Saturday, August 22, 2009

Found Objects: The Blue Dog

I recently saw a documentary on photography where they mentioned found objects which I found really fascinating. As I understood it, the term was first coined by the surrealists. A found object was anything a person found somewhere that inspired them to a work of art. In the wikipedia definition they also mentioned that it could be any seemingly worthless item- a penny found after the birth of your first child, a china cup you bought at a junk store in Vancouver, a rock you picked up on a beach in France that you now keep on the window sill in your kitchen- that has grown to have a special significance you can't entirely explain. I want to start doing a series on found objects here on my blog and will start tonight with one of my own: the Blue China Dog.

I found the blue China dog sometime in the late 90s when I was studying music at Mills College. At the time I both worked and studied full time (how I did that I really don't know now...the energy of youth I guess) and what little extra time I had was usually spent in bookstores or cafes. One afternoon, while I was heading towards Pegasus Books on Rockridge Avenue in Oakland, I passed by an antique store. I'm not really sure what drew me inside; although I like old things, the store mainly carried furniture which would have been out of my price range (I was pretty broke though I worked so much) and which I would have had no use for. But go inside I did, and when I did, there he was: The Blue Dog.

I'm not sure what it was that made me want him so much. Sure, he's beautifully made, with little details like a curved tail and exposed ribs, but it was more than just seeing something I liked and wanted to buy. When I saw the blue dog, I knew I had to have him. I longed to own him. But there was a problem: I had no cash.

I don't remember what the problem wa
s exactly, whether I was waiting on a pay check or whether there just wasn't an atm nearby and they didn't take checks. All I know is I didn't have the money to buy him. The sales clerk, a middle aged man, came over and talked to me about the dog and the little Chinese woman figurine beside him. They were for sale as a pair, he told me, and were both pre-war Chinese. This you could tell because they had been merely stamped China instead of Made in China like they started doing Post World War 2. The price for them together was 20 dollars.

I told him that I wanted them (though I've never been all that attached to the other figurine, but he would only sell them together) but that I didn't have the cash. Maybe I asked him to put them aside; I can no longer remember. But I do remember very well what happened next. He said: "You look like an honest person. Why don't you just take them now and bring the money by some other time." Yes, you've probably guessed how the story ended. I took the dog and the little woman and planned to come back and pay. But I never did. Several times over the years it would hit me: "Go tomorrow and pay for the blue dog. That man trusted you." but then I would get distracted and be too busy and time just flew by. I'm going to the Bay Area to visit my family and, yes, I do plan to finally pay the twenty dollars. If I do, I'll write about it here complete with pictures. God, I feel like such a heel (and proud that I just used this old school slang. Grandma would be proud.)

Does anyone else have an interesting or funny or touching or sad found object story? I would love to post them here in my blog with pictures so, if you do, please send me an e-mail or leave a comment. :)

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