Saturday, January 16, 2010


I'd like to take a minute to post a comment on the 'value' of the antique materials I use in my work. I'm moved to do this after finding some very pointed and disparaging words about desecrating valuable, historic antiques. Seems the manuscript page employed at the end of the creation of my recent piece "The Diary of An Antiquary" (here) really brought the fangs out on a few folks. I was even accused in an offhand way of stealing them from a library.

I was given about 10 pages of this book from a student about 8 years ago. This student had purchased the book, in a very broken state (binding in tatters), at a flea market in eastern Europe. She had said there at the time that books of that vintage were not hard to find in various junk shops and markets.

The point of my post is that I never use objects or printed material that have a high value as a museum-grade material - many of the bits and pieces are found in dismantled condition. Just because it is illuminated manuscript does not instantly qualify it as a treasure to be enshrined in a museum. Their value as a material for re-interpretation, however, is priceless for me, as I believe firmly that by incorporating them into new works they can be elevated in a different way and begin their new life as a work of art.

Perhaps not surprisingly, these comments were made on a 'steampunk' forum, which is a fad that has cropped up in recent years that I find to be much more aligned with prop-making, fashion and set-design than the direction of what I make. To be fair, some comments were in support of what I'm doing, but for the others the idea of using a real antique just isn't part of the steampunk ethos.

If you're interested in reading the commentary, you can find it here.

In my work, to use a copy of the image or object is to miss the point of their presence in the first place - they are used because the object or image ITSELF has been through its own history. It is this accumulated, real history that I hope invests my artwork with its power.

I'd love to have a dialogue about this - anyone?