Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Digging for Buried Treasure

I usually use that phrase for the daily process of scooping out the cat litter box (as I have said before, whoever invented clump-able litter deserves the Nobel Prize!).  However, these past two weeks of home studio renovations have unearthed some interesting mementos one could call treasures.  Now doesn’t that sound so much more sophisticated than having to admit that at some point I passed from being a mere pack rat to dancing on the edge of hoarder hell. I think most artists tend to be collectors of “things” because they inspire us and/or may become part of an art project in the future.  Knowing when to admit that the future for certain items in our procession will never get here and so it is best to let things move on to someone else’s treasure box is the hard part.

Trash piles are a no brainer. The problem lies in how to make it all fit into one trash can per the “rules” of my collection company as well as keeping it hidden at the back of the driveway. Our particular neighborhood does not allow cans or trash near the street because they are “unsightly”. We certainly don’t want anyone to know that we might actually produce “refuse” (which is the nice way of saying trash or garbage in our owner’s manual for how to survive in the suburbs).  With bags upon bags of trash as well as the oddly shaped items that emerge from the darkened corners of studios, it is possible to construct a funky sculpture of “found object junk” that appears to explode out of one lonely and overstuffed can only to be devoured by the compression truck in an act of performance art. The funny part is watching the guy pulling the can try to maneuver the massive pile down an icy driveway without dropping most of it. Two cans would have solved the problem but not been nearly as entertaining (as well as costing me 5 bucks and I am far too cheap to allow that!).

The harder decisions lie in the donation piles. What we creative types consider useful would be tossed by most people. Black bags work best so there can be no second guessing. I did not have any black ones nearby nor was I motivated to actually get them from the garage, so I used the accumulated stash of assorted plastic bags kept stuffed into a basket which had been used as a prop from an event I decorated in 1998. Most of the bags are now filled and gone, but that bag basket lingers under the table waiting to be fed again.  Right now it just contains those plastic things with zippers which hold sheets and such at the stores.

The sorting of piles into save, use, toss, share, and shove back inside are almost complete. Begin caught between old school and new technology still has me vexed. The trash man is not allowed to take the bags upon bags of art magazines (some dated from the late 1990’s) which sit waiting to have their images torn out and sorted into the picture file bins. I don’t care if Google images can bring up a reference in a matter of seconds, that screen version does not compare to the glossy pages of Art News, American Artist, Modern Painters, or any of the other rags that contain so many visual riches. I can easily solve the dilemma with a bucket of water but lingering in my mind is the fact that somebody could use those magazines. I suppose a school art department would be a good idea but being “old school” I need to come to grips with the fact that the nudes in the magazines are okay now, kids have seen worse. In 1986, no nude was a good nude and not allowed in our classrooms.

Every surface has now been painted, scrubbed, vacuumed or dusted. Did you ever know how much dust accumulates on top of the pipes in the ceiling? Don’t see that on any TV cleaning commercial. Every tea cup, coffee mug, greeting card box and jar has been sorted out down to the last pin, thumb tack, paperclip, or penny, one by one by one. No mass dumping allowed because a still usable paperclip is a thing of beauty when needed. Rogue pony beads have been rescued from the cracks in the floor and sorted into bags by color. For some reason the Shop Vac does not eat them so they have to be fished out by ….a bent paperclip! And I knew just where to find one! What is the downside to this process? Creativity flows while immersed in the mess, but once all is neat and tidy, it becomes very difficult to A) find anything ; B) want to mess it all up again; C) remember what the idea was at the time; D) stay here any longer working on a pasty prison pallor with hands swollen and bleeding.

So what buried treasures were unearthed during my excavation?  How about my Driver’s Ed certificate from 1976 signed by the principle? Bet that will come in handy should anybody question my driving.  Student ID cards when your social security number was on them.  Name tags from various jobs when all anybody needed was your name and the store logo complete with a rusty pin on the back. I don’t think lanyards had been invented yet. Scrapbooks done the old fashioned way and now falling apart (shout out to Diane Belfiglio, I found a postcard from your show at Fiori Gallery when you look about 12 years old).  The real treasures however are the handwritten letters from my Grandmother, thank you notes from children I taught who probably have kids of their own by now, recipe cards in my mom’s handwriting when such things were passed along to record favorite family meals. Letters from people who have passed on but whose words and thoughts will remain here on earth, able to be held in one’s hand.  I am afraid that our children today will not have such gifts to cherish. Who writes a letter anymore, let alone in cursive?

Only a few files remain to be sorted as part of round one (round two is to go back through all the bins and boxes organizing their contents for clarity). However, much like my solution to accounting class way back when, once the final numbers are done and it still does not balance, toss it all into “petty cash” and order a pizza. That plan worked well enough to get me an A- in the class (probably because the Prof just wanted that annoying art major out of his front row). I plan to establish a “petty cash” bin later today for the stuff that is not trash, not treasure, and not categorized. I can deal with it the next time I need to dust the pipes…..say another 19 years from now……?

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