Early morning is when I have my most profound thoughts...at least they seem profound early in the morning. Today I started thinking about "things", in particular, the variety of "things" I have acquired over the years for the purpose of transforming into a work of art. Admittedly, I have become more reserved with my collections; the days of clutching on the every item that passed my gaze are long gone. Perhaps it means I have become a connoisseur of bric a brak.
So in my early morning thoughts, I pondered the various items that I have collected. Glass eyes from Mexico, timepieces of all sorts of sizes, gears and more gears, costume jewellery, plastic toys of all sorts, not to mention the multitude of objects whose function is unclear. The list goes on and on, and as I mentally catalogued my collections, it dawned on me: each object, from the simplest marble to more elaborate cuckoo clock has a history. Every single object in my studio has had a life experience, albeit an unconscious one...and this is a marvellous thing.
Some items I know a little bit about their past. Once in a blue moon, my family will pass something along in which I know something about the origin, like a broken music box that might have been my mother's, but even so, I don't have a full understanding of it. How many times had my mother turned the windup key? What was she thinking the first time she watched the ballerina spin?
Of course, it's easier to get a sense of history when you have a personal connection, but the vast majority of items I've collected over the years have a much more mysterious past. This forces me to imagine a history. My mind concocts strange scenarios and glimpses of it's past. I once purchased a beautiful typewriter repair kit, from the 1940's most likely. It was housed in a crusty leather case, and it was filled hundreds of strange tools and devices. If that kit could talk, think of all the strange tales it could share. As for the dozens of tools...each one those might have a slightly different story to tell.
It has crossed my mind that it is highly probable that several objects of historic significance have wandered into my studio, and subsequently, into a piece of art. It seems highly likely something in my collection has, at some point, touched a profound event. Perhaps I've owned a gear that was part of a pocket watch travelled on the Titanic, or a doll once passed through the hands of Marylin Monroe as a child. A simple tie clip could have been worn by an attendee of the Civil Rights March in 1963. Each found object has countless stories that will never be told, quiet stories that never make it into history books but are equalling compelling. I believe it to be true that multitude of historical dramas fill the shelves in my studio, and it is left to my pondering mind what those tales would be. Perhaps some day science will allow us to track an object through time, following its path backwards, and though it sounds a bit Star Trek-ish, I know, but it certainly not outside the realm of possibilities.
From my perspective, it is the wonder that makes these objects more intrguing however. I suspect if I knew something's historic significance, I would never use it in a piece of art for fear of tarnishing its sacredness. The ignorance gives me liberty. It gives me the freedom to transform these items and set them on a new path. I suppose that is my role. I take items that have lived an interesting life, and just when their journey seems to be coming to an end...I set it on an entirely new and different path. The life of "thing" is no less compelling than the life of a human, it is just unable to share it. So instead I do what artists do...they imagine the possible and the impossible.
“A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm” ― William Shakespeare, Hamlet