Monday, April 10, 2017

Lost Treasures

Here is the post I had just finished when I got some horrific news.  Please read on:

What are your tiny treasures?

I love tiny treasures.  You know, tiny toys found in the bottom of cereal boxes, Matchbox Cars, tiny souvenirs from trips, etc.  Most totally worthless, but I hold on to these tiny relics because of the memories they represent.  Each tiny piece brings me right back to person, place, experience.  I know that some people say that "It's just stuff",  but to me they are precious.

Why do we amass all this tiny stuff we don’t need?

Philipp Blom, a cultural historian, writes:

Objects and their organization bind us to something larger than ourselves, and as religion was born out of a fear of death and the wish of eternal life, collecting expresses the same fundamental urges.  For example, carefully arranged around the sarcophagus of pharaoh’s tomb representatives of the king’s possessions, of the wealth and the resources he needs to live on in the afterworld. Their presence is symbolic, but it assures survival. It is remarkable how many collectors chose to be immortalized through their collections, either by naming and donating them.

While I doubt anyone will be fighting over my “Nixon Now” button, Harry Chapin autographed concert ticket,  G.I. Joe dog tag, an arrowhead, vintage 1968 Frito-Lay Frito Bandito rubber pencil top eraser in mint condition, one of my wisdom teeth (yes, you read that correctly),  I still feel the need to save and collect my relics from the past.

But, how to display them?

The answer:  I spent some valuable time and resources this weekend converting a one-hundred-year-old dresser and some old printers’ trays into a Tiny Treasure Display Case.

By my calculation, I now have 490 individual tiny compartments to store my tiny treasures (more if I double them up) plus an entire section for larger objects.   I will now start the process of sectioning them into categories including relics from grandparents, parents, early childhood, family, and “I’ve forgotten where I got this, but I still think that it’s damn cool!”

My relics and relics from past Kuhn and Riley generations.  I can't explain it, but my urge to collect is impossible to ignore: it touches the very depths of who I am.

Or, maybe I just love my ny stuff and the memories they represent.  

What are some of your favorite tiny relics?


I was writing this post today when I got word that a fire at my sister-in-law's apartment building took everything she owned away from her.  All of her possessions -- including photographs, family heirlooms, tiny treasures of great personal connection -- painfully gone!

Thankfully, no one was hurt or killed. Still . . .

I can't imagine.

Carpe Diem Life,
David Kuhn

Monday, April 3, 2017

Are You an Artist? Hell YES!

A friend of mine (good morning, Curt) and have have been having an on-going discussion about “What is art?”  More specifically, “Who is an artist?”

It seems that most people hesitate — no, make that refuse — to call what they do art or themselves artists.

“I take photographs, but I’m NOT a photographer.”
“I create images in PhotoShop, but I’m NOT a digital artist.”
“I play music, but I’m NOT a musician.”
“I write poems and stuff, but I’m NOT a poet or writer.”
“I _______________ , but I’m NOT an artist.”

We used to be artists, musicians, and writers when we were children -- our refrigerators were even the "art gallery!"  When did we stop being artists? Why do we do this to ourselves?  And what’s the cost? 

That question has led me to two things. One, The Icarus Deception, by Seth Godin.

 For thousands of years, people were told the story of Daedalus and his son, Icarus. They were isolated on an island by the gods and Daedalus came up with a way to escape by making wings. We know the myth as “don’t fly too close to the sun or your wings of wax will melt and you’ll perish.”

But it turns out that Daedalus gave his son two instructions.  The second, “Don’t fly too low. Don’t fly too close to the sea because if you do, the mist in the waves will weigh down your wings and you will surely die.”

It turns out that, according to Godin, industrialists and the systems that we live with want us to fly low. They push us to settle for less, and Godin thinks the time has come to stop buying that propaganda. “My book is a manifesto,” Godin writes, “almost a creed, about how we must overthrow the mindset of being a cog in the industrial system and instead, stand up and make what I call art.”

“Art is the work of a human being – something a person does with generosity to touch someone else to make a change for the better. We can see art in the way the nurse in a doctor’s office treats us when she knows how much pain we’re in. She’s not just doing her job; she’s being a person. She is enlarging the bubble around herself to include us.”

I was thinking of all this as I was doing some yard work at my younger daughter’s house when the sound of a chainsaw down the block caught my attention.

Meet Eric.

“That’s awesome art!” I said as I introduced myself.

“It’s my first attempt at making a duck!”  he replied without missing a beat.

Eric, like a lot of us, stopped short of calling his work art or himself an artist (even though it turns out he studied at an art school).

Eric, if you’re reading this, I call bullshit.  Eric is an artist. And what he’s crafting will be enjoyed by thousands of people as they walk Franklin Street on Evansville’s West Side (scheduled to be there in a couple of weeks).

What is your art?

Seth Godin defines art is a human act, a generous contribution, something that might not work, and it is intended to change the recipient for the better, often causing a connection to happen. Art contains three elements:

    1.    Art is made by a human being.
    2.    Art is created to have an impact, to change someone else.
    3.    Art is a gift. You can sell the souvenir, the canvas, the recording... but the idea itself is free, and the generosity is a critical part of making art.

By his definition, most art has nothing to do with oil paint, marble, words, wood, digital images, etc. Art is what we're doing when we do our best work.

Go out and make some art this week.

Carpe Diem Life,
David Kuhn