Dead Puppies for Christmas

To call it a museum is misleading. And the term "weird," though accurate, doesn't quite do it justice. What the Museum of the Weird is, in actuality, is artist Dolan Smith's Heights home, which displays a lot of artwork, as well as found and inherited objects. "It's sort of come out of necessity, because sometimes my artwork [tackles] difficult subject matter having to do with incest or suicide that can't really sell," says Smith, who often sees his paintings removed from galleries. Anyone who steps inside a shrine to oddness can't really complain about being shocked.

What kind of oddness? Well, there's a tire Christmas tree, hair sculptures, a kayaking mannequin chained to weights (a representation of how Smith would have liked to kill himself had he not snapped out of his depression) and -- a painting of pedestrians?! Smith quickly tries to justify the decidedly common street scene: "It's got these funky little ladies, walking down the street in some souvenir painting of London or Paris. I don't know."

Then there's the Scar Room, which houses what appears to be a pickled fetus. Thankfully it's only a submerged doll with a piece of rubber hose wrapped around its neck, representing the umbilical cord that nearly strangled Smith at birth. "Now this one here is what I call a strangulated hernia, but it's really just a snail," he says, lifting another jar. Smith, who recently became an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church over the Internet, also plans to fill a full-size Jacuzzi with bubbly for "champagne baptismals" during the museum's opening.


Museum of the Weird

834 West 24th Street

Opens Monday, December 25, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Otherwise, it's viewable by appointment only. (713)863-9273

For a real treat, check out the pet mausoleum around back. Essentially it's a honeycomb of slots, about knee-high, where you can deposit the ashes of your loved one. Depending on demand, the tomb can be extended up the entire wall, or be converted into a bench. "[People] usually bury [their pets] in their backyard, but what happens when you move?" For an extra $25, you can receive a videotape of the ceremony. Smith intends to offer his dead pet services via a Web site that he wants to set up at deadpet.net. (In fact, he's too late: deadpet.net is already occupied by a British tech company, and deadpet.com automatically sends you to a Backstreet Boys fan page -- now that's weird.)

Smith is still working out the financial details. "If we sell souvenirs, do you take donations? Then it's nonprofit, and if you sell it and make a profit, is that taxable? And now that I'm a reverend [and living in the museum] I really need to go to an accountant and figure out what my status is." For now, he's just happy providing a space where people can see some cool stuff.

The fact that it will open on Christmas Day makes perfect sense. "A lot of people have these family obligations, but then they sort of want to get out of it, and they usually go to a movie. And then a lot of people don't do anything for Christmas, and it's kind of sad, and I thought, "Why not have the opening on Christmas?' "

Nothing strange about that. Nothing at all.

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