Location Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Rent $845/mo. (market)
Square feet 500
Occupant Tami Lee (visual manager/stylist, Anthropologie)
Now, let’s take an inventory of your apartment: one taxidermied bear, full-bodied, one taxidermied bear head, 20 photos of dead people, a pickled human ear in a bottle, three bowls of teeth, and so on. Would you like me to take out the red lightbulb? Put in a normal one?
Yes, because it’s hard to see. Everything in three of the four rooms is colored in a shade of brown or black or some deepness in between. It’s like swimming in ink. So primordial. Daylight is almost immaterial in here. If I ever want to do anything with light, I usually sit in the kitchen. Here’s a doll I got in New Orleans. Her eyes are missing. My favorite is this other doll. When you twist her arm, her mouth grimaces, she looks scared.
How did this begin—the taxidermy, the child coffin, the Diseases of Cattle book, the History of Venereal Disease book, the jar with the baby whale . . . I started collecting when I was about 17—I’m 29. I became very obsessed with the past, in a way. I’d buy old photo albums. I think I got excited by seeing the same old thing more than once. Anything I found, I would connect it with something else I had. Here is a photo of a group of people standing outside the Bucket of Blood saloon. Then I found a matchbook from the same place at least five years later. Here is an old can of Swift’s veal livers. I have three of these.
A person can’t sit in your apartment without thinking about anything other than your hundreds of objects. A person couldn’t even play Parcheesi. I’m very interested in layers. This wall in the bedroom is different shades of red. Over the bed is a child’s headboard upside down. I have layers of fabrics hanging from that, and as I find more fabrics, I keep adding them. Layers add more life and character. When I see a trait in a person I like, I take that into myself.
You look so wholesome, sort of like Sissy Spacek, well, except for the big skull tattoo on your upper arm. It is actually from a poison label. But on my other arm, I’m a princess, see? My father’s least favorite is this . . .
A tattoo of a dagger on the inside of your lower arm, pointing toward your wrist. I’m not at all a morbid person. I’m just very intrigued by dead things.
Your kitchen has all these pots and pans; you must cook a lot. Human brain? No! The only meat I eat is bacon. I’m from New Jersey, Hillsborough. I came to New York four years ago, took classes at FIT.
Do you think about where your objects come from? I don’t get too deep in thought in the history behind them.
You’re more interested in what happens after other people’s souvenirs come into your world? Definitely.
I was looking through a bowl of old family photographs in an antique store, and it seemed that any of the relatives in the bowl could have been mine—the aunts, the uncles, the undifferentiated cousins. They were all wearing the same 1940s shoes, waving the same wave, standing on the same grassy knoll, with that same sort of hey-let’s-play-a-game-of-badminton look. I have this old locket with photos inside. I tell people they’re my great-grandparents. They’re not. I don’t really have much family. I see my father every month. My mother died a week before I graduated high school. My friends were worried about what they were going to wear to the prom. I kind of isolated myself at some point.
Have you ever lived with anyone? A boyfriend once, for six years. He couldn’t stand the clutter.
Are you at home by yourself a lot? No, I entertain. I go out all the time, though often by myself. I’m an observer of other people. If I stayed in my own world all the time, I’d never see the light.