New Britain's Abandoned Shopping Carts Turned Into Works Of Art

The subjects of Margaret Vaughan’s photographs are cast-off, abandoned, unloved. They lay in the snow, lean against trees, hang out on the sidewalk at all hours of the day and night.

They’re shopping carts. Vaughan started noticing discarded carts in 2016, while walking every day from her home in the Little Poland section of New Britain to her job at New Britain Museum of American Art. “They seemed like vestiges of a once-booming city,” she said.

A collection of 36 of Vaughan’s small-scale photos are on exhibit now at the Stockman Gallery, part of the Trinity-on-Main arts complex in New Britain.

No humans appear in Vaughan’s photos, but the carts are so forlorn in their abandonment they seem to take on human qualities. Two carts are overturned in the snow, snuggling together, seeming to ward off the cold. Another skulks in a narrow brick alley. One stands against a utility pole, with neat homes in the background. Another sits underneath a front porch, as if to proclaim it’s still useful for another day.

Stephen Hard, manager of the Stockman Gallery, has hung the photos at a distance from each other, forcing the visitor to wander to see them all, just as the carts wandered. They are printed on aluminum, which gives an elegant gloss to the often-overlooked and unglamorous carts.

Vaughan, who now lives in Wethersfield and works at Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum in Hamden, said she was fascinated by the carts because there was no way to know how they got where they were. ”How did they come to be in these situations? Who was it who took them? Why did they leave them?” she said.

Or, as Hard put it, “each one of these images has a story behind it. We just don’t know what it is.”

MARGARET VAUGHAN: SHOPPING CARTS OF NEW BRITAIN is at Stockman Gallery, 19 Chestnut St. in New Britain, until Nov. 3.

On Other Walls

“The Webs We Weave,” an exhibit of Amy Hannum’s “Spiderweb” artworks alongside poetical works by Joe Adomavicia, Eileen Albrizio, Steve Balkun, Tarringo T. Basile-Vaughan, Joanie DiMartino, Brent Terry and Rhonda Ward, is at Clare Gallery at the Franciscan Center for Urban Ministry, 285 Church St. in Hartford, until Oct. 31. The opening reception and poetry reading is Thursday, Sept. 20, from 6 to 8 p.m.

“Bed Furnishings in Early America: An Intimate Look,” an exhibit of historical textiles, is at Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 600 Main St. in Hartford, from Sept. 26 to Jan. 27.

“Liberia 1931-33: The Collections of Alfred J. Tulk” is at Fairfield University Art Museum, 1073 North Benson Road, until Dec. 14.

“ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection,” an exhibit of paintings, sculptures, photographs, and sketches inspired by tools, will be at Bruce Museum, One Museum Drive in Greenwich, from Sept. 22 to Dec. 30. Artists include Richard Estes, Howard Finster, Red Grooms, Jacob Lawrence, Fernand Léger, H.C. Westermann, Berenice Abbott, Walker Evans; Jim Dine, Claes Oldenburg and James Rosenquist.

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