Two days ago I brought my art folio out of storage to discover 27 years worth of drawing, lithographs and a few paintings had rotted away with rising damp. As I picked through mouldering scraps I was aware that I had two choices – to feel grief and outrage or to graciously relinquish what had been taken. All things are temporary. Perhaps this loss signals a severance; severance from the promising young artist I was ‘expected’ to become, and space to be the artist that I am becoming.
But my loss is miniscule: two weeks ago a close friend of mine who is a sculptor and bush-furniture maker lost her hand-built house, her studio and a lifetime’s work to bushfire in Tasmania.
Such a catastrophe strikes me as a metaphor for our ultimate ‘erasure’ at the time of death – only in this case, the cruelty lies in the fact that my friend is alive to see the treasury of traces she has built up over a lifetime obliterated. A devastating experience.
We work hard over the course of a life, generating and gathering things that are expressions of our existence and the tracery of meaning associated with these objects extends beyond our individual life to touch the lives of others. All the things that we acquire are in a sense, stand-ins for our very selves, souvenirs, transitional objects and prosthetics.
In the meantime, there are future dreams to be apprehended before they evaporate into thin air and for some, the courage to heal and rebuild in the face of what has been lost.