By Puloma Ghosh
Boston, MA – If you thought “Janky Donuts” was a trendy new donut shop in Boston, you’d be in for a bit of a surprise. Opening night, many such hungry customers tentatively entered the Lot F Gallery only to find that the cute, colorful donuts were made of scrap wood, in THE !ND!V!DUALS’ full-scale donut shop installation.
Everything in the shop made from scrap wood and carved with a dedicated and humorous attention to detail. Stop and flip through the songbook in their full-scale jukebox. Check the time on the intricate wooden clock. Go behind the counter and find a wash sink, a handgun for protection (of course) and a bucket full of dirty utensils.
The cashier himself is also made entirely of scrap wood, but shaped like an alien out of a tavern in some distant planet imagined by George Lucas. He stands in front of the cash register, smiling and ready to take your order. On the back wall is a tasty although occasionally questionable (“The Meat Stick Donut”?) menu. Next to it, an “Employees Only” door leads you in to the back room which has more carefully crafted donut shop essentials: a wall of rifles and its very own shooting range.
No, really. As it turns out, “Janky Donuts” is nothing but a front for their back end gun shop. Another alien shopkeeper attends the counter; only this time it’s a glass case full of wooden guns. An impressive “taxidermy” buffalo head, made from small scraps of wood nailed together, hangs mounted on the back wall, and no gun shop would be complete without its very own American flag (although most wouldn’t be made from a discarded wooden door).
Lot F gallery owner, James Wormser, aims to show modern, unconventional work in his space. “There’s urban aesthetic and graffiti influence in a lot of work that we show,” he said. “It’s a funky space off the beaten path.”
“Janky Donuts” definitely counts as an unconventional exhibit. THE !ND!V!DUALS, a collective of five artists with various backgrounds, was conceived in the tents of Bonnaroo, a music festival in Tennessee.
“They wanted to do a big interactive project and they just handed us a big pile of wood,” Colin Driesch, a member of the collective, reminisced. “That’s how it all started. We ended up building a giant tree house and it was really successful and they kept on inviting us year after year. That got us our first gallery show. We never thought we would take it down that road or do anything like that, but it kind of snowballed from one show to another.”
“Janky Donuts” was advertised on social media as a real donut shop, creating mass confusion during opening night. The slogan on their promotions, “Handmade donuts for your mouth,” is somewhat misleading. Sure, they’re handmade, but it’s questionable whether they’re really for your mouth.
“We got a bunch of gourmet donuts for the opening, because we thought people would come expecting donuts,” Driesch said. Both he and Wormser laughed as they recalled the scene. “People who had come for the donut shop stood in the front, and didn’t know what to do. It was a big crowd of people who knew it was a gallery, but didn’t know exactly what was going on here, and a lot of people who came here thinking ‘Janky Donuts’ was a real thing.”
The exhibit is made completely from found furniture and salvaged scrap wood pulled out of dumpsters, construction sites and off the side of the road. “We drive around in my truck, and if we see something, like a dresser, we’ll just throw it in the back and drop it off at the studio,” Driesch said, with a shrug. “We chop it up at some point and reassemble it into these weird things. The flag was a door I found right outside my apartment the day before the show, and said, ‘I guess I’ll just make a flag!’”
Regardless of whether or not the donuts are edible, “Janky Donuts” is a worthwhile experience. Every time you look around the gallery, you find a surprising new detail you missed before. If, by chance, you’re feeling a little stressed out, several of the wooden rifles are fully functioning BB guns, which you can shoot in their homemade shooting range onto screen-printed “Janky Donuts” target pages you can take home.
For the full “Janky Donuts” experience, you can go home with your very own handmade wooden box of six donuts, complete with a hidden compartment for your purchase from the shop behind the shop — a wooden gun.
(“Janky Donuts” can be seen through August 28 at Lot F Gallery, 145 Pearl St, Boston, Mass. The gallery is open Saturdays from noon–4 p.m. or by appointment. For more information, call (617) 426-1021 or email [email protected])