This weekend i learned that even artwork is a material possession, and sometimes you have no choice but to let it go.

Iowa has been flooding this summer, as i’m sure you’re all well aware. I blogged about the floods in ames, after that happened Des Moines also flooded, and just after that Cedar Rapids and Iowa City took it in the shorts big time. As it turns out, the storage unit that my mother and i had a lot of our worldly possessions stored in was overtaken by about 2.5′ of water, and we didn’t have the means to deal with the aftermath until this weekend.

Mom lost all of her furniture except for a desk we acquired at a garage sale at some point for $5. I lost whatever nostalgia i had stored in there except for my stupid fucking beanie baby collection, one other box of toys and some lightweight box i didn’t bother to open.

I had figured that my old journals were destroyed, and i discovered they were. I’ve been keeping a journal for ten years now, and the earlier half of them is gone. My high school letter was in there, no big deal. And my portfolio. That portfolio had probably eight years or so of artwork in it. My charcoal self-portrait. The sunflower i hated but mom loved. The conte and oil pastel drawings i did in my last drawing class. The graphite drawing of a rose. I don’t even know how many other pieces. I never found my old sketchbooks or the three-dimensional artwork, and so those are probably in there somewhere, too.

Self-Portrait in Charcoal
This is the self-portrait in charcoal, which is destroyed now.

I cried when i saw the portfolio. I discovered that my drawings are worth more to me than my writings. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but i think the two are incomparable. The journals were mostly full of drivel i’d written about boys i ought to have forgotten by now anyway. Which reminds me, the statue i was given as a gift once upon a time was destroyed as well. Sadly, though, i suppose that’s only fitting.

Metallic statue of a man's face kissing a woman's face

I’m grateful for what i still have: my more recent journals, all of my photo albums, all of my black-and-white photo negatives and prints. My poetry is all preserved on my computer. I have the people i love and my own life, and that’s actually worth more than everything i’ve ever created or ever will create. As an artist you imagine that the things you create might live beyond you, but i’ve never done anything of that importance anyway.


11 thoughts on “Materialism

  1. I am glad my work of recent years is all digital hard drives and is sooo backed up. Over the years some things have vanished from existance via tape damage or loss. I don’t know how I could work today without the ease and cheapness of USB hard drives.


  2. Sorry to hear about this, I would freak out if I lost all copies of my creative output.

    I have learned in the last few months that the only thing one can really count on in life is that things will change.


  3. Steph… what a truly tragic occurrence. I am so sorry; I can’t begin to imagine all the hours and self put into your art that’s now a memory and process lost into the universe. That self-portrait is just beautiful… I don’t mean pretty, but it has so much emotion and flow to it.. I’m really glad you have a picture of it! (That I’m sure you’ve backed up now). And the statue is so strong and fragile looking at the same time.. how did that get destroyed? is it metal?
    I’m grateful for your positive reflections and hope I can carry that same attitude as I deliberately get rid of things to simplify my life. It’s pretty amazing you can frame this this way.


  4. Just wanted to add my sympathies and let you know that I’ve made your incredible self-portrait my desktop background — not that many people will see it this way, but your art is living on here.


  5. Poor Steffie. I’m sorry, sweetie. You know, I’ve never seen that drawing of you before. That’s beautiful! It looks just like you. I guess I didn’t realize you could do faces. I am happy that you see the good in the bad. I’m learning a similar lesson, especially after the garage sale. It is actually kind of liberating to let a lot of your stuff go that you have been carrying around with you for years and years. It just sucks when the priceless possessions are ruined. I hope you and your families’ luck starts to change soon. You’ve all been through pretty hard times lately. Love you!


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  8. Hey Steph,

    I wanted to let you know that I’ve followed through with my comment above; your self-portrait has shone behind every window I’ve opened for the last 365 days. Again, my 13″ laptop screen probably isn’t the most glamorous exhibition spot, but the portrait has actually attracted a lot of compliments and admiration here, especially when we’ve hooked the MacBook up to the tv to watch videos with friends over. It’s truly a touching piece of art, and I thank you for putting it online.


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