I recently completed an entry for a show on Touch. The prospectus recognized that museum etiquette prohibits touching. Traditional craft forms – it goes on to say – are made to be touched, handled, used. A recent show on soft sculpture put on by a Facebook friend who has blogged pictures of the signs in the gallery requesting hands off the sculptures has rattled around in my brain. The works are precious not to be messed with.
So I’ve been thinking a lot about touch lately. Whenever or wherever I display my felt vessels people pick them up and handle them. Even my latest e-textile pieces with fiber optics and lights that are wired down inside a box are still handled. Another thing that has fascinated me over the years of doing gallery shows is how the curator interprets my work, a different twist I didn’t think of, what it is put beside. I love to observe the gallery visitors touching the pieces or attempting to peak behind. Who gave them permission, but touching and peaking are what I always want to do at shows.
Plus I’ve been at the making things for so long I’m beginning to question the value of the pieces I make. Who cares if they last another hundred years? Aren’t the fingerprints left on the work part of the story of the piece? To me, that story will make it all the more valuable. If it goes back to the earth sooner as a result of the fingerprints so much the better. Many of the gallery pieces I see these days are of temporary works remembered only by their photographs.
The piece I entered consists of five “vessels” inspired by what surrounds me at the Tennessee Aquarium. They are not attached to a base so that the viewer can make their own arrangement. Nothing is static in an Aquarium and these pieces shouldn’t be either. There is no right side up to the pieces. They are meant to be touched, felt, rearranged, and fingerprinted.