I checked out this slim little volume at the library a couple of weeks ago. Since my father's passing at new year, and my mother's last spring, my sisters and I are faced with the dispersal of a lifetime of stuff from the family home. The questions around what people choose to keep and what they eventually let go of, are central to my practice as an artist. Most of the materials I use, even the threads, have lived in other places, been kept by someone, for some reason. So much of it came from the basement and closets of the same home we are now cleaning out, piece by piece. In the book, Margareta Magnusson is advocating we do our "death cleaning" before we die. I'm on board. Deep breath.
Mother Nature and climate change did some of my stuff reduction for me. In the late summer of 2016, we had 11 or 12 inches of rain in as many hours, unprecedented, and in amounts that our aging storm sewers could not handle. For the first time in the 30 years we have lived in our 1920 house, the basement flooded, badly. The water receded quickly, leaving behind a sodden mess. A lot of the wet stuff was paper--mat board and cardboard, college papers from the whole family, notebooks, lesson plans, my high school diploma, college portfolio, yearbooks, 35 years of National Geographic; all hard to discard when dry, not salvageable when wet. There is more to be done down there, but the total was reduced by at least half. We also have a walk-up attic, full of carelessly stashed stuff. Another deep breath.
I have been working on a large series of work focused on laundry. Based on fragments from a dozen found white men's dress shirts, cotton and wrinkly, this series is yet another chapter in the history of toil. The white shirts were a perfect canvas for mark-making and fabric manipulation. Dr. Ruth R. Benerito, a chemist working for the USDA, is credited with the discovery and development of wrinkle-free cotton and permanent press fabrics. No surprise this revolutionary idea was pioneered by a woman. More on this series to come.
Here are a few titles from my 2018 reading: The Music Shop, by Rachel Joyce; The Exact Nature of Our Wrongs, by Janet Peery; In the Midst of Winter, by Isabel Allende; and a blast from the past, Birdy, by William Wharton.