Art meets kitsch: Self-described snob displays mom’s vast collection of turkey platters

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Mat Gleason finds value in his mother’s turkey platter collection.

Art dealer Mat Gleason and his inveterate collector mother, Helen, in front of a very few of her turkey platters
Art dealer Mat Gleason and his mother, Helen (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Mat Gleason, a longtime figure in the LA art scene, admits that he long pooh-poohed his mother’s proclivity for scavenging through antique stores and swap meets. “I was always snobby about her collections,” he told me as we stood in a gallery he’s just taken over next to his Coagula Curatorial.

Then his mother, an 80-something year old mother of seven, asked to see a show of Japanese woodblock prints at the Norton Simon. “She said, ‘I have one like this but it’s in better condition.’ All of a sudden a lightbulb went off in my head that maybe all these kitschy collections would be worth more than what I’ve been selling out of the gallery.”

IMG_4376In particular, he wondered how much her rather large collection of turkey platters, amassed over thirty years and stacked all over the house (and under the beds), were worth. Six van-loads later, just in time for Thanksgiving, the walls are filled up at the Red Pipe Gallery.

You can be sure Helen Gleason is not a vegetarian, but neither is she terribly impressed by her curatorial debut. She does hope that the exhibition might lead her to her heroes: the authors of the “bible” of Thanksgiving paraphernalia, “Thanksgiving and Turkey Collectibles Then and Now.” Their book helped her and Mat see that there was a dollar value to these items.

As dazzled as he is by the artisanship and wisdom of his mother’s collecting, Mat draws the line. When Helen suggested he might use the hooks that are hanging the platters to display another of her obsessions, Sock monkeys, he drew the line.

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