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Wood Shack-Turned-Art Store Booted From Vacant Lot Finds New Home

By Meredith Hoffman | October 15, 2013 8:10am
 The Perfect Nothing Catalogue is now at the back of 290 Johnson Avenue.
Perfect Nothing Catalogue
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EAST WILLIAMSBURG — When Frank Traynor found out he had to clear his shack-turned-art shop off its Greenpoint lot, he assumed that would be the end of its life in the city.

But his wooden cabin, called the Perfect Nothing Catalogue, had drawn such popularity that his friends helped him haul the whole building behind a warehouse in East Williamsburg.

“We had to take the shack apart and drive it across the city...I was driving a 40-foot truck and I hadn't driven in years,” said Traynor, 27, whose shop had been based at a community garden on India Street that the property owner closed last month.

“To have all of my friends and people come together and express their support that they were willing to all work together to help save the shack was a beautiful thing.”

Now the Perfect Nothing Catalogue, a 10-by-20-foot shop that first opened 18 months ago, has settled into the backyard of Signal, a gallery in a warehouse on a strip of factories and storage centers.

Tucked back on the property, Traynor's quiet cabin is bordered by trees and a small fire pit, seemingly far from the city.

The hut, originally from upstate New York, challenges shoppers’ notions of traditional value and of art, he said.

“When people were walking down a weird empty street to an abandoned lot and then seeing work made by people also showing in other places, like fancy shops in the city, it was interesting to see their reactions,” Traynor said, explaining that he sold works by artists who also had pieces in more traditional venues.

"People's ideas of the value [of objects] are clearly affected by the space they're in...A vase could be for sale for $100 in a store in Williamsburg and no one would think about it, but if that vase is in a shack in an abandoned lot they see it differently."

The Perfect Nothing Catalogue's items include works by traditional artists and "beautiful things made by people for all different reasons," from bejeweled knives made by a male witch for his religious rituals to seashells painted by young girls in Rockaway Beach, Traynor said.

Traynor also has started to partner with artists to co-create objects, like a pair of cement sandals modeled on his own father's shoe.

The spectrum of pieces helps bring the "art" label to a wider spread of creations, he explained of the objects, which range in price from $4 to $250.

Meanwhile Traynor, who started the shop after going to art school and then working as a sailor, said it took him a long time to consider the hut a piece of art as well.

But when it was featured by the Queens museum PS 1 MOMA, Traynor said he started realizing the power of his concept.

The Perfect Nothing Catalogue is now open on 260 Johnson Ave., weekends only, noon to 6 p.m.