Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Pandora's Box

(Above: Pandora's Box.  Antique chest collaged with my childhood stamp collection. 10 1/2" H x 24" W x 11" D.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Since returning from my art residency at the Rensing Center that included last Thursday's reception for The Cocoon, the work created during the prior five weeks, I've been itching to act on several ideas that have been otherwise "on hold".  You see, being at an art residency is a definite "high".  It is the "gift of time"; it is an opportunity to focus on a new body of work; it is a chance to devote one's days to a particular goal.  I love this ... but there are also drawbacks.

One cannot just "switch gears" and work on something else.  Focus is great!  Productivity is wonderful!  Dedicated time is amazing!  It just doesn't always allow for new hair-brained ideas to roll into reality.  As ideas bubbled to the surface, I could only write them down ... save them for the future.  Over the weekend, I planned to let this happen.  I planned to start working on three new ideas for my upcoming group exhibition called Alternative Storytellers.  I was bursting with ideas about Hansel & Gretel's witch, King Midas' fictional cousin, and Snow White's nightlife.  I'd been thinking about these ideas for WEEKS.

(Above:  Pandora's Box, antique chest collaged with my childhood postage stamp collection and the framed "alternative" story with a feminist twist.  Framed work: 28" x 19 1/2"; unframed: 23" x 15".  Collaged letters clipped from vintage ephemera on faux-finished watercolor paper.)

Yet, something happened with my careful planning.  Another alternative story popped up on Friday night with the purchase of a small, antique chest filled with turn-of-the-last-century photographs.  I bought them for the photographs but unexpectedly found instant inspiration in the chest ... Pandora's Box!  All earlier ideas are still "on hold" but I will get to them!

Even with so many other ideas brewing in my head, I couldn't help myself.  I knew exactly what I wanted to do and say through this old chest.  I sanded all the wooden surfaces, got out my childhood stamp album, and loved every minute of the transformation.  My husband Steve watched in horror and fascination. As a kid, he collected stamps too ... and wasn't about to let me touch his album or the one he inherited from his Dad.

We talked about the lazy weekend days adhering little, gummed hinges to the reverse of canceled postage stamps.  Steve daydreamed about finding a rare, Inverted Jenny, the 1918 mint accident that depicted an upside down Curtiss JN-4 airplane.  He hoped his collection would become valuable.  I never thought about money when pasting my collection into the album.  I dreamed about all the pretty pictures and hoped to have at least one stamp from every country.  I wanted to fill the pages.  I liked the colors and the idea of touching a piece of paper that had traveled to a faraway place before I was born.  So, for me, dismantling that album into an artwork seemed appropriate and wonderful and a way for my stamps to continue traveling the world.

(Steve couldn't help himself.  He lent a hand.  He soaked off some of the stamps still attached to corners of envelopes.  He offered advice ... and one day he might decide his stamps will become art too!  I have high hopes because it was so much fun!)

Alone, an antique chest covered with old, canceled postage stamps is not necessarily "art" nor does it tell an alternative story. I knew this. So, while collaging the chest, I thought about Pandora and her box.  I thought about all the evils of the world being unleashed.  I thought about the remaining virtue of hope.  I did a little research.  I read plenty of articles that documented translation errors and dual meanings.  Then, I wrote the story!

Here it is:

Pandora's Box

Dear John aka Epimetheus: Foolish Titan of Greek Myth

I know you told me not to open the special box because it would unleash all sorts of evils, but I did! There are now dirty dished in the sink, dust bunnies under the bed, mildew in the shower, and every stitch of clothing needs washed. The evils of a patriarchal society have escaped.  I have taken the box with me and will travel the world spreading awareness of equality. I leave only HOPE behind. Treat her well and she might stay. Since I'm gone, you will tell a different sotry, but this is the TRUTH about my box.


I had a wonderful time making this piece and am looking forward to the ideas I put "on hold".  In the meantime, I'm playing catch up with all the custom picture framing work that piled up in my absence during the art residency.  Time away is grand. Time back in my home studio is equally grand.  Focus and exploration are needed in equal measure to keep the creative ball rolling!


Connie said...

I have a box filled with stamps, now I have a idea of something to do with them, thank you. I just watch your cocoon video. It is amazing and so are you to think of making such a time consuming and yet brilliant project. Your stitching and your imagination are outstanding. I am in awe of your creativity:)
Have a lovely day and thanks for sharing this with us all.
Connie :)

Artesa said...

Love, love, love the project and loved reading all about me in your blog... your story is my story in how our mind is blooming with ideas and our work is such a familiar task that as we set our hands into the programmed task our mind finds some freedom to explore something new... I am for ever requesting my mind to explore the next before I am done with the new in order to be constantly working... because that is what brings me joy, gives me purpose.


The box is great and the cookbook funny. What did you use as your glue for the stamps?