Saturday, December 4, 2010

Junk Drawer


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It's snowing.  That feeling of being trapped without being trapped inside a house in the middle of nowhere.  When I was a kid and it was snowing I always got this urge to make something out of nothing.  I would go to the kitchen and open up the junk drawer and pull objects and crap out and try to construct...  hell I don't really know what it was:  sculptures?  Robots?  Artificial hearts? 

I had fallen in love with the idea of making art, even though I had no idea what "art" was.  The need came before knowing what it was.  That urge bloomed when I was confronted with snowy windows and boredom and that itch caused by the intuition that you are about to disappear and you need to send signals out. 

No audience, no place for the things I made to go.  I would sit at the kitchen table and scotch-tape stuff together, move it around, make drawings of what I had constructed.  Often the ingredients from the junk drawer included old batteries, empty pill bottles, old keys, gaskets, empty Bic pens, shoe laces, envelopes, nuts and bolts, plastic spoons and forks, and the list goes on.  Detritus from working-class life, stuff pulled out of pockets and purses and instead of being thrown out kept because it might be useful eventually.  It never got used except when I tried to turn it into something it wasn't.

And then the "art" or whatever I made would just be destroyed and placed back into the junk drawer.  Like that. 

I think that urge, that response to snow and frozen feelings and that sense that you are being erased without being told, is what really always propels me not only to make art and to write, but also informs the way I look at the art made by other people.  Those days spent making something out of nothing and then returning it all to nothingness has completely influenced the way I appreciate art.  That's why art made by people who are out of the picture or who are trying to be out of the picture always inspires me, but not just any kind of art:  there's an ingenuity in the face of obscurity that needs to surface, a sense of intentionally discovering magic by taping or gluing or pounding all those objects you pull from the drawer into a "thing of beauty," or drawing pictures of things everyone sees but never experiences that way you experience them, or making your whole life one long beautiful poem to that initial feeling of knowing you are about to turn invisible and you need to leave behind some evidence:  a snapshot or two of strangeness that can verify what you meant. 

The ultimate 2 + 2 = 5 is that, right?  Junk Drawer + Intense Need to Make Something Even Though Nobody Gives a Shit = Art.

Something like this:


("Solar Set," Joseph Cornell, mixed media, 1949.)

Or this:

(Raymond Thunder-Sky holding two of his drawings, surrounded by clowns, date unknown.)