I was eight years old when my grandmother gave me a patchwork dinosaur that she had made from some of my grandfather’s suits and work clothes. My grandfather had died ten years before I was born, so I hadn’t known him. And really, I had wanted a He-man action figure. I was a little disappointed.
My relationship to that object changed as I grew older. My dad would often make the comment, “you are just like your grandfather” as I was in the middle of building a hovercraft, or a soldering a radio transmitter. I began to feel a connection with someone I had never met. The dinosaur was a tangible object that represented that connection to the past.
This appreciation for objects with a history intensified as I grew older. But from this interest emerged a counterbalance. An entire room of old objects felt familiar, but also heavy and sad - a sort of maudlin posture of always looking back. During interviews for his most recent film, Woody Allen alludes to this posture - “Nostalgia is a trap. It’s a pleasant, sticky substance, like honey, that you fall into.”
To keep myself from falling into this trap, I often think of the analogy of driving. While driving, you spend most of the time paying attention to the space directly around the car. But you also will glance in the rear view mirror, as well as further down the road ahead. It becomes a continuously shifting perspective.
I was in a studio visit with a visiting artist last year, and after surveying the mix of objects in my studio, she made the comment, “Wow, you really do like this old stuff. I thought you were being ironic.”