Found Objects on a Lost Highway: Butch Anthony’s Museum of Mystery

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Four brightly colored shipping containers discretely placed on a rural Alabama crossroads. Painted in sideshow letters large enough to cover the side of one container, a single word – “MYSTERY.”

In front, a portable marquee readerboard sign – the type rural churches use to announce the Next Coming, and Winn Dixies once used to announce the week’s special on pork chops. An arrow points the way and states “WORLD’S FIRST DRIVE-THRU ART AND ANTIQUE GALLERY OPEN.”

Driving through, mysteries unfold. Tableaus of mounted animals, framed pictures, junk assemblages, and other assorted oddities loom behind display windows cut into the weathering steel sides of containers. Homely images worked over in Warholian fashion, appropriated and made unhomely. Inspired bricolage by a true original.

Landscape art or installation? Serious art or a rural-cosmic joke? Entertainment or culture? All of these.

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The Museum of Mystery is located in Seale, Alabama, on the northwest corner of the intersection of US 431 and Alabama 169. For more on Butch Anthony, read the New York Times article “Art Shapes a Rural Alabama Compound.”

If your appetite for rural surrealism remains insatiate after driving through the Museum of Mystery, visit Butch Anthony’s Museum of Wonder, also in Seale.

 

© Donald E. Armstrong and Material Practices, 2014

 

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