, this company also feesl that their hose should be worn with black heels.  The artistry of this package is not lost on the designer, as they also saw fit to use the colour of the hose, a hue they dubbed “Sundown”, to render a small artist’s pallet in the top right corner:

Perhaps, with the support of this blog, and you, dear reader, collecting pantyhose packages may one day become a popular and legitimate hobby, with conventions, price guides and mounting albums to follow!  Let’s start rallying around this cause today!

Gadabout, 1300 Queen St. E., Toronto

Convenience Store Treasures: Stickers!

5 Apr

What is it about stickers that girls like so much?  Even as grown women my girlfriends and I still get excited when we acquire some new cool stickers.  One of the convenience stores near my home had a few packs of stickers from one of my favorite brands, “Happy Stickers”  which the company boasts “Sticks By Itself”!  These stickers are are super colourful, and the animals and things they depict can be quite humorous in their expressions.  Below I’ve posted some of my collection with an accompanying close up of the best sticker in the pack.

The first are one of two sets of donkeys with my favorite being the little yellow one that looks like a chihuahua:

The Happy Sticker Donkeys

The cute chihuahua-like donkey

The other Donkey set was also great.  the unnatural colours and expressions are what make them so appealing, especially the green one, which had a rather Scooby-Doo like air to it, wouldn’t you agree?

The second Happy Sticker Donkeys

The Scooby-Doo green donkey

There were also these odd transformer rip off space craft stickers that contained this pink horned jester like robot (?) face:

The Happy Sticker robots

The weird pink robot face

The flowered and polka dotted cows were fun,  and  trans-positive, with some sporting both bullhorns and udders.  The set features a cow with a big headed bird pecking it’s back, a bashful looking cow in a vest and tie, a suspicious cow, who seems unsure about the pink barrel that is part of her sticker, a cow wearing a lei with a birthday cake and present, and a striped cow with a bib, among others.

The trans-positive cow stickers.
You guys know you can click these images to see them larger, right? I didn't know that at first.

The bib-wearing striped cow

And lastly there were three sets of dog stickers which I thought had the funniest expressions of the animals in the Happy Stickers repertoire.

Here’s one that had this big jowly brown dog with it’s tongue out:

Happy Stickers, pack one of dog stickers

Is this snobby dog unhappy with the drumstick in it's bowl?

Conversely, the dog I’ve highlighted in the second dog set seems a pleased, if perhaps incontinent dog, as can be inferred by the odd brown forms that seem to be dropping from its hind quarters.

Happy Stickers, featuring the pleased dog

Are those supposed to be muddy paw prints, or just dog mud? Only time, will tell.

And lastly, my favorite set of dog stickers, as this set has quite a few hi-larious dogs on it.

The best of the Happy Sticker dogs

this wiener dog has an excellent dinner

This dog had none.

This dog looks like someone put hot sauce into it's water.

While this fancy, necklace-wearing poodle seems unsure about her cake.

I love these happy Stickers so much I cant bear to open them and use them.  To me they are like a readymade piece of art, suitable for framing just as is.  The colours and the expressions make these a treasured and valuable item to me.  I found these at a convenience store near my home called Sherwood Variety that is a total jackpot for old toys and stickers and things, more of which you can see here at the Miss Lady Heart Blog, so tune in next time dear reader, to see more convenience store gold!

Sherwood Variety, 2574 Yonge St, Toronto, at Yonge and Sherwood, (Yonge and Eglington area). An excellent place to find old toys and stickers.

Convenience Store Treasure

2 Apr

There is a wealth of retro, kitschy toy fun to be had at the convenience stores in Toronto.  There are many mom and pop stores that  have been in business for a long time and who have on their shelves old products that have been there probably since they opened.  I love to check these stores out to see what unusual things they have, and I am rarely disappointed.  The first store I scored at was this place, Food Plus Market on Yonge St.

Food Plus Market, 2914 Yonge St

In one corner I was happy to find these babies:

They are small, (approx 6″ long) ‘electric sparklers’. Isn’t it cool that they’ve decided to put an illustration of a tiger jumping through a ring of fire on the packaging?  I don’t know how old they are but these, and other items I will be posting about soon, dear reader, are clear evidence of the superior design of old packaging when compared to today’s.  The use of actual hand made illustrations is part of what makes old packaging so great, but also the absence of extraneous text allow the image and typography to shine through, unencumbered by the philosophy of the company,the health info and so on that usually clutter up modern product wrappers.  I just love these sparklers, and you will too, if you hurry to Food Plus Market, there are still some available.

This next package is available at most Petro Canada Gas Stations, though I got mine at the one at 830 Burnhamthorpe Rd in Etobikoke.

Petro Canada, 830 Burnhamthorpe Rd, and others

They have these candy and toy surprise bags which I must say were very disappointing as there were no toys to be had, just cheap candy.  But the reason I had bought it was because of what the bag led me to believe I had in store:

I mean, is there anything more enticing than this chillin’ looking pig lollipop? But alas there was no pig lollipop to be found, nor green frog nor rocket either, all alluded to on the package.  Thanks a lot Surprise Bag!  Thanks for using this pig lollipop to get me all excited and then not delivering!  But I will keep this to treasure forever.  Get yours today!