I am attracted to the worn and weathered. So when I find an object with markings of use, I often pick it up and take it home. My studio is filled with these artifacts, and each one once had a life of its own. I love to look closely at their markings and patterns which often offer clues to a life of a particular action or way. In this sense an artifact is a manifestation of a process shaped by it own history.
Artifacts often enter into my work. For the last few years, I have collected old hard covered books. My studio is filled with piles of their extracted covers, often arranged by color.
Recently I have revisited an old favorite, some rusty bedsprings that I discovered years ago in our barn. I incorporated them in an installation at SMOVA (the former Sonoma Museum of Visual Art) back in the year 2000. The space in which I installed the piece was a hallway with doors and rather than fight what was there, named the installation "oR x do x Or".
When I took it down, I installed it on my property, next to a spring which was our water source. There the installation weathered with the wind, rain and sun, and finally fell apart. Three years ago, I moved to higher ground in Sebastopol and took the rusty bedsprings with me. Recently, they have become a focus for new work (a story for another time).
Artifacts are a source material that begin a process. When one enters my studio, I look at it. I can't recall who said "the thing seen is the thing seen" but this phrase, every time I read it, has a way of stopping me and reminds me to spend some time to look and contemplate what is before me. What is its "thingness"? What is its shape? How was it made? What is its condition? What did it go through before it arrived here? How can its history inform my process of working? And finally how can this object of the past move me to the present and forward to the future? No answers, just passing thoughts. And somehow these thoughts engage me to begin a process of working.
Back to the Bedsprings:
A rectilinear grid with coils protruding from its base and like an artifact, is also a source.
"Bed" from the root, "bhedh" means to dig. "Springs" from "spergh" means to move, hasten, leap; it also means to sprinkle and scatter. Not only does this artifact define itself; it also offers a clue. "Dig to move". Look to a source for a direction or way. So where does one look?
"Bed" is a charged word full of associations: sleep, rest, dreams, relationships, birth, death, desires, geology, gardening, base of a body of water, foundation, support, a press.
"Springs" too, has many associations: water, action, shift, release, emerge, season, wires and coils.
And with rust describing them, other associations arise: memory, ancestry, passing time, aging, a museum, an era, an atmosphere and environment.
Many associations suggest many possibilities. Does it matter where or how I begin? Probably not. No matter where I start, I hope to release the object from its charge of associations. And with it will come a renewal, I hope.