Recently, I cleaned my parents’ garage, where the odds and ends my life have slowly accumulated. I got a particular snapshot of my life in things, and three strains became clear:
1. My dad’s garage was a formative place for me. I didn’t realize it then, but the “Dad things” that Dad did—fix up the house, paint, do minor electrical, crack open broken appliances—were special. When he enlisted me to help, he was really passing his abilities on to me.
M once mentioned that garages, which were formerly “man spaces,” have been taken over as storage areas for Costco-scale over-consumption. He lamented the fact that men no longer have tinkering spaces. Obviously I haven’t got such a gendered view: without a messy space, a workbench and tools, everyone loses out on the chance to learn how to work, even at very basic levels, with their hands, and to repair the things in our lives.
2. Everyone loves knickknacks. As JL and I agreed, from mansions in Atherton to 99¢ stores on San Pablo, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
“The meanest habit of human beings is to be suspicious of sentiment.”(unknown, quoted by David Ellis Dickerson, Hallmark card writer, on Studio 360, credit unintelligible)
What is it about mementos, those deeply personal objects that make you who you are? How can those items—even mass-manufactured, obsolete ones—elicit so many feelings, remain protected from dustbins by mere sentiment? Seeing my mementos from my childhood and teenage years was like visiting my own flea market—except all these things, these repositories of memories, were still full; they hadn’t yet been depleted of their power….
3. Student art: so bad, so great. Like everyone who decides to be an artist, I really loved being creative and expressive. I’d kept a lot of early work. All of it was bad, in terms of “Art,” but some of it was pretty good for my age. I could barely remember making some works, much less what motivated me.
I’ll post photos illustrating these three themes. Not all of it will be flattering to me. Be kind.