Portrait of the artist as a young criminal

The Golden Gallery circa 1977

This here is the door to the place in which I first started selling my artwork at age 11 – way back in 1977. In an interior corner just to the left of that door opening was the first public display of my work called “John’s Corner”. Linoleum block prints my mother helped me make. Two sailboat prints and one of a surfer on a wave. Later, there were reproductions of pen and ink drawings of the NC lighthouses that I begrudgingly hand-colored with watercolor throughout my teenage years.

I guess you might see where I got my affinity for urban texture. But it wasn’t just here. I walked from my 5th and 6th grade school, every day, after school, through the wilds of our downtown. The Atlantic Coast Railroad was long gone by then, and those buildings were either torn down or being demolished. There were huge piles of rubble everywhere, especially across the street from the Golden Gallery. A few years before, the reflection to the right of the picture would have shown an old hotel. But by the time my mother rented the space that had once been a barber shop it was just a lot.

The department stores had not yet left for the new shopping mall and the Five and Dimes had not closed down. Across the street on the corner was the coolest toy store combination camera shop ever. Owned and run by an aging man sufficiently crotchety when faced with daily visits from an 11-year old with time on his hands. We had a McCrory’s, a Walgreen’s and a Woolworth’s within two blocks. I bought Micronauts and Star Wars figures at two of the three with my art sales money, or with coins I spirited from the Gallery cash box when sales were low. It was figured out that I was the culprit.

The gallery survived my pilfering and is now in it’s 5th location in the same shopping complex. I changed my ways and went on to develop an overactive sense of right and wrong as well as a love for downtowns, rubble piles and making art.

via John W. Golden.

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