THE GOODS : Cheap--Not Cheesy


Taste and money. Inevitable partners? Not at all. With a wish for fabulous Christmas gifts and decorations, and a tiny budget, we invited two people with a professional eye for beauty to go shopping with us. Nancy Goslee Power is a Santa Monica-based garden designer who is creating the landscaping for the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Gronk is a Los Angeles painter and conceptual artist whose work is being exhibited in a retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. We went shopping with Power and Gronk at Pic 'N' Save and Woolworth.


Gronk is nothing if not a connoisseur of low-cost Downtown shopping. He awakens on sheets from Pic 'N' Save. The Mexican masks near his bed are from Olvera Street. His black pants and T-shirt were on sale at Woolworth. Matching lawn chairs from Thrifty Drug sit by the low-slung table adorned with a green crayon light (Pic 'N' Save again).

"I spend money where I live," the artist said. And where he works and resides is a converted Downtown office building on Spring Street. To follow him down nearby Broadway on a hectic Sunday afternoon is to see a man skate through his element.

He glides past the Korean barkers calling out "Todo barato! Pasale!" He looks for the old women who sell chopped fruit on street corners.

If there's a theme to his shopping, it's to look for quirky, pop culture items, then use them in a novel way. Glittery Christmas tree ropes became tassels to pull back the drapes in his apartment. "I look for unique things and find something about them I can utilize in my daily activities," he said.

Broadway is the perfect environment for this kind of guerrilla shopping since it's the burial ground for many of the unsold items from upscale stores.

If there's anything the artist, who does not drive, regrets about Downtown is that there's no Kmart. "Usually that's a field trip for me," he said.

The items he bought:

* Tassels: $1.99 at Pic 'N' Save, 7th and Broadway. "For me, there's a glitzy B-Movie sensibility to them."

* Lock clock: $10 from stall No. 48 at the Broadway Trade Center. "An objet d'art. This is a treasure find. God knows what it symbolizes. This could be hanging at the L.A. County Museum."

* Religious candles: 99 each at Woolworth, 719 S. Broadway. "They give off a scent as well as light. They create a mood in your atmosphere. Four of them, with a plank on the top, can make a low table."

* Musical note ornament: $1.99 at Pic 'N' Save. "I know a lot of musicians. There's a composer I'm working with, this would work with his sensibilities. It's very rare you can find something along these lines."

* Christmas light bulb earrings: $1.99 at Pic 'N' Save. "A must. I was once a Christmas tree when I was growing up. If you want to be a Christmas tree, this would be a handy object."

* Crayon light: $4.99 at Pic 'N' Save. "It's pop art. It's also a great little light you can keep on all day and it doesn't distract you. And you can change the bulb inside and change the color."

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