I am approaching the halfway point of my month long residency at Vermont Studio Center. I don't have time now to give words to the rich experience of being here - that will come in a later post - probably when I'm home and have had time to absorb and synthesize.
But for today I'd like to share some of what I've been working on and thinking about. I'm planning a body of work around the concept of material culture and have been devouring the books written by the anthropologist Daniel Miller. I'm taken by his writings because of his empathy and deep examination of a very complex subject. When mentioning material culture one's first impulse is to think of consumption and consumerism. Miller acknowledges those issues but spends more time contextualizing the causes and effects and humanity of the relationships we all have with our things.
Miller quips "Things make us just as much as we make things". This statement is much deeper than it first appears - with concerns around issues of identity pertaining to clothing, materials, technology, housing, birth and death. In short, he observes and makes notes on, our relationships with objects and how they define us.
The photo above is a work in progress entitled DIVESTMENTS. It is a tower of layers of shirts, blouses, and other tops that belonged to my mother. The act of assembling this tower has already been a powerful act of divesting for me on a very personal level. Miller writes, "... People use their divestment from things to maintain a control over the process of separation which is less violent and sudden than death itself." In other words, you can't control death happening but you can control your separation from the objects that were associated with the living person. There isn't a textbook approach, it's very individual, and mine is to express it through my sculpture.
This topic of separation from material objects has come up in my previous work called STASH where I put a call out for objects to be assembled in bundles and installed in a tree in Union Square.
Once again, I'd like to ask you all to participate by donating a piece of clothing that is worn on the tops of the body (not pants, socks, etc.). Something of your own, that carries your identity and that you are willing to divest of for the sake of the installation. Something that can be stuffed into a large envelope and mailed to me in Vermont so I can incorporate it into my final piece - my goal is to have it reach the ceiling. I cannot receive anything after Feb. 26 so it needs to be mailed soon to make it into the tower.
Thanks in advance to all who participate.
PO Box 613
Johnson, VT 05656