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How much for a lobster claw??

by Rachel Buse on November 5, 2014


Newman’s “Stuffed" (Source: Buse)

Most recently at the Transient Gallery, Emily Newman installed Real Value, a shop filled with reproductions of various things. The things were organized by kind and displayed in a grid. Each product was encased in its own packaging to help sell it’s story.  


Postcards depicting Nankoweap Canyon, Arizona (Source: Buse)

At the cash register, the clerk couldn’t break my ten-dollar bill.  She reccomended adding a postcard to my purchases. So I selected a MDF laminated image of some part of the Grand Canyon. Of the many postcards displayed in rows beneath the checkout counter, I grabbed one near the bottom with a green meandering river. Some of these images were personally shot by the artist. All the others were sourced from Google images. After some scrutiny, I think mine is from Google.

Now, I have this image.  It’s shot by someone who visited the canyon. They  felt the awe of the moment, trying with all their might and power to encapsulate the total sum of their journey. I can see that it is beautiful, but it’s also easy to dismiss. It’s a stereotype of a gorgeous landscape, absent of the memory of being there.  But maybe I’ll go to the canyon. Trek there to get a memory for myself. Would I need to take yet another photo? Would my image have more value than the image I already own of the same place?


My loot from opening night, Oct 11th, 2014. (Source: Buse)

The other things I brought home were a teddy bear nose and a piece of poorly cast toast. They were in the clearance section. I get a thrill from being a bargain shopper, it’s like cheating the system. Recently I was reading something about the mistake of using your creative energy to shop. It’s so easy to buy something and feel like your doing something. Certain purchases help confirm your sense of self. "Am I the red one or the one with cowboys?" 

I get the feeling that the products selected for Real Value have some association with Newman’s sense of self. Familiar things. A bunny cracker she offers her kid. A piece of bread. A funnel. Lobster Claw. Her connection and experience with each thing is summarized in the price.


Rubric determining how Newman placed monetary value on the products for sale. (Source: Buse)

What about the value of an original versus reproduction? Most of the things chosen to be reproduced aren’t even originals themselves. A bunny cracker is one of so many. They are reoccurring and dependable. Easy come, easy go. The pretzel and bread too.  Vacation photos are reproductions of an original experience. Packaged as sculptures, the significance of the things can be sold to people detached from Newman’s attachment to them. As art, they will be adored and cared for in the homes of the new owners. New values will be applied to them. Thus the reproductions becomes more original, special and appreciated then the objects they are based on.

Emily Newman on the Transient website.

Rachel Buse makes sculpture. Website.