Several years ago, I worked on a sculptural piece about intimate partner violence. I wound up showing it in a gallery show, but installed it feeling like it wasn’t finished, and unsure of what would finish it.
It stayed the same for years, without any changes or additions being made. Both at the gallery show and in my house, people had strong, personal reactions to it, particularly DV/IPV survivors. In fact, my ex-partner and I made an agreement it wouldn’t be in a central part of the house because it was too hard for him to spend too much time with. Eventually, I felt like it would never be finished, or maybe it was finished, and I just wasn’t feeling it. If it was finished, it was such a large piece that it felt like it should be somewhere besides where I lived, especially if it was going to get relegated to a back room. The trouble is, anyone or any place where the topic matter would make sense, and where it would be the right thing….well, it would probably be the wrong thing. Donating something so triggering to a shelter, for instance, just would not work. So, it sat around some more.
As it got near time for me to move, I realized it shouldn’t move with me. Given the new space, it would just wind up unseen again. I still couldn’t think of the right person or place to donate it to where it could be shown. It also just really, truly, did not feel finished.
A statement of the painfully obvious variety: I’m stalwart. I tend to often be last man standing in many areas of my life, including with work and creative work. Attachment has really been my central area of challenge with Buddhism and life as a whole. Maybe it’s because so often in my life I had things or people snatched from me so much I never got to let something go of my own action and accord, maybe I’m just acquisitive, maybe it’s something else entirely, but I have a very hard time letting go of things, especially people, objects, work and communities. I wanted to engage in an active practice of letting something this big — spacially, emotionally, topically — go. I decided that I needed to let this go.
I enrolled Blue in the plan — it’s oak, and weighs about 80 gazillion pounds. On moving day, we went to put it in a local park that had seemed like the right place in my mind. But it wasn’t: not only were there people there at the time (you really aren’t supposed to just be leaving large artwork lying around), no placement felt right.
But on the way home, Blue stopped in front of a house on the block that I must have stopped in front of every day. It was the last remaining house on the block as old as ours, and had rather mysteriously been boarded up a couple years back, only to stay that way (and after it spent a year with the inside covered in tin foil, for some reason). It was sad, intimidating, dangerous, lonely and precarious; it felt like loss rendered architecturally.
It was where it wanted to go.
In thinking for so long about what would make it feel finished, it just never occurred to me that more didn’t need to be added to it. That, instead, it needed to be added to something else, then let go to be actively demolished, degraded and abandoned.
It went to where I felt finished with it, and where it also seemed to feel itself finished.
I had another once-gallery piece, or part of one. The window frame which was part of a larger collection within and around it; a frame once representing how I wanted both clarity in my own perceptions, and clarity from others in their perception of me.
That original piece had been dissembled because it felt like something that needed to change and keep changing. While it waited for its next life, though, I changed, too.
I stopped caring so much about being seen clearly, and started caring a lot more about my own clarity of vision, both in how I see myself and in how I see everything around me.
Which is why it lives here now, in the garden, in the midst of the vast green I get to sit in and with every day that has been nurturing exactly the kinds of clarity I have needed.