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Junque in the Houston Heights

Two artists purge their crap, just in time for holiday shopping

"I'm not supposed to, but," says Smith, "if the dogs kill something..." He points out the flat metal disk on top of the cylinder. "That's where you can set your coffee to keep it hot," he says. I hope he'll pass that tip on to the next owners...

The crowded, narrow room feels like a lot of other junk stores in the Heights, but once you start taking a closer look at the merchandise, you realize there is something off. Like Smith, Bill Davenport has his own collection of schoolchildren's misshapen ceramics. A particularly chunky and awkward black coffee mug catches my eye. It looks like something from a Philip Guston painting. It's perfect in its clunkiness, and I discover why — Davenport made it himself.

An aficionado of the homespun, Davenport revels in the role of earnest hobbyist. As in the case of the coffee mug, he has used his collections as inspiration for his own work. "A lot of this is sourcematerial, an idea I could steal," he says. Among other things, Davenport has amassed what is possibly the world's largest extant collection of macramé owls.

The weird stuff at the Museum of the Weird is for sale.
Courtesy of Dolan Smith
The weird stuff at the Museum of the Weird is for sale.

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The last day of the Museum of the Weird is Decem­ber 13. The art space Skydive is hosting a final party and Dumpster Dive at the Museum of the Weird. (There won't be an actual Dumpster because Smith says they are astronomically expensive to rent since Hurricane Ike.)2 to 8 p.m. Saturday, De­cem­ber 13. 834 24th St.

Smallish pieces: $5

Largish pieces: $10

Everything must go!

Bill's (mostly handmade) Junk Store is open noon to5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. 1125 E. 11th Street.

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Davenport and his wife, artist Fran­cesca Fuchs, bought a 4,000-square-foot 1930 commercial space on 11th Street, spent 16 months remodeling it and have just moved in with their two sons. There are two storefront spaces downstairs. Davenport turned one into a gallery he dubbed "Optical Project," and the other is now Bill's (mostly handmade) Junk Store.

Like Smith, Davenport decided to get rid of stuff because of a move. "I had to move all my junk over from storage, and I thought, 'Oh no, this can't go on.' I had to look at everything as I unpacked it." As a result, he started thinking that maybe he didn't need all of it. While Smith is hosting a stranger than usual garage sale, Davenport has officially opened a store; he's got a sales tax permit and he takes Visa and MasterCard.

A collection of 1970s picnic thermoses line a shelf — they have amazing period supergraphics, swirls and stripes in yellows, browns and oranges. There is a "catalog of bouffant hairstyles," a 1967 photograph of the ladies of Delta Zeta sorority. How about an "evangelical cinder block" decorated with religious imperatives?

"I have the perfect business model," says Davenport. "If someone bought all this stuff, I'd have no inventory, but on the other hand, no one wants all this stuff."

Davenport proudly displays a chunk of scrap lumber; it's a do-it-yourself electric guitar by former Houston artist Al Hermann. It even has a whammy bar. Then Davenport directs me to the "holy grail of thrift store paintings." A find he made back before thrift stores were overfished by hipsters, the painting depicts the head of Jesus crying on the horizon line of a beach scene while a guy carries a red, phallic-looking surfboard and a woman cavorts in a bikini. It looks like the Son of God has happened onto the set of Beach Blanket Bingo. Davenport doesn't really want to sell it, so he priced it at $300 dollars. "I price things depending on how much I like them," he confesses.

This is the first time Davenport has had a room solely devoted to his junk.

"This is my ideal living environment," he explains. "It's undiluted by any practical use. It's just the crap room; you can just cover every surface with crap and spend your time rearranging it. This is like 17 years of thrift store shopping, but just the stuff that I could bear to part with."

"Art galleries used to be like a store crammed full of art," Davenport remarks. "It's a European-style gallery," he laughs, gesturing around the room. "That's what I'm gonna tell people." He wryly looks at the contents of his store as a kind of "afterlife" for "art that doesn't reach some pinnacle of museum collectibility," like his Christmas ornament by well-established painter David Aylsworth.

Just in case you can't decide what or what not to get, Davenport is selling hand-painted gift cards — "Junk Bonds" — in increments of $10, $23, $25 and $50. The recipient may or may not want to redeem them...And just in case you wanted that lumpy coffee mug, it's gone. I already bought it for five bucks.

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