The Caged Bird Sings of Memories
I know I have not discussed too much of my own art, but have mentioned I have several long term installation projects I am always working on. This is one project I have been working on for a little over a year now that is very personal to me.
Inspired by birdcages, I began a project last year about my memories. My concept is to cage my most important and cherished moments, the things I feel made me who I am today. The execution, however, is not so simple. When I began, I estimated this may take about a year to create. Once I delved into it though, I found that was a laughable timeline. The process is very long and drawn out, and no matter how much I try to rush it, this project will apparently let me know when it is ready.
Step One: Cages
This is really how it all began, this was the first step. When I saw my first birdcage, I was inspired immediately. I saw the cage and had an instant connection. I wanted to fill it, I wanted to cage something. Slowly, I have begun to collect them. An ongoing process, I ultimately envision this project taking up an entire small room, hung from various lengths with enough room for people to walk through and explore. I want the viewer to engage with the installation. Once I complete this project, I should have 25-30 birdcages, each individual pieces themselves, making a complete installation. These are a few of the cages I have already collected. I still have quite a way to go!
Going to dinner one night with a friend, we were driving in my neighborhood and I spotted these huge bird cages outside a rarely open antique shop, Cesar Vega Decor, and immediately pulled over. Everywhere you turned were treasures. Frames, statues, furniture, alters, mirrors, doors, and birdcages are just a few of the things that were stacked in every nook. Trying to see everything is impossible, as amazing items kept drawing my attention in different directions. Antique stores possess items that can’t be found anymore, that is the magic. The aisles were made from the small areas you can walk through among the stacks of incredible finds. The drawback though, may be the price. However, talking to the store owner, most of the cages inside are for only about $20 more than I have been pricing. The much larger ones outside range from $150 – $250 each. Sigh. Of course, those are the cages I feel would go perfect with this project.
While antique birdcages are definitely unique, they are not cheap. Instantly falling in love with this HUGE cage, the price was $600. It sits on a table towering over me. I think it is at least five feet tall. While in love with it, it is also very daunting at the same time. Do I have a message that big? This would obviously be the main piece of the installation, the essence of what I am saying defines me. What do I have to say that is that important? After a few days of thought, I believe the most important moment is when I decided to become an artist. That is the epitome of who I am today. It was not an obvious career choice for me, I had never been particularly encouraged to be creative and didn’t grow up in that kind of environment. But it changed my life completely and finally gave me a purpose. I am very happy with my choice, I always find going into work exciting and rewarding. It was the best decision I’ve made. Ever.
Step Two: Reviewing My Life
This is a very personal and intrinsic journey that no one can help me with. I simply began by thinking about my life. My thoughts began as a teenager. I delved into my past relationships, considering who I felt was important to me in my life. While dating a lot of different men, I was only in love with a very few, important ones. After a while, I was so swept up in my thoughts, I forgot I was even working on a project. Around my birthday last year, I was in the middle of processing all of this, and I got very confused. I actually began to think I was having a midlife crisis, and couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t get these men out of my head. Then one day I snapped back to reality – I conjured up all of these thoughts. It made me laugh so hard! It is very easy to get wrapped up in your past. Then disappointment set in…I wanted to figure out what was important to me, and I think of the men in my life? I was not happy with that. If I let men define who I am, then am I simply a shell of my former relationships? Thankfully, I snapped out of that reality as well. I had to realize these were just starting points. By no means were these the end of my thoughts, this was not the end of what I felt does define me. However, I did figure quite a few things out about myself and also figured out why some of my relationships couldn’t survive.
So I have moved on from the men, into my childhood. There are moments of embarrassment, confusion, wonder, and exploration. There is a lot to think about. It’s funny to think about moments you thought were the end of the world, and now realize they were just a bump on the road. Dissecting yourself is a difficult journey, definitely not for the weak. There are obvious selections one would consider important moments of your life: graduation, marriage, having a child. But are those the events that define you? As I work on this more and more, I realize they are not. To get to that point you must already be somebody, not expect to fulfill a ritual and become somebody. But there are pivotal moments in my life where things just clicked together, and I got it. For me, this normally happened after a lot stubbornness and hitting my head against a brick wall. Though, each time I made it through, even learning a few things as I went along. While I am not old by any means, I still have lived several different lives. Each one completely a completely different and unique experience. As I was living it, there were times I thought I would never make it through. It’s funny to realize how much strength you really have if you just decide to fight for it.
Step Three: Physical Manifestation
While defining myself and my important moments is extremely difficult, that is only the first hurdle. Deciding how to physically represent these life changing points is a whole other story. How do you even begin to represent a feeling, an event, a single moment? This is the place I still have the most work to do. This is such a personal project to me, I will spend as much time as I need to figure this out. I have a few sketches, but I have not begun to assemble the pieces yet. This is the most daunting. My thoughts are very confrontational, but they are still private, just within myself at this point. I now have to get my thoughts together in a cohesive way in a physical form. And be ready to share publicly. But this project for me is the epitome of what it is to be an artist – scary, exciting, insightful, and thoughtful, all at the same time. I want to be pushed and have to figure things out, not just complete a paint by number painting. This is another long, drawn out process. Thinking of what I want to represent then finding the random objects to represent it. Sometimes this is done by sketching out an idea, other times I find an object and instantly know what it reminds me of or represents to me. As with all art, there is no right or wrong way, no definitive answer. Nor am I searching for one. I am an artist because I want to constantly be invigorated by intelligent ideas. I hope when this project is finally completed, the viewer will take the time to process my intimate thoughts and details, and think about their own and who they are.
There are so many elements of this project for me, there is always something to be working on. But besides the limitations of my own thoughts and creativity, are the limitations of my funding. As I mentioned, the supplies I want to work with add up quickly (as with any art project, I suppose). To fill a room with cages will be a costly endeavor to begin with. But I am not put off by this. I WILL COMPLETE THIS PROJECT. It is very important to me and will be the largest installation for me to date. It is the direction I see my artwork heading and am very happy with that. This particular art project I envision I am applying for The Idea Fund, an artist grant for unconventional, conceptual, and guerrilla artist practices. While the application is not difficult, I am up against many fantastic artists, all with the same drive to complete their work. Getting this grant would mean I could concentrate on my project, at least for a full month without having to work, and be able to just focus on completion. I could afford even the wonderful $600 huge birdcage I really want. I think I would walk straight into Cesar Vega Decor and buy most of the cages there. To be able to spend a month just thinking, searching, and assembling. That’s the dream. My dream, anyway.