I debated with myself about going down this road in this post and decided it would be okay. I did solicit opinions from fellow artist friends on the topic of obsessive compulsions and hoarding in an attempt to come up with a self-diagnosis. Opinions varied. Since photographs do a good job of describing things… I will start with images from the basement of my house and my dilemma (and subject of this post) will become clearer.
I have been doing my Falls of the Ohio project since 2003. During this time, I have made many sculptures from the materials I found deposited in the park by the Ohio River. Most of those materials and sculptures were left on site, but not all. I do have a desire to remove the trash I find from this environment even if I realize I can’t get it all. The result is that I have brought a lot of it home with the notion of using it in my art, sometime in the near future.
I “maintain” a small studio space in my basement where I store materials with the aim of making something from them. One issue I have is that I see “potential” in so many things and I’m reluctant to give up on materials that could become art. I am plagued by seeing all the possibilities which on occasion out strips my ability to realize all this “potential”. Part of this is economic in nature. I have never ever had any money and as many of you know, art materials can be very costly. With this Falls project, I have spent the bare minimum since what I’ve been picking up is free.
These are my “rainy day” materials from which I’ve made many birthday gifts, Christmas presents, and donations for not for profit fund-raising events. Over the years all this material culture has built up and it’s getting hard to move around my basement! So, I ask myself…am I a hoarder?
I have to admit looking at this image…things look bad! It’s nearly the classic picture of the hoarder house that has paths of stacked newspapers and magazines with little paths running through the spaces. I assure you that the rest of my house is quite normal…for the most part. We have what seems like thousands of books and I have more art hanging around than the “average” home. The men of my family have always been drawn to collecting things (coins, medals, old photographs, etc…), but I think I came down with a more serious case than most. I will say the books are in their cases and the art is hung on the walls with some care. I try to take care of the objects I seriously collect, but not with the art materials and their as yet unrealized potentials.
There has never been a time that I wasn’t making something. That sense of thrift and trying to recycle and reuse I see as being virtues of my creative process. Years a go, I once found employment as a picture framer and I was disturbed by all the waste in that profession. I couldn’t see throwing away perfectly good picture frames because they were old. And, all those scraps of 100% cotton rag matboard…are too hard-won to be thrown in the dumpster with impunity. So, naturally much of these materials also found their way into the basement. In my defense, I will tell you that this stuff does eventually get used. For many years, I supplied all the neighborhood kids with all the free matboard they could draw and paint upon. Because the matboard in particular was quality material, there are many childhood drawings and artworks that might actually survive to say something about the ephemeral experiences of being children. Although I have vivid recollections of the art I made as a kid…nothing from my childhood survives and that does bother me a bit. I have saved most of my sons’ childhood art. Perhaps that’s another sign of a hoarder!
So, what am I going to do with all this “river treasure”? I have resolved to use it this year and get it out of the basement! I have a few upcoming exhibition opportunities and may pursue more. To help with this goal, I have rented an additional studio space in a local church where several other artists keep spaces. The enigmatic image I began this post with is from that church and it’s from a small library/study area used by the congregation. Here is a partial view of my new studio room in this church with the beginnings of me moving materials out of my basement.
The church (whose name I will keep private) dates from the turn of the 20th century. The current congregation is small and aging and I wonder how long it will remain a viable church? To help bring in income, the vacant spaces are rented out. I’m sharing my space with two good friends of mine both of whom are primarily painters.
Although I do think of myself as a spiritual person, I wouldn’t describe myself as being traditionally religious. My sacrament is my creativity. I do, however, find the idea of redemption interesting. With my project, I am trying to redeem these poor materials I find by our river and maybe point to something that is within all of us…a univeral creativity that I feel is the hope for our planet.