Nashville artist Susan Shockley, longtime curator of the Parthenon Museum, makes surrealist drawings that often incorporate images of strike plates. Yes, strike plates, the little metal thingies on door jambs, that door knob assemblies bump against and click into. Susan is delightfully secretive about the meanings of recurring shapes in her work, as you can read in her blog, ssjawbone.com, but her persistent attention to low-tech items — including strike plates, jawbones and arrowheads — drew me to hang one of her enigmatic drawings in my living room.
Susan’s leitmotif of a $1.83 piece of door hardware is unusual, but I get it. Suddenly, I, too, am captivated by strike plates — now that I know how powerful these simple, ubiquitous gadgets are in day-to-day life.
You see, my door hardware has been broken for, oh, about 10 years. The lock has been sticking, so rather than closing smoothly against the strike plate as it should, it has banged into the door jamb, further compromising the integrity of the lockset. Early on in this nuisance condition, I gave up and started using another door. I am uniquely adaptive in that way. I even put a little sticky note above the sticky mechanism that said, “Do Not Lock.” Once my children finally learned to read, this solution worked fine for the better part of a decade.
Recently, I visited my friend Noni, and found her in the middle of replacing her door hardware, like it was no big deal.
Shut the Front Door! Door hardware can be replaced?!
I mean, I knew that, but the last time I seriously contemplated replacing my wonky door lock — before using a less-convenient door just became an accepted way of life — I was not in the business of fixing stuff. I didn’t have power tools. I would have had to call a guy.
These days, I am the guy. And it turns out all I had to do was buy a replacement Schlage door lever assembly (about $45) to match my existing hardware. The woman at the store used my existing house key to match the lock to it. When I got home, I installed the new door lever assembly, removed the sticky note, and invited my family to reacquaint themselves with the back door.
As I tested the new door lever, enjoying the graceful click of hardware caressing the strike plate, I thought of Susan Shockley’s drawing hanging in my living room. I thought about how many times she must have paused in thresholds to admire the simple technology of strike plates, while I had taken the $1.83 gadgets for granted. Then I thought about how it is an artist’s gift to translate the beauty of objects to the rest of us, so, when the time is right, we might ultimately see the beauty, too.