Art galleries that are not really art galleries abound in the Triangle. One could even say they tend to flourish, sometimes more so than the real thing. Some spaces that devote themselves to a particular niche in the wide scope of the art scene, or places where art is an afterthought (since it's always nice to have something on the walls), don't often get much attention. Here are some of these unusual spaces that flaunt some unusually fine art work.
At first glance, Firefly is a shoe store, and since they are very nice shoes and bags and things, it could be called a shoe gallery. There is however, one entire room devoted to art, and the quality of the pencil drawings by Leslie Snipes puts Firefly in the serious gallery league. All Snipes pieces are small, untitled graphite drawings on heavy watercolor paper that have almost a hypnotic appeal. They are biomorphic, biological, but not specific, and sometimes describe texture-like ropes of hair, or form-like tubes of interwoven flesh, demanding close examination but never revealing their secrets. Firefly's owner, Ashley Worley, has a fine art background herself and clearly has an eye for the unique and simple charms of this fine work. 605 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh. 821-4536 or www.fireflync.com.
Tattoo Devil Studios is a modern tattoo parlor that has an ongoing schedule of tattoo art from locally and nationally recognized artists. The gallery, which spans the walls of a waiting area and one long wall of the business, is well-planned, with good lighting and a salon-style collection of fine art with tattoo themes. The best way to describe the art is to say that if your tastes run to the garish, gory, scantily clad, macabre or mythical, then you may find these paintings to your liking. Most embrace a graphic, colorful style, but they range widely in size and media. These are not sample tattoos, but the artistic expressions of artists who happen to design tattoos as well. Among the skulls and roses there is much to see in this truly alternative art form. Look for an upcoming exhibit by pop-style painter Bobby Logic next and one with a roller derby theme to follow. 1215 Hillsborough St., Raleigh. 834-8055 or www.tattoodevilstudios.com.
"Mongo" is slang for anything salvaged from the trash, and Ted Botha is so serious about mongo that he wrote a book about it. The author and mongo connoisseur will host the "Mongo Roadshow" at The Scrap Exchange on Wednesday, July 7 from 7-9 p.m. Anyone can bring their prized mongo finds to the Scrap Exchange for expert evaluation by the master. Those new to the idea can pick up some tips from veteran dumpster divers and a copy of Botha's book, which contains stories from the most serious mongo hunters around. Submissions are being accepted for the companion mongo art exhibit through July 12. 548 Foster St., Durham. 688-6960 or www.scrapexchange.org.
Wootini may suffer from being unlike any art gallery or toy store, but it defies description as anything but both of those things. The large, plastic, moveable figurines are clearly collectible and not really for children, although they appear sturdy enough. The beautifully illustrated hardcover books seem a bit esoteric for the young crowd--but again, kids might just like the pictures. "Sci-Fi Western," a collection of underground art compiled by Sunny Buick, features art that is the inspiration for many of the limited edition toys featured in the store. My personal favorites were the "giant microbes"--stuffed replicas of things like influenza (1000 times actual size!)--and something appropriately called an "ugly doll." This may be a big kid toy store, but your kids won't know the difference. Carr Mill Mall, 200 N. Greensboro St., Unit B2, Carrboro. 933-6061 or www.wootini.com.