Sunday, September 25, 2011

My Life in Art

Woman Reading by Mary Cassatt. Who doesn't love these?
Some of the most important objects by which I track my life are works of art (which are things, after all). Where I've been, what I've seen, what has interested me, who I was with, etc.

I've been very fortunate to have traveled a good amount and to have seen some of the most amazing art collections in the world (living in New York is good for that too).  When traveling in Europe with a friend a few years ago, we even used our art history class's syllabus of important art works as a sort of checklist. Paris? Check David, Ingres, and Delacroix.  Madrid?  Check Velazquez and Goya.  Florence?  Check Michaelangelo, Raphael, and Da Vinci.  Etc.  Discovering these masterworks was really exciting and important to us at the time, as we were eager to take what we were seeing in class out to the larger world.  To live what we'd already learned.

Now over a year out of college, back from another grand adventure in Europe, my perspective has certainly changed.  Art is still a central focus, but I'm trying to steer it towards my future.  Although I'll always love art history, I'm trying to find a more practical niche for this interest.  It's less about what I can learn and absorb from around me than what I can do.  I find the art I'm drawn to now is the ordinary and accessible: the art I see in the streets of New York or on the internet, or the crafts I make and discover on Etsy.

But then it's fun to rediscover works of art I have encountered in the past and reminisce.  Recently I started interning at a company that archives images, and though I am charged with a somewhat tedious task of sorting transparencies (which is how they copy images), it can be fun to discover works that I know or have seen in person or otherwise have a connection to.  Some examples:

Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosch, which I experienced (yes, it's an experience) at the Prado in Madrid
Four Ages of Man by Valentin de Boulogne, which I had seen in my college's museum
The Last Judgement by Van Der Weyden, which I stumbled upon in Beaune, in Burgundy, France

Hopefully there will be many more exciting discoveries to come! But maybe not too many; I would happily cast some of these memories in order to move from the seeing to the doing phases...

Are there any objects--art or otherwise--through which you can track important moments in your life?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Catalogue of Discarded Objects

Having embarked on a mission to declutter my life, I've unearthed many wonderful objects, though my room doesn't have enough space to contain them all. They've lived full, useful lives, and though the time has come to say goodbye, their stories will be maintained here.

Gap knit straw purse, c. 2008
Purpose: Carrying all necessary objects--and many unnecessary objects--to and fro, back and forth, day in and day out
Condition: Ratty
Reason for discarding: Worn to pieces; upgraded for ‘mature’ leather purse

Lime green fanny pack; ‘VICE’ reads on front, c. 2009
Purpose: Distinguishing oneself as ironic and therefore hip
Condition: Very good; appears unused
Reason for discarding: Post-college hipster days, serves very little purpose in 'real' world

Large orange corduroy shoulder bag, c. 2007
Purpose: Containing textbooks and notebooks; library companion
Condition: Very worn
Reason for discarding: Falling apart; no more library trips necessary

Fuzzy blue slippers, c. 2000
Purpose: Keeping feet warm; serving as an obstacle to casually walking around house
Condition: Fair
Reason for discarding: Unworn since 2001

Two pairs ballet pointe shoes, c. 1999-2001
Purpose: Prior to level of serious dancing, the cause of blisters and twisted ankles
Condition: Worn, but not well enough to indicate serious dancing
Reason for discarding: Level of serious dancing never achieved

Cell phone, c. 2006
Purpose: Making phone calls and sending very few, very sparsely worded text messages
Condition: Fair 
Reason for discarding: Non-functioning and seriously outdated

Lucite cube paperweight with colored beads, c. 1995
Purpose: Taking up space on desk, may have served as slightly thoughtful go-to gift
Condition: Fair
Reason for discarding: Too garish for today's tastes; no papers in need of a weight

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Clearing the Clutter

With summer coming to an end, it feels like so much is just beginning.  After 4 months of relentless applications with almost no feedback, finally--FINALLY--it appears I've landed an internship at an art library!  It's a small step but hey, it's something.

I'm all set to be a new me: the me with in an internship in art in New York City, who can SEE now the first step to my future.  And the first thing I did?  Started clearing out my closet, my drawers, my desk and dresser.  I hope it doesn't sound superficial, but I feel the things that surround us--our possessions and even our clothes--definitely have an impact on the way we see ourselves and our situation.  So it was a therapeutic session going through the OLD--old clothes, defunct technology, unnecessary papers and other relics of a frustrating summer--and clearing myself a new space, and making some breathing room.

Not everything I found wound up in the trash bag though, and as satisfying as it is to throw away, it is also a wonderful feeling from time to time to unearth objects from your past and to physically see where you were then and where you are now.  I found old pictures, books, tons of school notebooks, craft supplies (some things never change), a harmonica, computer games, ballet slippers, and notes written by my parents on the eve of my coming of age.  Notes about how scary the world may seem, and how I may doubt myself, but I'm capable of so much.  Which is not a bad treasure to unearth, perhaps the best--and most necessary--of them all.

That all said, I'm not quite there yet.  I'm still sorting and organizing, still working on moving the junk out.  And of course there will more brought in everyday: new things for a new me.  This is my future, folks.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Buried Treasures on TV

Turns out, this is a pretty au courant time to be exploring interesting objects.  Recently, the subject has been exploding on TV, and now has a newest iteration in "Buried Treasure" on Fox.  I'm not a huge TV follower, but of course am familiar with "Antiques Roadshow," where ordinary people bring seemingly ordinary objects to be appraised by experts and find out they're worth whopping sums of money.  This is just the granddaddy of what is apparently called the "pawn-reality genre," and includes The History Channel's "Pawn Stars," Spike's "Auction Hunters," and Discovery's "Auction Kings," among others.  I'd throw into this list TLC's "Hoarders," because though of a very different sort, it's another show that is obsessed with things.

So why this popularity of shows about stuff?  Maybe in our materialist culture, people are just obsessed with things.  Or, maybe it is the stories and history behind objects that interests them.  Maybe they are intrigued by the high sums of money in which the shows deal.  Or, the shows could simply reflect the timeless Cinderella story: average people bring in what seems to be everyday junk, but is revealed to be valuable treasure.

Anyway, I let my curiosity get the better of me and watched the premiere of Buried Treasure.


Over-dramatization and corny graphics aside, there were actually some interesting aspects to this show.  In contrast to Antiques Roadshow and Pawn Stars, Buried Treasure actually brings you into people's homes, and gives you a greater sense of the everyday contexts of extraordinary objects and the significance they hold in the owners' lives.  In addition, rather than just valuing these treasures based on monetary worth, we see more their emotional value as a family heirloom or personal relic. And then at the extreme end, we see what happens when the objects take over a person's life.

As I go forward with this blog and my interest in objects, I wonder if it is even a good thing to be so interested in things: so quickly one can fall off the edge into materialism or at worst, hoarding.  There are a great number of wonderful, interesting, valuable objects out there, but obviously they are not the most important part of life.  At the very least, I hope the interest in these shows reflects that; they are just entertainment, after all.