Vogel Napkins

When I visit someone’s house, go to a family function, attend art openings or go anywhere that food is served I utilize the napkins. It’s polite and I was taught that good manners meant being able to dab at the corner of your mouth or have an approved place to wipe your fingers.

Inevitably every time I go out to a function with food I put a napkin in my pocket. Typically I’m saving it for the inevitable second helping of whatever is being served and I hate to waste paper but more often than not the truth is that I dislike putting a crumpled napkin on a plate. It just feels wrong to me and looks so disorderly and dumping it on a plate also makes stacking dirty plates awkward. It makes me uncomfortable. To me plates are designed to fit into each other and be so orderly that to leave them spread out on a counter with stuff all over them is hard to do.

On the rare occasion that a waste basket is readily available and clearly locatable it works out fine and I can deposit the napkin when I no longer require my plate. Part of the problem is I’m also not a fan of nosing around in a strange kitchen trying to locate the unfamiliar garbage, and even if I do suppress the feeling of invading someone’s privacy for long enough to detect the waste can how can I be sure which receptacle in this strange kitchen the paper goes into? Does the house-holder recycle and does the municipality in question consider napkins organic green bin material, paper to be recycled or actual garbage. Finally, it’s never a sure bet you’ll recognize the container for trash, recycling or compost.

I inevitably forget I’ve even put the stupid napkin in my pocket and only remember I’ve done so when I open the dryer at home several days later and see the abstract remains all ripped to shreds and sticking to every other piece of clean laundry in the machine. Sometimes I’ll find the thing if I remember to check my pockets before I put them in the wash sometimes I just discover them hiding out when I wear the article of clothing in question again.

Last night we were invited to a wonderful home to watch an awesome documentary on Herb and Dorothy Vogel. They’re the modest husband and wife collecting team that amassed one of the most important contemporary art collections of the last 50 years. When I finished my awesome pizza and salad I put a napkin in my pocket and mentioned I was doing so to a new friend. I had also had a few glasses of wine and explained in a very matter of fact and casual way that I was thinking I should create a work based on this awkward collecting habit of mine and that some how related –so clearly to me at the time– to the Vogel’s collecting habits and behaviors.

So the idea is to keep doing this obsessive thing with napkins and maybe consciously amp up my attendance at art openings. I’ll begin to seriously collect napkins for a very long period of time until I can amass enough of them to stack them into an impressive assemblage. I could create a paper spike that would somehow be manufactured to screw into a base or the floor somehow. I imagine this to be about 7 feet tall and to be”sculpted” to undulate in width as it grew in height based on the size differential of each napkin. The end result would be a type of shish-kabob structure. this also reminds me of a device from the past that people use to have on their desks and used to keep track of loose notes in pre-computer days. My father had one in the 70s that I use to play with that I’m pretty sure my oldest brother made in shop class in middle school. I could also make a habit of transcribing stuff on each of the napkins making them into the pages of a pseudo art diary. These could contain details of where the napkin was collected, make a short anecdotal comments about the event, review work or offer a derisive remark about some attendee. I imagine the majority of these would be from people’s houses or art functions.

All this was inspired by a group of very nice people and a movie about some seriously sweet and awe-inspiring contemporary art collectors. Weirdly enough that movie contained images of what I think was from a Robert Rauschenberg drawing of a sailboat. I framed a sketch of this work in the 90′s when I worked at AGS on Sorauren Avenue. it was also a time period when I new nothing about contemporary art. This sketch was also done on a cocktail napkin. As I write this I think this piece is about a bunch of stuff as described, but most importantly it’s about; another self-recognized compulsive habit, remembering my father’s desk and my brother’s hand-made completely obsolete office gadget, a desire to document and perhaps somehow comment on the wonderful world of contemporary art, wanting to create a beautiful object that encourages thoughtful discussion on what is art, what it means to make art, and what being involved in the art scene is like, and doing something that involves of bunch of different art disciplines and materials.

Thoughts and images to add this morning 09/17/2012; Missisauga Sunset photograph by Sonja Hidas from Facebook, previous post with the window display in support of the Quebec student rallies of the summer, draw a DNA strand and find a paper Spike picture.

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