I am a practitioner of the can-I-have-its, a collector of things. I am the sort who walks through antique shops touching everything, wondering what place these objects could hold in my life. I flip through the ikea catalog and salivate, just a little. I am, indeed, firmly ensconced in the material culture. As a result, I have a lot of stuff, a LOT of stuff. And as an artist, it's worse, because there is always some potential use somewhere down the road for that quirky rusty, something-or-other. In the last months I have been exploring the place of the gift in our culture, and the relationship between faith and fear and abundance and scarcity. I believe that the structure of artificial scarcity is not only self-perpetuating, but in fact, self-catalyzing. What happens when we believe that there is enough? What happens when we act on that belief? So in the spirit of the gift, I am embarking upon a mission to give away the things that I do not need. It is a practice of faith, and an act of rebellion against dominant capitalist culture. Is it a little crazy? Probably. Is it going to be hard? Absolutely. But here I go.

Friday, September 3, 2010

And so it begins

It is a Friday, and I've gathered bags and bags of clothing. There is a day shelter at the Unitarian church I sometimes attend, and this week I will be donating my clothes there. It was important to me not to just drop them off at goodwill, or another local thrift store. I wanted to make a direct gift, no exchange of money. It was surprisingly hard for me to find such a place.

But I found it, and today I fold and sort, take little trips down memory lane. The red velvet jacket with the crocheted black trim that I got from a friend when I was 17.
It was, for a while, my fanciest thing. I'll admit to peeking at that embroidered Saks Fifth Avenue label more than once, with just the tiniest bit of glee.
Haven't worn it in probably 10 years, but it was hung in the back of my coat closet, serving as a time capsule, an embodied glimpse into times-gone-by. It's moved with me at least 3 times without being worn. And then there's the turquoise suede jacket with the perfectly round moss green buttons that I sewed on it.
That one was a favorite at some point during 2005. Loved, to be sure. I fold each one tenderly and tuck them into the plastic bag.

These motions elicit little pangs of fear in me, alongside the warm fuzzy do-gooder feelings. I remember when I was very young--under 5--we had a toy drive in my small town for toys-for-tots. The donation center was the little radical local bookstore. I chose to give one of my favorite stuffed animals (this was before the rule of only new, fresh, still in the package toys was implemented in the organization). In any case, I gave my panda. I remember it foggily, its worn and loved ears, it's little glass eyes. I had heard once that the best, most important gifts were things that you loved, and I wanted to pass that feeling along. The next day, though, I wasn't so sure about my choice. I missed my panda. I imagined him alone in a pile of toys. What if no-one loved him as much as me? What if I had, instead of doing something good in the spirit of giving, merely abandoned my poor panda? These are big scary thoughts for a 4 year old... and, as it turns out, big scary thoughts for a grown woman too.

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