Monday, April 28, 2014

Accretions, Breakthroughs, Collections

For the last several days I have been going through my various jars of small found pieces, organized by material - wood, plastic, metal. Some jars are mixed, if the piece I am hoping to keep somehow straddles worlds, or if the metal, plastic or wood jar was full. Beads, single earrings, snapped leather strands, glass knob, seashell, toy wheel - such things go into a jar invisibly marked miscellaneous.
    I have many jars, three devoted to colourful plastic parts. The jars started out as charming vintage ones, from pickles or some such, labels and all. These got scarce quickly and mason jars came into the picture. Mason jars are timeless, even the new ones have some old world charm about them. The plastic I keep can be the inner bits of a box of floss, a lost Kinder toy piece, a small doll shoe, a Spirograph wheel, a small tube from some pen, mostly toy details and obscure industrial components. I've always taken things apart, the ritual counterpart of seeing my father actually make things, his collections meant to be used.
    I've kept my old macrame bracelets, the pull strings from long gone hoodies, bathroom chain, rusted washers, dried rubber bands from date stamps, clock parts, half a dried lime, broken keychains. I've kept crap like this all my life. In the last two years or so, as a response to this growing collection of mayhem and the anxiety it can cause, I started on the dubious campaign of organizing it. Jars proved useful in that my collections took on discrete identities and were quite beautiful seen through glass. I even exhibited them in an art show centered around collecting and it's shadow side, hoarding.
    Now, with the jar trick, I was able to identify what it was that I collect. I collect collections. I have numerous ill-defined ones. Once a jar is full, I can more easily decide if that particular collection merits a second jar. Shall I start picking up more bits of shaped wood to fill a second jar or can I cap it at one ? One, it is ! This way, I can nip it in the bud. Sorry alluring bit of wood, you will stay where I first spotted you, in a discarded shoebox full of junk drawer cast offs left on the sidewalk on moving day, beside the fridge contents and the bedbug bureau.
    Since I've taken to organizing my collections, I've become better at leaving things behind. Not only that but I've also taken to using the parts to create something new, which may have been the purpose of starting to collect in the first place. I found, with being overwhelmed with actual real-life tasks and jobs, that I had neglected to book an exhibit for the gallery for a rapidly approaching month. Quickly, and with the support of my trusty girl-friday, I came up with the idea of mounting an exhibit of the accidental clusters that accumulate within certain quarters of the shop. Before I knew it, I pulled out a treasured found collection, one I thought would remain intact forever. It came from a friends basement, the detritus left behind by previous tenants. It came from an old Greek man, It was the bottom half of a two litre carton of milk stuffed with thin straight coloured seven inch lengths of bendable wire, jutting out like a rainbow obsessive nightmare. Pure potentiality. Of course, it was a perfect ready-made, something I was looking forward to counting as part of my art.
    I found myself pulling a length out and twisting it around some odds and ends. I added to it, antique fake leaves, my teenaged jewellery, rusted metal, spools of thread, toy parts, fishing lures. In a flurry one afternoon I cobbled together several of these fetishes, meant to hang on a bent nail from a stark white wall. I was using my junk. I was unabashedly dipping into thirty year old archives of once treasured objects and fashioning something new from them. Better still, I allowed my partner access to this stash so she too could make art from it.
    This might sound like no big deal to those of you who purchase wall units and glass and metal furniture, laminations of movie posters to go over the love seat. But to collectors of small found objects, who struggle with why they do what they do, this is a big deal. I've turned a serious corner. And to boot, I'm making art that I'm seriously excited by, art that waited years if not decades to manifest.