Most boutiques, shops, eateries, cafes and joints in between are passive establishments, set up to receive you like a park bench or a public bathroom, the listening station at a music store. You go in, you wander, consume and walk out. But few with the mighty shingle out front are set up to instigate, and fewer of those actually get away with it.
Minas, 815 W. 36th Street, in Hampden is one of those storefronts. Part boutique, part gallery, part toy store, part book store, Minas pulls off the modern-day emporium provocateur quite well. That’s mainly because of the laid back proprietor Minas Konsolas. The Greecian-ex-pat, Baltimore bounded since 1976, keeps a steady eye on his customers. Good with faces, he is, especially when he learns of their artistic habits. Writers and artists have gathered in his space for years. A reading every third Thursday 5 p.m. has become a Baltimore mainstay. His upstairs gallery exhibits usually have pluck, a much appreciative counter to the amazing assembly line of schlock that papers cafes and eateries around this town. Exhibit A is the current exhibit of James DuSel’s black and white photographs.
Phainomena is the name, but the photos are black and white sprung from Leica, Rolleflex and a Linhof cameras of the 1930s. The old school look is well-earned and his subjects mundane, industrial, utilitarian work horses — the steel foot rest from a malt shop stool, a granite foundation, a chrome stack of nested chairs that I swear I saw somewhere (The Maryland Club or was it the Boy’s Choir in East Baltimore) and thought it would make a nice photograph. Light is stalked and captured, flared along a banister or snared in stainless gleam. And yeah, we get the point and DuSel’s mission statement, “I fully engage myself in the process, it uses my eye to measure the light , not a photocell. Thus I become part of my equipment, and my equipment becomes part of me.” Nice motto, but the proof is the artist’s vision sticks with you or at least with me as I found myself staring at a usurped train tracked installed to hold shopping carts at the Whole Foods down Mount Washington Way.
Next up is Minas himself.
“It seems like I have been practicing for this the whole time,” said Minas, who took a frustrated portrait classes at MICA in the 1980s. This exhibited entitled, Interaction, is a big leap from his Masks that made a popular splash when exhibited in his shop two years ago.
“Interaction,” he said. “I’m trying to bring the word back to its original meaning when meeting someone was to smell touch and be with them. We’ve got so many gadgets in-between us. Now that when we meet people in reality we don’t have anything to say.”
Of course he saying all this as he scrowls his art on his lap top. Minas realizes the irony, shuts down the computer and takes me to see the art live in his studio. I puruse his future offerings, but I’m struck most with the photograph pinned to his easel. His next subject. Wild hair and wild eyes. One of the Catonsville Nine. (Those Vietnam Protestors that grabbed national attention way back when). He comes in here, ” he says, pauses. Nods.
“I always like my paintings to have a part of me in it, because we all have a different vision of things”
I glance at the gent with the madcap hair and Minos with his subtle street wise concierge coiffe. This I got to see.