Frankenart Mart

Would you like to hold hands for two minutes? Need to exchange your lucky penny? Want some magic beans? How about lounging in a pit of stuffed animals? Do you like cats? Hot dogs? Secret candy drawers? If these questions don't mildly intrigue you, you need to loosen up and open your mind to un-fancy art. Spend some time at Frankenart Mart, an all-inclusive art store/gallery/lab in the Inner Richmond that invites participation and a little imagination. And maybe some rumination. (I like rhyming.)

Speaking of rhyming, for the next two Sundays, a traveling library will occupy the Arterrarium (a corner of the Mart with a table). It's not just any library, but an itinerant poetry library complete with a nomadic librarian who will feverishly stamp the purple membership card she'll unnecessarily ask you to fill out. Since I agreed to become a member, she went over the library's "ByeByeLaws" citing bad hairstyle as a reason for banishment from the library -- we agreed mine was borderline but acceptable. She then presented me with a free haiku written by hers truly: "Yes not all these words/constructed by slim poets/make perfect some sense." Exactly. It was the first traveling itinerant performance art library installation I've ever seen. I didn't even touch the books because I was overwhelmed by the initiation process. I forgot to mention the part where she sent me to take my card to the office, which I momentarily looked around for until she wrote the word "office" on her hand and held it up like a sign. It might've been her spectacles and tweed blazer or her seriousness, but I thought she should definitely hook up with Jonathon Keats.

Frankenart Mart was created by local artist Leslie Henslee and was originally intended to be a hot dog stand. She holds monthly free hot dog days (veggie dogs too, don't worry) and the store is supported by her day job and her patron saints, which include her mom and some regulars. She creates a quarterly theme for the Mart's exhibits; artists are invited to leave submissions on a designated drop-off day. More work can be contributed to the show later if it's created in the Arterrarium by appointment or on drop-in Thursday evenings. The artwork can be of any medium (visual or performance or... library) and will most likely be included in the exhibit unless it's offensive.

The current theme is children's books and I especially liked a print by Orlando Lacro that was displayed on The Trading Post, a sculptural shelf where artists can bring work that's comparable in time commitment (1-3 hours) and trade it for a piece on the shelf, no questions asked. Sadly, I didn't have any art on me -- I really liked that print. Also on view are other small artworks created mostly by Henslee's neighbors as well as her own two-minute hand-holding project (a bench with a timer). She displayed it outside one day and a father and his young daughter participated in the project. As you can imagine, it was pretty darn cute.

Henslee has a studio in a loft above the Mart and her two cats roam free indoors. Some of Henslee's earthy sculptures from grad school are on display to simulate nature for the cats, who sit in the window seats of the Mart inviting people to come in and get artsy. Artists price and sell their work, splitting the profits with the Mart, which is unapologetically capitalistic. There is a "wheel of fortune" near the register that you can spin if you dare. You could land on "25% off". You could also land on "You owe art" or "Pay Extra" or "No Deal". After purchasing a piece of art, you make your own change from the change log.

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Frankenart Mart a place where shelves are craftily made out of sticks. It's a place to see the impressive, though deflated, largest balloon ball in the world. It's a place for experimentation and social risks and non-offensive funniness. A place that is best summed up in a song

Next Hot Dog Day: December 9, 2007.

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