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Holy Heaps of Art! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wendy Doscher-Smith - BT Contributor   
November 2012

Sure, a hoarder’s house may seem like it’s filled with junk, but look again

HPix_WendyDS_11-12oarding is the new black.

No, really, I’m serious. I’m so serious that as I type this I am concurrently contemplating if the half-rusted yet still shiny enough to manipulate hubcap I saw R.I.P. (Resting in Piles) is still by the curb down my street.

I really hope it is, because then I can strap some unfortunate and possibly already decapitated Barbies, Skippers, Kens, or other dolls made to resemble perfectly proportioned fictional people to its slightly corroded, crisscrossed shapes and make something.

I make things. In some circles these things are called “art.” But I don’t like saying I am an artist. See? Oh. I guess you can’t see it, but I just cringed.

The word “artist” has always rung pompous and hollow to me, partly because it is a synonym for unemployed, selfish, overly sensitive, arrogant, alcoholic, drug addicted, insecure, petty, and self-righteous. Of course, I’m describing musicians, too! And writers! (But not journalists, as they are a bunch of heartless pricks.)

Miami is on the verge of Art Basel and all that comes with it: VIP parties, swag times ten, traffic jams, people pretending to know more and be more than they are. And hoarding.

Not all artists or self-proclaimed artists require material objects to create their art. But many do, and while they may be brilliant, witty, creative, insufferable, and broke, many of them are also closet hoarders. Thankfully, I’m not one of them.

Hi. My name is Wendy and I am an… er, ahhrtist and borderline hoarder. Or hoarder by trade. But I don’t have a problem. Not really. I mean, I need all my crap.

When I find an item, I never know if I’ll find one like it again, so if possible, I buy it. Or I flash my breasts as payment. Just kidding. Or not. Point is: This buying impulse is strong.

I may not use the purchase immediately, though. So it sits and occupies space until that golden hour -- could be the next day, could be ten years from now -- when it is required to construct the installation called Fruit Loop and Lego Forest Utopia of Elves. You’re wondering: Huh? It’s an ahhrt thing. You’re not sophisticated enough to understand.

There are terms for people like me and, no doubt, many of the Art Basel artists. Hoarder is just one of them. If items are discovered outside of a shop, including roadside, in a Dumpster (hence the term “Dumpster diving”), in Granny’s attic, or wherever, and you did not pay for them, they are considered “found objects.” There is an entire art genre based on found objects. Did you know that? It’s called “found object.”

I’m a fan of found objects (photographing them as I find them and collecting them for purposes yet unknown) because of their diversity and histories. Something new that just rolled off the conveyor belt simply smells too plastic to inspire.

I suppose I should get on the wagon. Maybe throw some of my items away. Let me think about that. No, never. My items are not merely objects. Many have names and histories -- and meaning! (Note: Projecting meaning onto inanimate objects qualifies as anthropomorphism. There’s your word of the day. Don’t you dare say you never learn anything from my column.)

Anyway, assigning meaning to inanimate objects is also a definite “yes” on the “Are you a hoarder?” checklist on the Mayo Clinic website. But as we all know, those quacks just make that stuff up to pad their egos, so never mind.

All visual artists require some items to create their work. These items may include drawing paper, sketchpads, canvasses, easels, paints, pencils, and live models. But those are called art supplies. (Even the people. Sorry.) And that is where the “Artist as Hoarder” problem comes into play.

See, we, the AAH, need much more than some fancy crayons and a naked woman. We require “props.” Props is an umbrella term encompassing costumes, books, magazines, scores of empty prescription medicine bottles, animal skeletons, shoes (did I say shoes?), and crotchless undergarments that a dog had fun eating, to name only a few examples. Countless other items fit the bill. Hell, bills themselves fit the bill.

The problems resulting from being any type of hoarder are many -- one being, at least in my case, that there are no more surfaces in our house. The surfaces still technically exist. But they have been transformed. They are no longer surfaces, but piles. And a room that should be used for other purposes, such as a spare bedroom, becomes a “Crap Room,” as it is referred to in my house.

It is sneaky, this materials need that I and, I’m sure, many other borderline hoarders/ahhrtists have.

While I’m on the subject: I don’t think you can be a hoarder without being a collector. But you can be a collector without being a hoarder. Quick! Someone draw me a Venn diagram.

It doesn’t matter if the material is a corroded bottle cap or a vintage ball gown. What it is, isn’t important. The point is that, while these objects masquerade as hubcaps, rocks, mannequins, records, scraps of paper, discarded toys, fabrics, and even larger items such as doors, glass panels, tires, and the occasional baby carriage or bassinet, they are downright alive to the hoarder.

As grim as this all may sound, I am thrilled to see that I have done my part for this country, as well as for ahhrt, and have stayed current with mental illness trends. Back in the 1990s, the Sex and the City days, depression was all the rage. Well, I had (and have) that one, too!

Hoarding is tres trendy right now. The A&E network series Hoarders is among the highest-rated programs on cable television. The popularity of that show is probably what caused another cable network, the Syfy (formerly Sci-Fi) Channel, to start its own series on hoarding, this one focused on collectors as hoarders (Collection Intervention).

These poor souls and their stuff are paraded on camera each week, accompanied by furrow-browed, concerned family members and friends, and a well-meaning (and likely well-paid) pseudo psychologist. All of these people want to help the hoarder.

Oftentimes, however, the hoarder does not want to be helped. Well, I say: Let the lunatic be! Last time I checked, this was a free country and people are allowed to literally suffocate in piles of Spice Girls and Star Trek figures if they so choose.

Some may even slap a $120,000 price tag on it and call it ahhrt.


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