Yesterday, as I traveled back from the wedding of my friend and assistant Olga Massov, I saw a sign for a moving sale. Never being one to pass up an opportunity to find some new props I followed the signs to a back street in Marblehead, MA. Food photography offers me the opportunity to feed my addiction to beautiful objects and when you spend as much time as I do searching for such you know when you have hit a great spot. Yesterday was one of those days.
This particular sale was a melancholy moment for the family holding the sale. They had been forced to move their father, an artist and craftsman, from the home and into a facility. He had just gotten too weak to care for himself. It was a particularly hard Father’s Day for them and it showed. It was obvious that they were deeply attached to the memories that came with their dad’s stuff. He had obviously taken great care to collect these things and they were feeling a bit traitorous about selling them off.
Sometimes people ask me what I intend to do with the eclectic mix of things I buy, sometimes they don’t. Mr. Winant’s children did not ask me but instead were telling me the stories attached to each item I was interested in. Their emotions were palpable as they described the art their parents were so passionate about and how it had led them all into artist’s lives. The poet, the painter and the sculptor. I thought at that moment it might be helpful to explain who I was, what I did and what I intended to use the forks and plates, knives, linens and bottles I was offering to buy. What happened next was an extraordinary experience for me.
The family invited me inside to see their parent’s studio and their archive of works. Their mother was an accomplished water colorist, their father an oil painter. They made models and mobiles, mixed-media pieces and their own greeting cards (something their father continues to do at his nursing facility). We saw pictures of them at work together, as a family and their collections of art throughout the house. On the easel in the studio was an unfinished piece that their father had abandoned when his wife passed a few years back. It was a portrait she painted of him that he was superimposing imagery that represented meaningful moments in his life. It was an achingly sad memorial.
We stood and spoke with the family before leaving, hearing more about their father and his passions and his love of the things that kept him grounded in the familiar. It may seem odd that strangers were so willing to share such intimate details of their father but it did not feel that way. Artists are of the same tribe and I sensed that of all the people who came to that sale, this Father’s Day, the family felt that sharing their objects and their memories with us, fellow tribesmen, felt safe. I felt honored that they took us inside, not just into their home but into their confidence. I left feeling an obligation to share the experience and breathe life into their memories and use the objects they sold to me in my art. And I will. Art is a continuum and this is why I choose to use old things, things with history and soul in my work. Mr. Winant and his family are now part of my continuum and their passion and love for their art will live a little longer in mine. Sometimes a spoon is just a spoon…but sometimes it means a whole lot more.
As a father and a son I understand the emotions that they were feeling and I appreciated the love they have for their dad. As an artist it is my wish that on a Father’s Day (hopefully a long time from now) my family will pass my things along to people who will appreciate them and be inspired by them and use them to a purpose. This way for all of the Mr. Winant’s represented in my collection of things, for the love of the art and the artist, the chain remains unbroken and the soul in our creations lives on beyond us all.