This morning I was defending all my stuff to my husband. As a maker of things, a producer and artist of terra firma, I am committed to stuff. My parents are still alive and they have some stuff left, albeit sifted and downsized many times over the past decades. Each time they moved, they culled more stuff from their archives and tag saled it or gave it to the Salvation Army. What a relief! I feel so much lighter! Well, then there comes the regret. What happened to that amazing set of Russell Wright dinnerware I grew up with? Just one serving bowl left from that entire set of mid century dishes that I would love to have in my collection. My argument to my husband this morning is this – yes, there is an inclination to go overboard with shopping and hoarding and making piles of stuff, but there is a flip side to that notion. My stuff is a record of my history, an archive of my choices over the years. As such, I think it important as a part of my chosen identity and the way I imbue meaning in my world. The meaning I find in my life is often attached to the things that I have chosen and sometime those items that have been gifted to me by others. The books, music, art and objects of living; dishes, furniture and linens, all lend their auras to the environment that is my home and where I spend much of my time. So, instead of giving into the impulse to throw lots of things away, ála Marie Kondo, I am choosing to take a breath – and find better ways to organize and display what I have. William Morris, perhaps a better mentor for the thoughtful interior space then the overly spare alternative.
In about 1998 when my studio was in the meat packing district of lower Manhattan, I had a flash of an idea. I envisioned a collection of 108 bowls, metaphors for the beads in a mala, set in a circle on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and serve a very early morning breakfast. A hit and run sort of extemporaneous performative meal-art-thingy that never left my brain. 3 years later, after 9/11, I felt a sense of urgency to make an iteration of that idea come to life. The first Mala Meal event took place on June 21st, 2002 at Art Omi, Ghent, NY. A full Mala Meal with 108 bowls and 108 (or so) people to participate has happened 5 times in the past 13 years. As part of an art exhibition in honor of Mother Nature (Dear Mother Nature, Dorsky Museum of Art, SUNY New Paltz, 2012) and also part of a conference in Berkeley, California called Digital Earth, the Mala Meal Project speaks to a deeply felt need to connect. Universals are almost impossible to sustain -- the minute we find one, plurality, multiplicity and variation interrupt our universalizing desire. The Mala Meal Project allows a universalizing moment to occur within the confines of an event. The event is this ceremonial meal, preceded by a prayer (several prayers or blessings, actually) said in an inclusive and interfaith manner. The event at Berkeley included an atheist who said a lovely blessing -- one devoid of notions of God but without ideas about faith and hope and the possibility of life that includes the human on the planet. A secular humanist poet. Yay.
So, in the spirit of building community, I have been invited to share this event at the monthly artists' potluck that happens at the 1st Presbyterian Church in Hudson, NY tonight, October 16 at 6PM. In addition to the Mala Meal, we will see artworks by artists Stuart Farmery, Jan Harrison, Arnie Zimmerman and perhaps a few surprises. If you are around I hope you will come. Otherwise, stay tuned for future meal-art-thingies coming down the pipeline from the studio. Our business is our art and spirit.