In appearance, Golden Rule is an art gallery and boutique. In principle, it's "a social experiment in creativity and commerce." And in practice, it's an exercise in self-help therapy. One thing its owner, Wynde Dyer, wants you to know is that Golden Rule is not just a place where she sells her "dead mom's clothes."
Although it is that, too.
Tucked in the back of a chic East Burnside complex of stores and galleries, the space changes every month, as a new artist's work is showcased on the walls and a new inventory of clothing, jewelry, furniture and objects—including drawers full of family photos—are brought in from Dyer's collection and consignors to complement it. The eclectic, approachable 30-year-old calls this month "Mad Men meets Alaskan cabin in the woods." Primal, figurative black-and-white prints and drawings of ambiguous wildlife forms from local artist Lynn Yarne are complemented by classic 1940s-'60s women's fall fashion—feminine shapes in jewel tones and wool, along with Danish modern furniture and rustic odds and ends.
Eccentric objects with handwritten tags describing their history are carefully placed on every item, tucked into drawers and waiting to be discovered. Some labels are straightforward, like "denture mold" or "domestic cat pelt from Germany"; others are deeply personal—the tag for a sculpture made of nails reads, "made by Wynde when she went crazy in 2002."
A majority of the clothing sold in the store belonged to Dyer's mother, Morena Threse Faust, who passed away in March at the age of 56 from acute alcohol poisoning, complicated by a heart condition induced by long-term chronic stress. Faust had a hard life, and she dealt with it in a variety of destructive ways—alcohol, drugs, men, sex, overworking and overshopping. Faust was a hoarder, and clothes were her specialty. She left behind a home in Hanford, Calif., filled floor to ceiling with nearly every scrap of paper, toothbrush and pill bottle she ever owned—elements from every failed relationship and business endeavor—and an impressive collection of high-end vintage fashion from the mid-1800s to the 1980s.
At the end of 15 full days of cleaning and one massive yard sale, Dyer was left with a 17-foot U-Haul truck packed to capacity, half with clothing. At the time she didn't know she would open a store. She had recently left her job as a life coach and checked herself into an intensive out-patient care program in Portland after having a nervous breakdown—one of many in her life that have caused, in her words, "personal, professional and educational difficulties."
While cleaning out the house, Dyer found documentation that she had been sexually abused by one of her mother's boyfriends as a child. But she took the stuff to Portland and in June started a business that confronted these issues.
The space was to be called Golden, in honor of her mother—the color of her hair, the jewelry she wore and the state she called home. But Golden, Dyer found out amid branding, was taken by another business in Portland. She freaked out. But then her therapist suggested Golden Rule—a defining maxim for a space that eludes definition.
TIME WARP: Wynde Dyer's family photos of her mother, Morena Threse Faust. Photos courtesy of Wynde Dyer
Through Golden Rule, Dyer is honoring her mother, treating her and her possessions the way she would want to be treated. And then there are the 30-plus people, previously strangers to Dyer, who now volunteer at the space—the golden rule isn't lost on them either. They're emerging jewelry, clothing and furniture designers, photographers, artists, curators, aspiring small-business or gallery owners—creative people looking for a change, people exactly like Dyer—and her store has given them a space where they can learn, gain experience and take steps toward their creative pursuits.
And by sorting and selling her mother's stuff, categorizing and curating it on a month-to-month basis, Dyer is confronting her past, her problems and her own issues with materialism. She is taking care of herself—finally treating herself the way she wants to be treated. "Each month I use the changing over of the space as an opportunity to un-stick that shit and be like, 'I can let go of this…I don't need to let that event that happened to me or these events that I brought upon myself define me as a person,'" Dyer says. She uses the space as a conceptual framework for her mourning and healing, beautifying it and making it consumable.
"This is totally flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants crazy shit," says Dyer—referring to opening a business with no money or experience, flipping its entire inventory each month, trusting complete strangers as business partners and dealing with her past in a public way.
But she's paying the bills (just barely), and has an army of volunteers and artists booked through June of 2011. She's doing it—and part of that she attributes to her mother, who Dyer says, despite her faults, always encouraged her to do whatever she wanted. "She did the best with the limited resources that she had."
Golden Rule, 811 E Burnside St., Suite 122 (around back), 477-5124, goldenruleportland.com. November show opening at First Friday, 6-9 pm Friday, Nov. 5. Show runs through Sunday, Nov. 28. Golden Rule is open noon-6 pm daily.