Salvador Dali would have been right at home in Anthony Paglialonga's two-car garage.
In front of the aluminum doors, a family station wagon stands in the driveway. But inside the drafty suburban garage, antique chandeliers dangle from the ceiling, Victorian ladies stare from the walls and stacks of oil paintings are propped against a lime-green record player.
All that's missing is a melting clock.
The Longstraw Art Gallery is a shade surreal, a David Lynch-like celebration of suburban archetypes. Despite the mix of still lifes and electrical appliances, however, Paglialonga hasn't indulged in any reproductions of Dali or Magritte.
He's too much of a romantic to fill his Glen Burnie ranch home with paintings of eyes perched above triangles. The 56-year-old collector, a quiet retiree with a salt-and-pepper beard, leans more toward Oriental prints, crystal vases and enameled copies of Renoir's "Piano Lesson." His wide-screen television is overshadowed by a painting of Madame Pompadour, the mistress of Louis XV.
"My art appreciation is more intuitive than anything," explains Paglialonga, who converted the den and garage of his home on South Meadow Drive into a private art gallery in November.
The idea came with the same flash of inspiration that prompted him to sign up as a dance teacher more than 30 years ago. Discharged from the Navy at the end of the Korean War, unemployed and new to Baltimore, Paglialonga thought he might workas a tailor. He had just applied for a job when he passed an Arthur Murray Dance Studio.
"The next Monday, I was on the floor, training to become a dance instructor," he recalls. "I taught it all -- the fox trot, tango, swing, bolero. Even Latin dances."
Paglialonga admits the same romantic impulse resurfaced when he went to college inthe 1970s, after working first as a police officer and teacher with the Maryland Department of Motor Vehicles. He majored in psychology and education but also took several art courses.
"I think my interest in art really blossomed then," he says. "I always had a real urge to own art, but I always thought it was too expensive to do. I looked at some paintings at the Glen Burnie Mall for about a year before I found some pieces I could afford."
His hobby quickly turned into a consuming, passionate affair. These days, Paglialonga haunts estate auctions and drives to New Jersey to meet his art dealer.
Stoppingin front of a large oil painting of a collie dog and lamb, he says: "I just got this the last time I went to see (the dealer). I thought it had a nice quality in the brushwork. It caught my eye."
All of the works displayed in his den are priced and tagged. Some of the smaller etchings and reproductions cost as little as $15. The larger oilpaintings, framed in ornate gold, range from $115 to nearly $700.
"I think of my art gallery as more of a way for people to start a collection," he says. "It's not a museum. I wouldn't want to own a masterpiece."
Only a half-dozen people have toured Longstraw since Paglialonga opened it Thanksgiving. (The name, he explains with a smile,is the English translation for Paglialonga.) But despite the slim trade, he is busy renovating his garage to display the rest of his collection.
Paglialonga says he has the Italian passion for art. The son of an immigrant from Rome, he studied commercial art at a vocational high school in McKeesport, Pa. Two months after he graduated in 1952, he enlisted in the Navy. His opportunity to work as a commercial artist surfaced a decade later -- at a time when he was longing for a comfortable lifestyle.
He quit as a dance teacher after gliding across ballroom floors for five years. He dabbled in sales, gave up his chance to become a commercial artist, worked as a state police officer for seven years and finally landed at the green-and-white doors of MVA.
"I saw more stability there," he says. "I was kind of struggling to get my notch in society."