Sunday, October 30, 2011

30 in 30, Fish Creek, WI

I finished my 30 objects and shipped them to Fish Creek for the exhibition. I asked friends, family, students and acquaintances from different parts of my life to loan me an object to paint a picture of. The only perimeter I gave was that the object must fit in the palm of my hand. I painted each object on a 9x9 piece of multi-media paper in oil. I wrote about the project because while painting I was curious about our relationship with things. I thought I'd post it just in case you're interested. If not skip it and take a peek at the objects. The paintings are for sale...shameless plug!! They're 300. each unframed.

Why do we have things? Why do we possess things? How do they take on such import in our lives and become treasures to us? Do we actually need these things? We are a culture of things. A culture that runs and thrives on the deep -rooted desire to acquire and possess “things”. Is this a human need or a cultural phenomenon? It seems that much of what is ascue with society stems from the need to possess and buy things that will inevitably end up in the landfills, goodwill stores or garage sales. We buy, buy, buy... hoping to be satisfied or satiated in some way. We are driven to have the latest styles to wear, that new set of dishes or new model of car, the latest gadget. So much so, that many of us go into deep debt to have them immediately. Every minute the seemingly endless stream of media bombards us with the seduction of things. We are surrounded and sometimes overwhelmed by “things”. We accumulate stuff over our lifetimes, then eventually shed and divest ourselves of our belongings

There is a certain greediness to our need for “things. We collect things, as though, collecting will eventually fill a void. When do we have enough of something? When does collecting become hoarding? Where is that line?

Reconciling these notions about possessions with my own art making and selling became part of this project. Simply put, my works are “things” paintings, drawing, which I hope have a value to their owner, buyer, or collector. What is the value of a piece of art? What are you selling when you sell one? Beauty, emotion, enhancing ones home, to give pause and thought, perhaps even challenge ideas. Then again, I know my art is sometimes just filling a space that needs to be filled, like covering a nasty stain on a wall or going over a couch that is a matching color.

And as to the value of a thing or piece of art; how do we place a value on an object, and how do we decide what that value is? There is sentimental value, monetary value that can be simply intrinsic value of the material that a thing is made from or market value; perceived value.

Painting the 30 objects was an exploration of these questions from the variety of perspectives in my life. That of an artist trying to make a living selling art, a mother wanting to hold time for her sons, a women heading towards new adventures away from the “home” I helped build for my family. At a point in my own life that the need and desire to have more things is waning, it seemed important not to simply cast aside everything but take a careful, thoughtful look at why we have what we have and what are our connections to these things are if any. To examine my own desire for some kinds of possessions and willingness to disconnect with others.

I discovered many things about my own notions and biases about ownership and possessions and discovered how very tied we are to the things we have. How they mirror us and tell our stories for us and to us. How they tie us to generations before us and are reminders of people, events not merely objects, but imbued with emotion, time, pride, craftsmanship, beauty, memory...

I painted many objects that on first blush were unfamiliar and foreign to me, not of my own history and place. As I painted and looked carefully, I became somehow intimate with each and they conjured up my own memories. The ballet shoes were a daughters well-loved and worn slippers. Though I’d never danced ballet, I had done a paint-by-number of ballet shoes that hung in my bedroom for many years when I was a little girl. I loved that painting and my room growing up. Somehow I was connected to each of the objects even if in a very temporal sense.

So the question arises; what to keep and what to leave behind both literally and figuratively? Eventually it all will be left behind. For now I’m interested only in keeping what’s truly meaningful and can be appreciated and cherished. Figuratively, I took with me something from each of the objects. I returned them all to their owners, (if you believe that your can really own something). This was a release and relinquishment in some cases.

For myself I try to remember that things are temporal in our lives can be appreciated and cherished, but can be held in memory only, like a superb dinner or a lovely rose. Those things fleeting and elusive may be of the most value. I’ve come to the conclusion that it is my very good fortune to already be in possession of everything I need to live, to make art to be content. We have all we need already, should we care to look around.


David King said...


I've been following your blog for a while but this is the first time for a comment. I often wonder about this posession issue as well. Before I moved a little over a year ago I shed tons of stuff, (almost literally) and wouldn't you know I started accumulating almost immediately after finishing the move. It's a habit that's hard to fight, but at least I'm much more picky about it now and much of my accumulation is art related, but at some point you can have too much of that as well. Yes, I said it, it is definately possible to have too many art supplies! What a novel idea to borrow the objects for your paintings, that way you didn't accumulate more items just to paint a single picture of them, makes for a good story to boot. I really enjoy art blogs that make us think too. Thanks.


Marla Baggetta said...

Thanks for your comment, David. I'm just now contemplating a move from our home/studio of 20 years! A little daunting, to say the least and will will have much "shedding" to do!!