It's hard to believe that November is nearing it's end! What a year it has been. Thanks for sticking through it with me guys. While it's still current, I wanted to put up a blog post about the trash assemblages I compiled for the show that is currently hanging at the Bridge PAI (the show comes down on Nov. 23rd) that I affectionately titled "We Made You This," a name harvested from the marketing on some of the trash itself - McDonald's Apple Pie packaging. Here's a photo of the whole show, hung:
This was a huge project you guys. I'll let the statement do most of the talking, it's just under the photos of the individual pieces, but I'm still coming down from making these pieces, which is the largest set of artworks I've ever made. As I said, what a year it's been!
Here are the pieces individually, in the order that they're hung from left to right:
I wanted to share the statement for the show with you guys, too:
The titles for these artworks and for the show were harvested from the discarded material in each of these pieces (labels, handwritten notes, etc.) – I challenge you all to find the sources of the piece-titles and the show!
The material found in these pieces was collected between the months of January and October of 2016. As hard as it was, I refused to let people help me or donate neat items they’d found because it would have disconnected me from the process of building this connection to the community that I joined 4 years ago. The trash-collecting was meditative for me. I tried to be very present while walking around scrutinizing the sidewalk, putting my phone away and engaging with the land I was walking on intimately.
When I first started collecting trash to incorporate or turn into art, I considered making a little vest for myself to wear while on my expeditions that said “ARTIST – DON’T WORRY ABOUT ME” on the back. I was self conscious about picking up trash. I didn’t want people to assume things about me because I looked desperate. I wore gloves when picking things up – partly to look “official” and partly for “protection”. After a few months I started just taking a smaller bag and putting it on my hand when picking things up, taking it off when I wasn’t actively touching anything “dirty”. Toward the end of this process I stopped “protecting” myself against the trash altogether. The self-consciousness, disgust and fear were gone. The trash I was picking up was mingled with leaves and sticks and other natural elements that I respected along the sides of the road, and it was no dirtier than those things. It became empowering to keep people wondering who I was and what I was doing – dressing nicely (or not) and going out with a bag and bending over to get something no one else had noticed, or waiting for a gap in the cars driving by so that I could run into the street and pick something up that I’d caught a glimpse of. I imagine people who saw me created their own stories for me – I was a white lady doing her part to clean up the neighborhood (simple but true!), I was a homeless lady with one fancy outfit that I kept in pristine condition, I was an eccentric (also partly true). The idea of those stories makes me smile, but I do wish someone had blatantly asked me what I was doing. No one ever did.
Bending over/crouching to pick something up is a humbling experience. It’s something we feel self-conscious about even when we’ve only just dropped something and immediately bend down to get it. The act of bending over is shameful – it’s associated with manual labor, low economic status, and is improper for women in particular because of the potential sexual connotations. I’m sure some people felt embarrassed when they saw me picking things up. But I’ll tell you guys what – not only is it something we’ve been doing since we became an upright species in order to feed ourselves, build shelter and generally survive, it’s incredibly grounding and builds physical strength and balance.
I realized throughout this process that the parts of the city that are most littered often have the least sense of community. I walked though neighborhoods without public trashcans that I was sure would be rife with trash but all I got were mingling neighbors on porches waving at me or watching me walk by. These weren’t heavily trafficked areas, and they weren’t wealthy neighborhoods. It was just the community that cared about what their neighborhood looked like. The most littered areas were the most transient neighborhoods like the trailer parks and areas under construction, and main roads with the most traffic – downtown Belmont, downtown Charlottesville, West Main St, the train tracks. What comes first, the clean neighborhood or the sense of community? I think the latter.
Some photos of me in the studio by Martyn Kyle (thanks Martyn!!) :
Here are some photos from hanging and opening night! (Last thing in this entry, I promise, haha):