And Then I Saw the Mannequin Head in the Hockey Mask

This past spring I found myself with a free afternoon and a babysitter for the kids.  I had to meet a friend in Plaza-Midwood to scope out her wedding location for flowers and decorations, but the meeting went quickly and then I found myself in sunny Charlotte all alone.  I decided to stop in at Ruby’s Gift, which is a shop in NoDa featuring local artists.  I knew I needed a few gifts for our upcoming trip to Massachusetts, and I wanted to look for a Father’s Day gift for my husband.

One of the featured artists at Ruby’s is a painter named David French.  He largely paints scenes from Charlotte, and David and I both loved his panoramic scene of North Davidson street between 36th & 37th.  It’s where we usually go on date nights, so it holds a special place in our hearts.  I decided to purchase it for him for Father’s Day.

The only problem was, the painting wasn’t mounted.  It was enclosed in plastic with some foam board behind it, but I could envision a long, expensive process of getting it custom-framed in my future, and I really just wanted to be done with the gift that afternoon.  I asked the cashier if they had any mounted ones available.

Here’s where the story gets exciting.  She said to me, “No, but let me call the artist and see if he’d be willing to mount it for you.”  Next thing I knew, she was on the phone with David French, who apparently lives just a few blocks over from Ruby’s.  He replied that he couldn’t leave the studio just then, but if I was willing to stop by, he could exchange the non-mounted painting for a mounted version for a small price.

The cashier gave me directions on how to get there, and concluded them by saying, “It’s pretty crazy,  You can’t miss it.”  Meanwhile, flashing through the back of my brain was every warning I’ve ever heard about going to a strange location alone.  Don’t do it!  You’ll never make it out alive!  Surely the artist is a crazy person locked up in his lair, waiting for someone to be stupid enough to be lured in alone!

Because I am a very rational person, I ignored all those voices in my head and got in my van and began following the directions.  On the way I called my husband to give him a heads-up in case I really did die.  But he didn’t answer his phone, as usual.  At least I had the comfort of knowing that I had tried.

I got to the street where this man lived and as it turned out, the cashier was right on the money.  There were a score of normal houses, and then on the corner there was a very bright, somewhat dilapidated home with a two-story, open garage in the back.  The lot was overgrown with weeds, dotted with eccentric metal sculptures, and hemmed in by rusted metal gates which opened just enough for the van to fit through.  As I drove slowly up the gravel drive, I looked out my window to see a mannequin head fitted with a hockey helmet hanging from a tree.  Comforting.

To put all of your minds to rest, I had decided that if the studio looked enclosed and scary, I would drive by.  But as I approached I saw the doors wide open, and the artist and an intern/helper person were both working within eyeshot of the road.  OK, probably no death coming my way this afternoon.

I walked up, shook the man’s hand, and introduced myself.  We made the exchange and he showed me around the studio.  At that time he was working on this painting:

You can buy “Soul” here

This painting was commissioned by the girlfriend of the owner of Soul Gastrolounge.  If you click on the image, you’ll see him looking over the railing at the top of the stairs.

Mr. French told me about the work he had started doing for some locations in Matthews (locals, look for his stuff at Renfrow’s!), and offered his business card to me — but not before turning it over and crossing off a phone number he’d jotted on the back.  I drove away happy that I had made the stop.

The end of the story is that David liked his present, although we’re still trying to figure out where to hang it.

Here’s one of my favorites:

Amelia at Amelie’s — because this is how I feel there, too

6 thoughts on “And Then I Saw the Mannequin Head in the Hockey Mask

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