When Melody Jean Moulton opened Trash Lamb Gallery last year there was a stray cat that came to visit. Well, to be honest, she’s not sure it’s a stray. Yet his new feline friend was, as is the case with most cats, apparently always hungry.
Moulton would feed the cat when he showed up at the South Park gallery and shop, picking up a few cans of canned goods from the nearby convenience store. The cat, however, didn’t like the food and quickly disappeared.
“It was like turning his nose up,” Moulton recalled with a laugh.
The leftover food she bought, however, took on a special meaning for Moulton – the box, along with a few other random items, were placed throughout the store for people to discover. Needless to say, the box sometimes confuses customers, wondering why a box of seemingly normal cat food costs $100.
“I used to think, ‘I wonder how long it will take for people to react to this normal thing just randomly sitting around,’ Moulton says. “If they ask about it, they’ll be like, ‘So, uh, what’s up with that cat food? What’s up?’ And I’ll just say, ‘It’s Friskies, it’s cat food.’ I’ll make jokes about it like, ‘How much do you love your cat?’ Most people laugh about it.”
That kind of dark humor and irreverent outlook is what Trash Lamb Gallery is all about. Over the past year and a half, Moulton has crafted a cheeky art space and showcase that she admits is designed by and for those with a taste for the dark, wacky and sometimes disturbing.
“When people come here, I can tell if they’re in,” says Moulton, who even has “Owner/Lead Conciergerie” on his business card. “It’s definitely not for everyone. I think there is something for everyone here, but it can be overwhelming.
And sure, there’s a lot of weird stuff inside the Trash Lamb Gallery, but there’s also an assortment of arts and crafts from local and national designers and artists. On the walls are works by lowbrow and pop-surreal artists such as Teresa Watson, Porous Walker and Andy Adamson. A little something for everyone, even for those who may not be doing their holiday shopping at something like a church craft fair.
“I like to call it an ‘unconventionally curated gift shop,'” Moulton says, looking around. “When it comes to art, there are no rules. It has to be something that speaks to me — maybe it makes me laugh, maybe I find it beautiful, maybe “Be that’s incredibly disturbing, I appreciate that too. Anything that evokes a feeling in someone is important.”
Moulton says she had been thinking about opening a gallery for years and when she saw the former tenant move out of 2365 30th St., she contacted the property owner. But there was only one catch: it was mid-2020 and the city, the world rather, was at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of California was closing, bars and restaurants were closed, and art galleries certainly had no in-person openings. This raised the question: how can anyone even think of opening a gallery in the midst of a pandemic?
“I thought about it and lived so close that if I didn’t, I’d pass by there every day and think about what I’d be doing if I had,” Moulton says. “For me to have this regret of not having done it would have been much worse than going bankrupt and losing money.”
Still, she says she got help from friends and other artists. When she lost her main source of income working as a bartender, people contacted her asking if she needed help. She ended up starting some sort of crowdfunding campaign to start Trash Lamb Gallery and was shocked at how many people contributed.
“I’m a very proud person,” says Moulton. “All my life, I supported myself. So asking people for money is like a nightmare, but I also knew that if I wanted to do this, this dream, I would have to ask people. It is out of the question for a bank to grant me a loan for this. Somehow I gathered enough material to get this place off the ground with personal investors and friends.
She got the keys in July 2020, and after some renovations and planning for art exhibits for the coming year, she officially opened the doors in October of the same year. A year later, she says she now feels optimistic about the post-pandemic future of space and has even seen a silver lining in that she has been able to adapt to COVID restrictions more quickly.
“The pandemic has been terrible,” Moulton adds later. “But for someone who’s never run a gallery or a business, it was nice to have a slow rollout where I didn’t have to plan a nice opening party and only three people could get in. at a time.”
Although she admits she has no formal training as a curator, Moulton says her work as a collage artist has given her a unique perspective on how to exhibit art and wares to the public. interior of the gallery.
Although she’s only been comfortable calling herself an artist for about a decade, she says she always felt artistic growing up in Arcata, Humboldt County, California. She didn’t really feel a real calling to start doing her own work until as a teenager, she started working at a shelter for domestic abuse survivors, first as a volunteer and then as an employee. While there, she worked in childcare, helping children staying at the shelter with art projects.
“I don’t think I really recognized it at the time, but I think that experience made me realize that art and emotions can be linked,” Moulton recalls. “Drawing on something rather than just creating something that looked good. It took time though, as I didn’t have much confidence in myself when it came to feeling comfortable sharing things.
Fortunately, she became more comfortable sharing things after moving to San Diego in 2002. Since then, Moulton has exhibited her own work in a number of galleries across the United States. Some of his works, along with pieces by more than a dozen other artists, are currently on display at Trash Lamb’s current show, “Less Than An Old Pair Of Centenaries II,” with pieces at less than $200 for holiday shoppers. She also hosts a blog on the gallery’s website devoted to the profiles of artists whose work is exhibited at the gallery.
“One of the questions is something like, ‘What would you have liked to have done sooner?’ and each person got a version of the same answer: “I wish I had gotten into art sooner,” says Moulton. “And I really understand that.”
Moulton admits she doesn’t have big plans for the gallery. She is just happy to know that she took a chance and finally dedicated herself to art.
“I’m looking forward to next year. I have more shows scheduled than I have room for,” Moulton says. “I don’t know what my five-year plan is. It’s more about wanting to see how things are going.
Meet Mélodie Jean Moulton
Not: Arcata, Calif.
fun fact: Before opening the Trash Lamb Gallery, Moulton hosted semi-regular pop-up art markets while working as a bartender at the Whistle Stop.
Combs is a freelance writer.