Unpacking Our Collection: An Introduction

Read Martha Clippinger’s thoughts on Unpacking Our Collection, a weekly column exploring how art objects encapsulate changing meaning in our daily lives.

Unpacking Time

I am an artist. My partner is a curator. Between the two of us, we have quite a collection of objects. For years, we lived separately, but were both in tight spaces in New York. It wasn’t until we decided to move to Durham, North Carolina that the contents of the boxes stuffed in closets and flat files under beds began to reveal themselves. Those items made their way down South, and now that we have a whole house and plan to stay put, we are unpacking our things and making many (re)discoveries.

Today’s media tells us to de-clutter, be minimal, don’t be a hoarder. Sure, we all accumulate crap and need the corrective ritual of the annual yard sale or ebay auction, but there are those objects that enrich our lives, keep us company, and inspire us to share stories with one another.

That is to say, things matter. The majority of our things happen to be artworks; some were purchased, but many came in the form of gifts and trades. Because of the personal, or social exchanges involved with the acquisition of these works, the objects in our collection are loaded with memories of people and places and serve as reminders of those we love and admire.

When I unpack one of my things, I contemplate my relationship to it and its history, and when the unpacked object is Marshall’s, he informs me of its past. By combining our separate collections and curating them into one, we develop new contexts and discover previously unexplored connections between both objects and people.

Unpacking Our Collection follows our process of removing items from their boxes and finding their placement within our 1971 “rustic modern” home. I am thrilled to finally be unpacking, and I plan to take my time doing it.