"(...) A 'romance with the fragment' begins when our childhood pockets fill with relics from the natural world -- in this case, objects found on the shores of Prince William Sound, Alaska -- and later, as adults, when we fill our most vacant spaces with the weight of the spiritual or the worry of the inevitable. The body is the ultimate reliquary for pain and loss; we are shaped and defined by what we cling to despite its apparent worthlessness."
A year ago, I finished "Reliquary #8: Scroll," which is currently exhibited at the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center as part of the All-Alaska Biennial where it received a Juror's Merit Award. It has lived a short, full life as part of the Reliquary Series -- an on-going exploration of form, found object and reverence for the discarded.
The piece took 67.75 hours to complete, not including the work on the old metal dock bollards, which I took up again this fall, concerned about rust bloom and corrosive contact with fragile fabrics. When polishing by hand proved thankless, I burned through fine wire grinders, then white felt polishing wheels now permeated with rusty froth and beeswax.
These objects now have the luster and heft of cast bronze. The weight of hours. I love them.
Like the other components of this work, they were found in a heap, in some sense rescued.
In another sense, simply seen and considered and pocketed.
Artists submitting to the All-Alaska Biennial were asked to explore the theme of "the authentic North, its people, materials and landscapes, through a variety of interpretations." And while there could be a literalness to this -- all glaciers and arctic foxes and and the sharp sheen of ice -- I feel like I've been in Alaska long enough to present my own authentic relationship to this place.
I feel closest to it in Prince William Sound.
Picking up trash.
To be clear, I don't use garbage in my artwork, but I use the time handling and hauling it to observe and collect my thoughts on how I fit into this vastness, this depth and solitude, this never-ending work my young family has taken up, not because we are paid or want recognition, but because we love this place and its wildlife.
In our bumbling earnestness, we have been known to foul debris collection data on certain documented (yet, unmarked) beaches. That's been embarrassing to learn, but not enough of an excuse to stop.
We are just one small boat with children and some trash bags.
Besides, to stop this kind of work is to force oneself to stop seeing. Once your eyes are open to the potential of a thing or a place, how do you close them again?
I've been thrilled to see this piece, my thoughts, going out into the world.
And since the work doesn't look like much coiled in a cardboard box, I owe a lot of its showmanship to the willingness of my photographer, Brian Adams, who foremost shoots blow-your-mind contemporary portraits of people and place, not objects. But it's probably for this reason he's able to capture the soul of some thing.
In some place.
For as remote as I sometimes feel, it's this exact quality that grants me clarity.
I've been in Alaska 15 years, the longest I've lived anywhere.
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If you are curious about the work we sometimes do on Alaskan beaches, check out the post What we found, 2 and for work on other, warmer, beaches, there's always the first What we found post.
And, if you wonder about the impetus and/or influences behind my work, please visit the Histories category in the side bar where I share stories and process images.
The All-Alaska Biennial is on exhibit in Anchorage until April 10, 2016.
That Anchorage Press Article is here. Dawnell Smith is a talented writer and a good friend.
You can follow me on Instagram: @amymeissnerartist or on my Facebook Page Amy Meissner, Artist
Artist in Anchorage, Alaska, sometimes blogging about the collision of history, family & art, with the understanding that none exists without the other.