A found object is a natural object or an artifact not originally intended as art, discovered and considered to have personal meaning or aesthetic value.
As a hobby I make art out of broken items and found objects. In my mind that makes me an eco-sensitive socially conscious artist, but my three sons say I’m really just a pretentious hoarder. Of course both statements may be true because as I like to offhandedly tell my kids, “Life is a dialectic.” Then they pause, collectively roll their eyes and walk away. I enjoy making art that is aesthetically pleasing but also expresses my satirical nature. My CaptCliff aspect cant help but point out irony in its many forms and engage in social commentary about the weird world we live in. For example, I have a growing collection of found objects specifically from the parking lot in front of the Abernathy Publix Supermarket near my house. I happen to go to this particular store a lot. I’m not prejudiced against Krogers, Costco, Whole Foods, Trader Joes or Fresh Market. It’s just that the Publix is closer. I view the grocery store as a sort of the modern-day equivalent to what a church or bustling town square was a hundred or two hundred years ago. People used to stroll around ye olde cathedral, greet one another, and chat about current events or the price of tea. The pace of life was more leisurely back then and as far as I know there was no loud rap music or annoying cellphones going off constantly. There also was no such thing as one stop discount shopping like at Costco. Pity.
Of course, I live in Sandy Springs, Georgia and it’s 2013, not 1913 or 1812, which wasn’t such a great year initially. Certainly, Sandy Springs is a very long way from Westminster Abbey or Notre Dame Cathedral and it’s nowhere near the “Central Ave” of my childhood growing up in Highland Park, Illinois, circa 1968.
Don’t get me wrong, Sandy Springs is a very comfortable suburb of Atlanta with an abundance of churches, synagogues, movie theaters, storefronts, and community centers. There’s a plethora of halfway decent restaurants, coffee houses and dessert places to choose from and you can even get ethnic food if your palate craves super spicy and you dont feel like shlepping all the way to Buford Highway. It’s not quite the epitome of luxury but the living is easy and the neighbors have a cordial habit of waving and saying “Hey” and “hi” when you drive by them walking their pooches. They also scowl at you if they think you’re driving 5mph too fast, if you dont appear to see their yapping little Yorkie Babette, or if you happen to be wearing a dark colored hoodie that makes you look suspicious in some difficult to pinpoint way. I don’t wear hoodies anyway.
Let’s face it, when your food, pharmacy, bank, butcher, and bakery are all in one large air conditioned building, it’s going to become your “go to” destination. Human beings crave familiarity and convenience. Also, I’m convinced my 1999 Ford Expedition has learned to drive itself to Publix without need of my help, Tesla technology or even a GPS device. My old truck is sort of like an old dog who just knows where to go to do it’s business or find it’s well gnawed on food bowl. Anyway, both the truck and my dog Harmony have a much better sense of direction than I do. I tend to get distracted by my grandiose thinking and certain artistic or philosophical notions of any given moment.
Circling back: For example, a while ago I noticed an assortment of random discarded items squished into the asphalt and concrete parking lot in front of the Publix grocery store. I think I originally observed this phenomena because I was hoping to find a winning (but somehow unclaimed) lottery ticket or errant $100 bill lying on the ground. Don’t laugh. Once I actually did find a $20 bill and another time I found a big wad of cash on the ground, but that doesn’t count because it was most likely from my pocket. Like an idiot I often end up carrying a balled-up mass of disheveled currency and store receipts in my front pants pocket. When my cellphone rings (or when I think it rings) I feel compelled to answer it in case it’s Barack Obama or Jennifer Anniston calling and not the same old persistent creditor who’s collections agency took over Macy’s accounts receivables that I still somehow owe $60 on since 1998. This minor charge has mushroomed to $600,000 with late fees, penalties and compounded interest. By now it has become a matter of personal pride and principle (not principal) to NOT pay the lousy $60 even if it does ruin my credit history for all eternity. Anybody who calls me during dinner, right when I wake up or while I’m showering has to be a total jerk-off and someone who deserves to have me impersonate foreign dignitaries and Hollywood celebrities just to avoid their call, right? You talkin’ to me? I also ask them what they are wearing and sometimes they tell me! Khakis.
Anyway, when not busy answering the phone in a fake Farsi accent or broken Tagalog I have trained myself to look downward and scan the ground like a bloodhound or one of those bald white guys at the beach in Florida. I’m talking about the ones with skinny legs and battery powered metal detectors. Can anyone explain to me why those guys always wear bulky open-toed sandals with knee high black dress socks while looking for gold coins and priceless treasure? It’s not a good look.
Whether I am outside the grocery store or inside Publix filling a prescription, buying an endless supply of paper towels or scanning the aisles for the blessed “Two for One” sales, I remain nimble, alert and on the prowl for art-related treasure in the form of these found objects de art. That’s an official artist term, by the way. You can even google it if you don’t believe me. Sometimes finding one of these weird unexpected objects can practically become the highlight of my day. Pitiful much? Maybe I’m overreaching. Don’t judge me. Of course finding free money on the ground is the true pinnacle but my rational mind realizes that’s a long shot. So instead, the artist in me looks for “treasure” in the form of found objects and cultural detritus overlooked by busy people leading typically frenetic and “productive” lives in the year 2013 A.D. It’s a tad bit like that scene from the original Planet of the Apes (the only decent one) where they find a talking human doll and broken dentures. What you find when you stop to look can sometimes carry significant sociological meaning.
I suppose the point of all this is that everything and everyone should “count for something” in this fast-paced modern world. We should attempt, at least occasionally, to also pay attention to the “little things” and not ignore the source energy or divinely inspired aspect of what (or who) we normally fail to notice or might think is “worth-less”. In fact we all have the power to imbue worth, meaning and significance (creative/symbolic life) into anything or anyone we choose, whether it is a homeless person, a rescue animal, an elderly lady with dementia in a nursing home, a bamboo peace pipe or an broken item squished into the Publix parking lot blacktop. It sort of boils down to personal perspective. Who knows what kind of fascinating “Many Lives Many Masters” stories there are in these various found objects. In my case I use what I find to decorate “peace pipes” that I make using bamboo from my backyard and to adorn “sacred boxes” I repair and re-paint while listening to NPR, catchy pirate tunes and groovy music from the 60’s and 70’s. I usually try to block out the 80’s as much as possible…enough said.
Admittedly my handmade pipes and boxes have grown to Hoarders-like proportion in my expanded basement studio. Studio is another artist-type word, you know. It’s really just my pirate-themed basement and the ginormous unfinished space that doubles as my private workshop. I got a little pretentious there at the end. Sorry. Sometimes we artist types just cant help it.
Dont believe me about art and perspective? Watch this: http://www.upworthy.com/watch-the-first-54-seconds-that-s-all-i-ask-you-ll-be-hooked-after-that-i-swear?g=2&c=reccon1
Disclaimer: Just so you know, for the sake of public health and safety I never collect any of the flat as a pancake AA or AAA batteries that seem to litter asphalt parking lots. While they do remind me of tiny dinosaur bones and Jurassic Park fossils stuck in the gooey La Brea Tar Pits, there’s no reason to bring home anything that is leaking battery acid or giving off large amounts of deadly radiation.
Cliff Mazer, Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and humorist living in Sandy Springs, Georgia. He loves all things Pirate and his three grown sons.
Dr. Mazer blogs on WordPress under the name CaptCliff and believes that creativity and art are essential to healing and emotional recovery.