“Does your Mother know you are doing that?!” One of my mother’s best friends asked me that simple but loaded question years ago when she spotted me picking up a rusty piece of metal from the street. What she didn’t say was, “Your Mother wouldn’t approve.” I had plenty of self-doubt about my art. I didn’t need somebody bringing my mother’s expectations into the mix!
I have wrestled with self-confidence as much as any self-taught artist. About 10 years ago, I got to a point where I wasn’t being true to myself and my art wasn’t authentic. I wanted to create art with a purpose but I wasn’t quite sure what that purpose was. I wanted to produce a body of work that was unique, captured my spirit and enabled me to do something productive. I wanted to stop spending so much time trying to be perfect, comparing myself to others, trying to achieve what they had and wishing I could change all my shortcomings. When I discovered what Found Objects were and started using them in my art, I unexpectedly learned that my flaws and imperfections are part of who I am and part of my journey. By stepping away from expectations and finally believing in myself, I found my goodness as both an artist and a person thanks to those Found Objects.
Living in Charleston, South Carolina, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, I have amazing places to walk. With increasing commercial development overtaking the city, lots of miscellaneous construction debris is left behind. The more places I walk, the more trash I notice. A few years ago, I started picking up some of this trash, such as a few rusted nails lying in the street. Then there were some discarded nuts and bolts a few streets over, as well as some wire, old coat hangers and a few pieces of wood. Unsure what to do with these items, I put them in my pocket to throw away at home. Initially, I was curious about how many items I collected so I laid them out in my art studio to get a better look. Upon closer inspection of these items, I noticed their rawness and the different shades of rust they possessed. A few things were not easy to identify because of being run over so many times by cars. Despite their rough edges and frayed bits, these objects had a special quality.
Intuitively, I was drawn to them because of the journey they had gone through to end up discarded. Where had they been and what was their initial purpose? Their transformative properties were inspiring. They had imperfections, but they also had a hidden beauty and a tangible strength. They seemed perfectly imperfect! Once cleaned and sanitized, just arranging them in simple compositions was fun. I found myself laughing, so I thought if these pieces made me laugh, maybe they could make others laugh too. I felt a freeness and discovered that these objects were forgiving if I dropped them or used them incorrectly. Better yet, what I was creating was more imaginative than anything I had ever done. The cracks, bumps and worn edges gave these items so much character and depth, which in turn gave my artwork more meaning.
I began to look forward to my walks that now had a purpose of searching for new art supplies with the added benefit of cleaning up my surroundings. Not to mention, it was so much fun! The hunt was on for discarded materials: their potential, their mystery and their artistic possibilities. I was celebrating recycling and repurposing as a creative art form. It was a gift to be able to think outside of the box for ways I could care for my city as well as make art that was uplifting, affordable, environmentally friendly and sustainable. So many harmful things were going into the roadways, landfills and waterways. I wasn’t going to be able to clean up every street, but I could do my part.
I continue to be amazed and thankful for those Found Objects. They helped me discover my own voice and artistic style. Those road worn, rusted items were not only the incentive that pulled me out of a slump, but they helped me find self-acceptance and self-respect. Imperfections are what give Found Objects their character and I now realize my imperfections give me character as well. No matter how broken, disjointed and dull they are, they can come together with other abandoned objects and form a new whole that is stronger than the sum of their parts. These raw materials have brought out something raw and real in me, not only in my work, but also in my life. As my art has evolved, so has my care for the environment. I now use only what I have and live simply. In turn, I have grown into a more compassionate and patient person who is less judgmental and less materialistic. Those fragmented, rusted and cracked objects helped me to find goodness!
However broken, uninspired, disillusioned, alone or abandoned you may feel at times, just like those Found Objects, you too can find hope and a new direction. Take a walk through a nearby parking lot and search for your own Found Objects. You may not find them right away, but they will find you when you least expect it. They can be a powerful reminder of the great qualities you possess. Listen to your own voice and embrace your flaws and imperfections. They make you the beautiful, exceptional person you are. So go out and find your goodness!
Deane’s work transforms dull, broken and discarded material into colorful and vibrant art. Layering and highlighting various fragments creates a unique balance of industry and art. Her joy comes from finding each individual artifact and unleashing its potential by assembling unrelated elements into a cohesive whole. The excitement and creative challenge is in using ordinary items and giving them artistic relevance that is completely different from their original purpose. You can view Deane’s work on her website: www.DeaneVBowersArt.com or connect with her on social media: Instagram @DeaneVBowersArt, Facebook DeaneVBowersArt .