January 2, 2016

1/2/2016 – Letting Stuff Go with Mary Fortuna

Artist: Mary Fortuna (image above courtesy of the artist)

Location: Detroit Institute of Bagels


MF – Coffee, ham/egg/cheese on a sesame bagel (toasted), orange juice

SRS – Coffee (black), toasted salt bagel with plain cream cheese

It’s 2016, have you had a bagel with Mary Fortuna yet? Well, sorry, my year is off to a better start than yours. After watching Mary struggle through a transformative year, it is wonderful to see her with the weight of the world lifted off her shoulders. What form did that weight take? Mary sold her house last month, and with it, a huge portion of her lifetime of possessions (in what was easily the most epic estate sale of 2015–more on that later).

I can only imagine how hard this must have been for her, because in a lot of ways, Mary and I make art through a similar process of material obsession, accrual, and usage. You cannot make art that uses materials without stockpiling materials–something that we will be discussing in detail during the artist talk at ArtNxt on Saturday, January 9th at 4:00, part of Mary’s show Mythos, which will continue to run there through January 24th, and should not be missed. I’m looking forward to doing the artist talk with Mary next weekend, and we were ostensibly meeting to discuss topics (and develop a “safe word” for when we get off topic), but we ended up talking a lot about the ravages of consumerism (strawberries! strawberries! we’re off topic!!).

Because where is that line? You can’t make stuff without other stuff – and in the case of both Mary and I, that stuff includes the kind of brainjuice generated by looking at images, handling fabrics, and interacting with other people’s works of art (my biggest prize from Mary’s estate sale was a piece by Jeanne Bieri, who Mary has convinced me I cannot live much longer without meeting). After bagels, Mary came over to look at some stuff I’ve been working on in my studio, and I could feel her wistfulness about getting her new studio up and running, once she relocates to Traverse City…at the same time I was feeling wistfulness about being able to really let it all go and move freely in the world once more. Stuff! It is a comfort and an anchor and an addiction. I love what it can do for me and I hate what it can do to me. I spend a lot of time keeping an eye on my relationship with it.

I think art-making–in a really hands-on, process-driven kind of way–is a good antidote to stuff addiction. I can take stuff in, but then I get to sort of chew it up and spit it back into the world. I find my life goes better when I’m putting more into the stream of reality than I’m trying to take from it. So buying things for the sake of having them…sometimes I can’t resist (works of art are definitely my weakness), but buying things for the sake of using them at least seeds the way for a process of engagement.

But sometimes I think that letting all that stuff go, clearing the decks, and making a lot of room in your life is necessary, if you want to give rise to something exciting and free and new. I’m so proud of Mary for throwing off her chains, and I’m really, really excited to see what comes of it.

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