Updated: Nov 4
A few blogs ago, I mentioned how minimalism is not my speed. In fact the opposite is true. Have a quick look at my art work, especially the sculptures and you will quickly see that I max out on colour, texture, and add as much as I can to every art work. My house and studio are much the same. Pretty much every cranny is home to something quirky or interesting. There are few surfaces where there isn't something to look at.
Real estate agents, of course, call it "clutter". I have variously been accused of hoarding and producing "kitsch", both of which I cop to. Here are a couple of excerpts from my doctoral exegesis which explain my use of my "collection" and "kitsch" in my work:
Consequently, I reject Greenberg’s perception of kitsch and instead draw from kitsch in a similar sense to contemporary artist Sally Stewart (2015) who uses its quality of embedding in and interaction with everyday life, as most people experience it. My use of kitsch is subversive and through the application of craft-based processes, I disrupt the modernist hierarchal affiliations with materials and genres in art. I therefore reclaim the notion of kitsch through its application of a tactile language of both the everyday and the domestic (Stewart, 2020) as well as ideas of excess and adornment (Kulka, 2010). I am further using kitsch to “respond to a wider need for an engagement with authenticity” (Olalquiaga, 1998, p. 207 cited in Stewart 2015, p. 151) as a way of disrupting unhelpful messages in society about discrimination, diversity and duplicity [...] In the past, I have regarded my collection of things as something of a “guilty pleasure,” justified by the kind of art I make. However, I have come to the realisation through reflexive practice and as argued by Perrella (2007) that the collection is a far more essential and “magical” part of my creative process than I had previously considered. The objects I collect have personal significance to me and are therefore part of the power and agency of the artwork I create. These every day or domestic objects become “magical” through their individual selection and careful curation as ingredients for my art recipes and incantations. The collection enables more than just having the right piece “at hand”; it nourishes and enlivens the power of the artist-teacher-witch, and once a piece has become part of the collection, its magical qualities are ignited, although not yet fully realised (Russell, 2021, pp 82 - 84).
Recently, I have been engaged in helping my parents to move into a nursing home due to their ill health and advancing age. This was a confronting process for a number of reasons, not the least of which was because I was forced to think about my own "sunset years" and having to get rid of the collection of materials, tools and miscellaneous stuff I have amassed for my art. It brought home how much I will need to downsize in order to reduce the amount of room I take up on the the planet before I shuffle off it. But as I was considering this and finding spots for the extra bits and pieces from my parents' house, I came across the following quote attributed to Nanea Hoffman:
“None of us are getting out of here alive, so please stop treating yourself like an after thought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth you're carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There's no time for anything else.”
The sudden passing of some of our creative luminaries including Cal Wilson and Matthew Perry, reinforces the first part of this quote. Our time here is limited and finite. So make it count. For me, that means I need to keep making the art that I make, which means I need to keep collecting the stuff that other people throw away. I encourage you to do likewise, live life fully, and make the most of every moment, regardless of how other people may regard your embrace of that abundance. Be a maximalist.
Russell, A (2021) Recipes from the Gingerbread House: Exploring the Witch Archetype to Address the Hidden Curriculum in Schools, [Doctoral Exergesis], University of Southern Queensland.