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“Art Station”

by Reverend Jen
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This summer brought tornados, terror alerts, hurricanes and even an earthquake that broke a shelf in my troll museum. Could the Mayans have been right about 2012 and the end of the world? The rapture that was due on May 21 has now been rescheduled for next month, but pets aren’t included. So if you need a pet-sitting service for your earth-bound best friend, I’ve got an offer you’ll want to check out.

Perhaps the looming apocalypse inspired "Art Station," Sept. 15-22, 2011, a group show that takes place not in a gallery, but at Lukoil, the gas station and snack shop located in the shadow of the High Line at 10th Avenue and West 23th Street. Lukoil has everything needed in the event of a disaster, including Spam, Chef Boyardee, Handi-Snacks, beer, coffee and, of course, fuel, for when you need to get the hell out of dodge.

The show is organized by Beth Fiore, a graduate of Pratt Institute and a curator at something called Americanflat (which seems to specialize in art collecting, not tire repair), and Rachel Stekson, a graduate student at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. The “pop-up” exhibition is only a week long, but like the gas station it inhabits, it’s open 24 hours a day, every day -- much more convenient than regular gallery hours.

I made a date with my BFF, Faceboy, to drop by “Art Station” on our way to watch Hair on the big screen in Washington Square Park. After painting our faces with elaborate psychedelic imagery, donning historic hippie clothes and smoking "mullen" -- an herb that smells exactly like marijuana but is totally legal, I swear -- we headed out to the Meat Packing District.

"Art Station" was packed, just as if it were the apocalypse. The first artwork we came upon was Floating Chaise Lounge by Paul Crotty, a wooden lounge chair suspended from a wall outside of the station. A swarm of visitors waited in line for a chance to sit down, like an amusement park ride for people who don't want to actually move. Once inside the show, we marveled at the variety of junk that was not art. It was as if we'd never been to a gas station before in our lives.

"They have Scratch-Off!" I said, excitedly buying a $1 ticket. Whenever I worry about the future, I buy a Scratch-Off, thinking that it’s my only hope. Seconds later, I had lost, but was able to drown my sorrows with a brown-bagged beer that I grabbed from of one of the store's coolers -- while admiring the colorful abstract paintings by Elizabeth Cooper that were installed nearby, of course.

"You know, this place really does have everything you need for the eye and the palate," I observed.

It was getting stuffy in the station, and Faceboy had an inspiration. "Do you think anyone would mind if I got inside the cooler?"

Seconds later, Faceboy was behind glass, chilling out alongside gallons of milk, shivering for dramatic emphasis. Once he finished his impromptu performance, we wandered over to the "microwave section" where customers can heat up burritos and Jimmy Dean sandwiches. On top of the microwave sat a number of bottled fragrances by the perfume artist Shannon Campbell.

"Try them out," someone said, whereupon I doused myself with jasmine while Face opted for the geranium. Smelling like a million bucks, we then took in some of the other pieces -- 3D "Autostereoscopic Fly's Eye" photos by M. Henry Jones, a wall-piece by David Maddy consisting of a beat-up copy of How to Be Rich (which I clearly need to read), "plates" of sculpture by Jan Mollet, and egg tempera and gold leaf paintings of tadpole-like creatures by Brittany Janaszak.

Art Station was also selling limited-edition multiples -- trucker hats, t-shirts and inflatable monkeys and ponies with the "Art Station" logo printed on them. The pony was so popular, it got bounced around until it ended up wedged on a shelf next to a tin of Vienna Sausages. 

But the show's most popular piece of all was Lukoil's permanent installation -- the bathroom! The line was even longer than for the chaise lounge. Once I'd "checked it out," Faceboy and I headed back downtown, not wanting to miss a minute of Hair.

Sadly, the sun was not shining in, as it was raining. Hair was cancelled. With heavy hearts, smudged face paint, a losing Scratch-Off ticket and possibly, hypothermia, we headed home -- fortified by our “Art Station” rations -- and watched Hair on YouTube.

REVEREND JEN is the author of Live Nude Elf: The Sexperiments of Reverend Jen (Soft Skull Press, 2009), and the forthcoming Elf Girl (Simon & Schuster).