December 13, 2015


This year marks the seventh time I've happily been a part of Gallery 1988's Crazy 4 Cult. It's the art show that started a well-worn trend, and is said to have "launched a thousand shows" just like it.

This time, rather than celebrating a particular film, I focused on the now romanticized video store. It's a look back to a time when home viewing stakes were higher considering pitfalls like uninformed movie selections, potentially damaged tapes, late fees, and the investment of time and gas money. But those things were outweighed by the social interactions, the free popcorn, the looping previews, and the ritual that could turn a Friday night into an event. All the legwork and logistics gave weight and value to the movies, even the awful ones. Although one can't truly understand their value until you've had to spend eighty bucks to replace a tape that melted in your car window.

The piece is also a tribute to one of my favorite artists, Edward Hopper. He often used American storefronts as a stage for lonely, isolated individuals. In this case, loneliness emerges in the wait for your long-overdue ride. So long that the option to go back inside vanished when the door was locked and the lights went dark. In a broader sense, we're all locked out of the video store.
(Sheesh, of all the things to get poignant about, I pick movie rental.)

Process wise, I assembled a photomontage first and then painted digitally on top of it. I'd say I was 'cheating' if it hadn't taken so many dozens of hours to complete.

This evening, as I was in the middle of writing this entry, I was reminded of the downside of physical media by making a dark, rainy, thirty-plus minute round trip to use a stupid Redbox promo code on the only copy of Ant-Man in a sixty mile radius. I got to the kiosk to discover that the touch screen was out of commission. I returned to my family empty handed, and spent another twenty minutes on customer chat to null the transaction. ("Krista" the service rep promptly disconnected once I started in on my sob story.) And here I am commemorating the dying industry that I helped kill off in favor of a disc dropping robot that chose to ignore me tonight.

Anyway, if my hypocrisy doesn't disgust you, and you want one, then signed and numbered prints are available for $20 through Gallery 1988's site.

(Also, here it is as 1900x1200 desktop wallpaper.)


Todd Franklin said...

Excellent work Kirk! I want to walk in that store and just hang out. Also, nice to see some Legend of Boggy Creek love!

Kirk D. said...

Thank you Todd!
There are two operating video stores near me and in recent months I've accumulated several hours in them, just soaking up the atmosphere and talking to the folks behind the counter.

Boggy Creek indeed! It was only a few weeks ago that I leaned that Ralph Mcquarrie did that art. I was surprised, but it also made perfect sense, given how cool it is.

Tom said...

Unbeknownst to me, I once drove around for weeks with a VHS rental tape under my car seat before receiving a bill from the rental store. I dropped it off and never went back. I think they're still looking for me.

Kirk D. said...

Ha, I never completely severed ties, but I too had some outstanding debts that kept me away for months at a time. They made me feel like a fugitive each time I drove past the store. The time I got my first checkbook and bounced a three dollar check on a Tron rental comes to mind.

That also reminds me that when I was about to get rid of Dish Network I rented one movie before unplugging and destroying my receiver. So I may be wanted as well.

Brandon said...

This piece is wonderful, Kirk! Brings back memories of Friday night family trips to the Curtis Mathis electronics store, wandering past the turntables to their back 8x8 room sectioned off for laser disc and beta tape rentals. I was always drawn to the horror titles like C.H.U.D. or Xtro but usually had to settle for something family-friendly that my mom would pick out like Savannah Smiles or Private Eyes. Thanks for sharing this and a Merry Christmas to you!

Kirk D. said...

Thank you Brandon! And wow, you just hit on so many familiar notes.
Curtis Mathis was the first place in my town to get into the rental game. They had the pre-laser disc CED discs before they had tapes.
(I didn't really like the transition to tapes because the art was so much smaller, but I did appreciate that you didn't have to turn them over mid movie.) Mathis morphed into a place called Preview Video, and I actually won a 'design a newspaper ad' contest for them as a kid.
Yes, the horror room intrigued me but it took me many visits before I was able to slip into it. I was interested in the covers, but WAY too afraid to actually see any of the movies. I think that's why I did so when I became a teenager, it was a matter of conquering childhood fears.
I think we came home with Savannah Smiles in like, our second or third ever batch of rentals, and then my sister picked it up several more times thereafter. And funny you mention Private Eyes because I just bought that tape a few days ago in a big lot. I'll probably show it to my son today. Thanks for the memories!

Hobgoblin238 said...

Try Cinemassacre. He made a video store in his basement. really cool looking.