A few weeks ago we sent my sister-in-law a gift for her birthday that included one of my sculptures. The sculpture is one of my favorites, but hadn't gotten a lot of love at galleries or shows. It is a simple form, a distillation of my typical work. The form is bulbous with applied and sprigged textures covering the surface.
My brother mentioned that the work looked like me. I can't remember exactly what he said, but the sentiment dovetailed with something I had been thinking about for a few weeks: the idea that an object can be so familiar that it triggers that feeling of recognition when you see it.
A recent example of this strange feeling of recognizing an object was something we've all probably experienced. I was at a conference and I noticed "my" purse across the room and realized I had left it by mistake. Then I remembered it wan't mine, I had left mine at home, but the purse was identical, made by the same artist, and I had the immediate reaction of familiarity (and forgetfulness). It is a handmade purse, different enough from store-bought purses that I felt this strange feeling of it being unique to me (even though I know someone locally who has the same purse in a different color).
The more interesting example of this feeling of familiarity came the last week and the weekend before and related directly to my work. The background is a little odd, but basically I need a database for keeping track of the work I have in my studio or in shows and I haven't gotten one so I made one using index cards.
I'm not sure the index card system is ideal, but I was able to do it quickly and it was relatively cheap. Index cards have the advantage of being tactile, in that I can sort them on the ground in front of me and add to them when away from the computer (say, in my studio).
I printed pictures of various works I have in the studio (not all of them--yet) and I glued them onto cards with the vital stats (size, title, price, year) and listed the shows the works were in along the right side of the card (with room to add more shows). I also marked if the work was sold or needed repairs.
What I found interesting was that as I flipped through the cards, certain pieces seemed familiar, like old friends, while other pieces seemed just like objects. Some pieces seemed like "me" or like my family, in a strange way, while others just didn't.
And its not like I haven't seen all the works many many times. Most of them are sitting on shelves in the studio and few of them were made this year, but still, some pieces seemed familiar and some did not.
I have discovered in the past that some pieces trigger bits of stories for me, since I listen to books on tape while I make the work, some fragments of Harry Potter or a linguistics book seem connected to a particular work because I was listening to that book while making the work. This isn't the same feeling, but it is an infusion of another idea into or onto the work itself.