Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Wherever I live I tend to construct elaborate shelf systems. They are often put together from crates that I have purchased at a store like Michael's or Garden Ridge. Other times they are made up of combinations of shelves that are bolted to the wall as well as stand alone structures. I don't have any idea how I got started doing this. I think the first time that I ever referred to them as Wonderwalls was when I was living in Los Angeles. Having done a great deal of moving, the crates were something that evolved out of necessity. I liked being able being to flip a crate of books over on its side and walking out the door at a moments notice. Stackable shelves and crates weren't just aesthetically pleasing they were a practical necessity for a young man on the move.

Bookshelves have never been just a place for me to put books, they are also a place to put everything from art supplies to art objects. I think in the end I have an eye for good clutter. I don't care for mess but I also don't like things to be obsessively neat. I like something in between. It's hard to describe but I think the best way to explain it is to say that I am drawn to interesting clutter. There is a great deal that you can tell about a person from their clutter. If I enter someone's living space and fail to find something of interest in their clutter I gotta say I'm a bit put off. I wanna see their books and I wanna see what sort of rocks they picked up off the ground when they went hiking. Did they ever save a shell from the beach or a pine cone from the forest? If they did, where is it? For the love of God, don't hide that shit in a closet. Let there be clutter...

I'm not big on spaces that have too much clutter. I'm looking for a visually pleasing balance. I want clutter that draws me in with it's complexity without being overwhelming. There are people out there who have allowed the clutter to overwhelm their living space. I fear for them. I suspect it may be unhealthy. Whenever my shelves and clutter reach a certain point I find it's time for a purge. I'm off to the used bookstore or the Goodwill with a box of books or junk. The exorcise becomes very Zen, a way of practicing non-attachment. Learning to care and not to care for things.

I've taken this to extremes from time to time. When I lived in L.A. I was just around the corner from one of the great used bookstores in the western world. The place was called the Iliad and over the course of three years I was able to accumulate a massive pile of used books. My Wonderwalls groaned under the weight of hundreds of books. Why so many? I was on the graveyard shift working as a security guard. Reading material becomes as important as food when you go days without seeing anyone. I began to feel as if the Wonderwalls were closing in on me in that little L.A. apartment. I sold all the books back to the Iliad and went north to Ventura California and bought a 24ft sailboat to live on. No Wonderwalls there. I had everything I owned narrowed down to less than ten cubic feet. It was a study in contrasts.

In a way I find the Wonderwalls to be something like three dimensional collages. The juxtaposition of different trinkets and books can be a form of sculpture or even a still life. In fact, many of the small pieces on my shelves have provided inspiration for some of my work. When working on a collage or any artistic endeavor it's great to have things of visual interest close at hand. And there may be nothing more important to an artist than books. I don't think I've ever met a serious artist who wasn't a rabid collector of books or at least a pack rat of some sort. Their studios are often as interesting as their work.

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