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Graduate Thesis

I am an object maker and we are surrounded by objects. They can make our life easier (a car), harder (a rock in our path to stub your toe on), more beautiful (a nice plant), or give a sense of fulfillment (a complete collection of Pokémon cards.) These feelings towards objects differ from one person to the next but most of us have some feelings towards objects. Sometimes this can come out by anthropomorphizing these objects. I personally think my car has its own personality and his name is Jameson. I enjoy these relationships I have with objects so much so that I choose to create objects. Making these objects gives me a sense of fulfillment similar to collecting objects. Everyone craves a sense of fulfillment/accomplishment and this is why so many people collect and why I make.


Collections no matter how cheap, educational, expensive, or frivolous interest me. I have collected my whole life; from rocks, perfume bottles, to beanie babies, Pokémon, and now tools, and materials. My family collects; my mother collects antiques and wagon wheels, my dad collects car parts, and tractors, where my grandma collects rocks, wooden ducks, and ceramic chickens. My grandpa collects musical instruments, specifically saxophones, and my sister collects anything dealing with the Navy. Collecting is relaxing, rewarding, and sometimes can provide a quick high especially when you find something your collection is missing. A collection can be many things, including artifacts from a trip or outing, objects purchased on a similar topic or idea, and completely dissimilar objects that outwardly have no connection. A collection can consist of a few things or hundreds of them. Collections are broad and can include many things, so if you consider what you have to be a collection then it is.


I also find fulfillment in arranging objects. Finding how objects relate to one another has always been a joy of mine. As a kid I would always choose to dust (despite my dust allergy) as my cleaning task so that I could rearrange my mother’s antiques and other objects. It feels so nice when you find two objects that go together even better when it’s a group of objects. It’s something that is hard to explain but that you just know. For me it’s a matter of anthropomorphizing; who likes who, who cares, who hates, who is sad, who is defeated, and then finding how those relationships can work together in the most productive manner. These relationships are always changing. So what makes sense at one point in time may not at another. We are always learning from our experiences and because of this we cannot stay the same.


One type of object that I am looking at closely is knick-knacks. Knick-knacks are defined as small usually worthless objects, especially a household ornament. Knick-knacks would not exist if it weren’t for the fulfillment one can get out of collecting them or the beauty a person may find in them. I think the majority of people’s relationships to objects they keep around themselves is that of sentimentality. Sentimentality is when one is prompted by feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia. When an object reminds us of a good memory, the period of time we have wistful feelings about, or a person we care about this is when they become sentimental. The majority of sentimental objects found within peoples’ homes are knick-knacks. It is widely agreed upon that knick-knacks have low monetary and low quality value. I think that the sentimentality these objects have can often create ways of looking past this low monetary and low quality value. I believe sentiment is the reason that an Elvis doll, a cheaply made object, can sell for several hundred dollars in today’s market. Many people relate to and have sentiment towards Elvis’s identity pushing the price up due to demand but not quality or actual value of the doll.


The pieces here specifically, all have a single origin and that origin is a discarded CO2 cartridge. I found it on the side of the road shortly after moving to Michigan. I was on a walk, exploring the area that my new apartment was in. I left the cartridge there that day thinking I had no use/room for it. Three months passed and on another walk I stumbled upon that same bottle where I had left it. I had actually taken that walk in hopes of finding it. I realized that the little bottle had a lot of meaning for me other than being one of the first things/objects I found in Michigan. It was also full of memories. It reminded me of my father’s garage and my grandpa’s business and of so many good memories in both of them. It’s a miniature of the wielding tanks that both of them used regularly. It also reminds me of the way tools look; there is a utilitarian aspect to how they look, there’s no fluff or extra just what is needed to get the job done.


This little bottle in specific was damaged, missing paint, and rusted. I felt sad for it because it had been discarded despite being a lovely object. It had served its function and was thought no longer useful. I saw all of this as a history for the bottle. It had a utilitarian life and was discarded but not for long. The rust and missing paint that it developed while being discarded made me empathize with the little bottle. Its size also has something to do with this empathy. We’re all a little damaged but that doesn’t mean we’re not beautiful or useful anymore and that’s how I felt for this bottle.


It took me almost another five months before I used the bottle in my art. I went maybe a little overboard and made almost 400 different pieces. These were purely form studies where I experimented with altering the bottle shape and mutating it while keeping a few of its defining characteristics. Most of these pieces do not exist anymore. I became frustrated with them and felt that these form studies were holding me back. I ended up destroying them. This was so that I couldn’t go back to them directly and I had to move on. This point in my work also marks when I decided to start working on my depression and when I decided that getting help from medication was alright. This decision bled over into my art work after that. I have now made pieces that still utilized the bottle shape but are no longer focused on just the form. I am focused in these new pieces on the struggles of depression using ideas of knick-knacks to present them. 


These pieces are a collection of myself, of my feelings made physical. These are my feelings surrounding my experience with depression. These are personal pieces for me. They are portraits of myself and depict my own struggle. These pieces are my own attempt at trying to start a conversation about this ignored topic. These objects are portraits of depression and how it can affect someone physically and emotionally. They are depressed, impotent, and distressed. They are struggling. They are unrefined, not because of an inability to refine but because of the lack of an immediate need to do so. Some are motivated, others are flaccid but none can perform for the viewer. They are seemingly haphazard. They are incapable of action and wish to cease to exist in hopes of freeing themselves from their abject state. Some are vague, incoherent, unresponsive, and lazy but most are depressive and tired. These are not failed objects in their incompetence but are successful tries at focusing hard-to-channel emotions, seeking the possibility of a new territory of being. Though self-involved, these objects cry out to the viewer asking for anything but pity. They have personality and beg for empathy.


All of these abject pieces became a part of a whole. They work with each other to convey my thoughts on depression. In my most recent installation of them, I keep them together using an oversized knick-knack shelf. The shelf puts some pieces in groupings and others it keeps secluded and in shadows both creating narratives pertaining to depression. The installation is an accumulation of several components just like depression is the accumulation of emotions and thoughts.


This installation is a collection; my collection. It is a collection of words, feelings, and ideas I associate with depression. My sentimental attachment is not one of tenderness and nostalgia but one of sadness. I can’t escape these feelings so to manage them I collect them. The pieces become knick-knacks in their size, base, and shelf display which is highly associated with knick-knacks. The feather duster points towards a care that this collection needs/receives. Just like a collector needs to maintain their objects, I need to maintain my depression. Maintain not because I want to keep it but because when it is there I want to know how to work with it. I need to keep an eye on my emotions and care for them, even the ones I wish I didn’t have. A viewer can see that these objects are sad and depict hard moments in one’s life, but they will probably be seeing them as specific words relating to depression due to my title, “228 words on depression.” I use words to identify my feelings and experiences with depression. Labeling the pieces with these words is one more way in which I organize and care for myself and my depression.


At the end of this body of work I feel bare, raw, and exposed. I am nervous when someone looks at my work, for fear that they will see me or worse not see me. I want to be present in this work but I also wish to hide behind the work. Just like some of my pieces look like there is anywhere else they’d rather be but on that shelf in the light focusing on they’re sadness. Overall I think this piece hasn’t solved anything for me but more opened up several doors, wounds, and windows that I feel will take even longer to unpack.

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