During a portfolio review in Paris, the professor asked me if I “collected” anything. I had to stop and think, “no” I replied. Not that I could remember. Nothing that was significant to my art, that I was aware of. Nothing that had meaning in my life. No stamps, books, etc. Yes I hoard office supplies, does that count? It didn’t dawn on me until I returned home that I collect lots of things. They just aren’t things that cost a lot of money. In most cases they didn’t cost me anything.
I tend to believe that there is a Shel Silverstein poem that perfectly articulates each facet of our lives. I never really saw him as a children’s poet so much as a poet that wrote adult poems in such a way that children could understand them. One of my favorites is “Hector the Collector” which starts:
“Hector the Collector
Collected bits of string,
Collected dolls with broken heads
And rusty bells that would not ring….”
Over the years I’ve amassed a collection of things. I am proud to say that these things all hold significant meaning. I have lots of items collected from my travels including a stone given to me by a shaman in Cusco, a set of antique sculpting tools from a thrift store in Missouri, seaglass and bleached bones from the beaches in Puerto Rico, museum ticket stubs from my favorite exhibits in Paris, a glass bottle with a letter to God sealed inside that a group of us found on the beach on Horn Island….
To most people these things would be considered junk. While moving and de-cluttering I put things aside, thinking “why do I care about this button so much?” The truth is, all of these items become important touchstones for me. Maybe they were present during a moment I made a big discovery about myself (like the stone). Or they helped to kickstart a new art series (like a matchbox once did). Or they inspired me to go back to school (I enrolled in a PhD program after examining the seaglass and bones). Or they encouraged me to apply to art shows (like the ticket stubs).
“One man’s junk…” right? Except right now all of my most valuable treasures are in a box in my studio waiting to be discovered while I play around with the best way to pull them out for display. I feel like it’s time to stop treating them like junk and instead display them in such a way that I can be inspired by them every day…not just when I am lost and searching.
Are you a collector? What do you collect? I’d love to know! And do you display your collection for yourself or others?