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.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A story of a painting

The other day I started digging through the stacks in my studio. Oh, the stacks. Stacks and piles, piles and stacks... In any case, I came across this watercolor painting that used to hang in my grandmother's home.
A friend of hers painted it in 1934. It's of the Chicago skyline, I believe. When my grandmother passed away ten years ago I tucked it away to give to my then boyfriend. It was one of those cheater gifts--being as how we lived together, being as how I expected we'd continue to live together. I wanted him to have it, but that can easily be a pretty hollow gesture when you think that means you still get to have it too. When we split a couple of years later, it somehow ended up on my side of the divide. I had it on my wall for a while, but it never felt quite right, so it was relegated to those previously mentioned stacks. I suppose I figured it would remain in a box, or at the back of the closet for the next 40 years or so, collecting dust and the added weight of passing years of nostalgia, and someday I'd pass it along to some next generation, or the story of it anyway.

That's what these things are, I think. They're vehicles for narrative. They are armatures upon which I've projected stories of what was, what never was, what might be, vessels to house memory, vessels to house potential. So (not without a little twinge of childish and petty regret [pregret, rather?]) I sent an email to the man to whom the painting actually belongs. I was happy to discover that he still remembered and wanted it. Maybe that's a piece of it. I love things, truly love them. I hold onto them for fear that they may not continue to be loved, may not be properly cared for. In this case, at least, my fear was assuaged.

I will return it to him this weekend.


  1. Oh my openhearted friend! I am glad you're simplifying and glad you're reassured by having given a great gift. You're such a smart cookie.