retail news in context, analysis with attitude

There is a fascinating profile in the February 11-18 edition of The New Yorker of artist Brendan O'Connell, who has an unusual oeuvre - he paints the aisles and shelves and shoppers at Walmarts all over the country.

O'Connell, who worked his way through part of college at a Winn-Dixie, as an affinity for retail, and Walmart - the biggest retailer on earth - has proven to be an enormous inspiration because it seems so in tune with everyday life and yet, in his eyes, filled with art that almost nobody sees.
"Anything related to Walmart is freighted with meaning," writes Susan Orlean in her piece. "The company is either the salvation of country folk or the slayer of small towns; newly devoted to sustainability or the one with a lousy labor record; a major purveyor of guns or frequently the first company on the spot with post-disaster relief; a monument to cheap, unthinking consumerism or a way to make comforts available to many people. A painting of an endless row of Oreos can be interpreted as an ironic statement about gluttony and commercialism or as a study of a pattern seen by millions of people every day that has its own ubiquitous beauty."

One of the most interesting things about the story is how O'Connell's relationship with Walmart has evolved. he used to get thrown out of stores regularly for taking pictures in the aisles, but now that Walmart actually understands what he is doing, it is a lot more agreeable and willing to help his efforts ... to a point.
KC's View:
Really interesting piece, and I recommend you pick up the magazine. (I'd offer a link, but the story is not currently available online.)

While you're at it, if you're interested, there is another story in the issue about the trials and tribulations suffered by Galileo, who came up here on MNB last week in a different context. It is relevant because Galileo apparently was not a portrait in political courage, something he seems to have in common with modern politicians. It is worth reading, if only to find out something I did not know ... that Galileo was born the same year as William Shakespeare, and within days of the date upon which Michelangelo died.

Go figure.